Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Contrail

The contrail looks straight and purposeful. The plane producing it is heading east, probably to Europe, carrying a summertime assortment of tourists and business people, so straight and purposeful. This is what we imagine our lives to be, full of the easy mechanical decisions, east-west, on-off, cold-hot, happy-sad.

I'm pleased to see, after just a few minutes, that the contrail starts to break up. It wiggles and wavers, and soon enough, as the approaching cold front takes over the sky, it disappears. Human purposes leave inevitable traces, some harmless, some destructive, and our easy decisions can have terrible consequences. The atmosphere breaks up this particular warning sign, but suffers because of it. Contrails contribute more than you'd expect to climate change. The carbon cost of jet fuel is terrible. Modern travel is all too convenient. When we will stop take the easy way?

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