Saturday, April 17, 2010
A sneak peak into a life without wings
While I know this aircraft lockdown has been a near tragedy for many (including my poor little sister who is currently stuck in Singapore), the plus side (along with the peace and quiet) is that it provides us with food for thought about what the world might be like without international air travel. The philosopher Alain de Botton was on the radio this morning imagining just that. In his view, a future world without aeroplanes might be as follows...
"Children would gather at the feet of old men, and hear extraordinary tales of a mythic time when vast and complicated machines the size of several houses used to take to the skies... Everything would, of course, go very slowly. It would take two days to reach Rome, a month before one finally sailed exultantly into Sydney harbour. And yet there would be benefits tied up in this languor. Those who had known the age of planes would recall the confusion they had felt upon arriving in Mumbai or Rio only hours after leaving home, their slight sickness and bewilderment lending credence to the old Arabic saying that the soul invariably travels at the speed of a camel."
This reminded me of a Middle Easern saying I once heard that goes: "My father rode a camel, I drive a car, my son flies a jet plane, his son will ride a camel". Perhaps in a couple of generations time we may actually live in a new world like this. As mineral resources and fossil fuels dwindle, the idea of air travel in the distant future - say 2110 - may be completely ridiculous. We may by necessity return to a lifestyle that no longer depends on Kenyan beans in the shops, but rather stocks local produce; one that doesn't expect to be able to get to New York from London in an afternoon, but rather to take a week on a boat. As that great geezer Gandhi put it: "There is more to life than just increasing its speed." So maybe, unlike the current pace of things, the future might actually be slow.
Wouldn't that be nice.