Opinion

Long journey keeps my principles intact

By Shepparton News

Soon I will be taking the train to the Sunshine Coast.

My wife will be flying.

Why? Puzzled people always ask, with most pointing out the plane takes about two hours and the train nearly two days.

It is the principle, I explain.

The airline industry is energy-intensive, as are the myriad of ancillary businesses that support and depend upon it.

Australia’s train network is also an offender with regard carbon dioxide emissions, but substantially less so, it is largely public owned, not driven by the mercenary wants of shareholders, and is about the mass movement of people.

Air travel is the epitome of a social mobility; a mobility we can ill-afford and becomes prohibitively environmentally expensive as climate change tightens its grip.

Those who rely on numbers to reason and justify what they do claim trains are as environmentally costly as a plane, but they are wrong.

Air travel is a major contributor to global warming and choosing an alternative is among the biggest thing an individual can do to cut their carbon footprint and limit their personal impact on the environment.

Dennis Denuto, the defence lawyer in the Australian movie, The Castle, in struggling to make a point said it was ‘‘the vibe’’, well, train travel is also about the vibe, but, critically it is also the principle.

Navigating the rigours of a changing climate are going to test our values and will be equally demanding on our principles.

The weather is what we encounter each day and those long-term changes, such as what has happened in northern Queensland with hitherto unseen rainfall and extreme bushfires in Tasmania are examples of a disrupted climate system,

Taking the train in preference to the plane is not uncommon for those sensitive about the climate, among them Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg who initiated the school strike for the environment.

Greta refuses to fly and has encouraged her parents, including her mother who frequently flew internationally as a professional singer to stay on the ground (give up flying) and change their dietary habits to become vegans.

Although not a vegan, or even a vegetarian (although it is frequently close) I have pledged, at least in this column, to stay on the ground.

My train trip to the Sunshine Coast begins and ends with a bus trip, first from Shepparton to Albury, then its on the near 30-year-old XPT train to Sydney, a seven-hour stop over in Sydney and then onto Brisbane.

A regional train service takes me to Landsborough, the nearest station to the Sunshine Coast, and finally a bus trip for the last stage of the journey to the coast, bringing to a close a trip of about 40 hours, but with my principles intact.

Rob McLean is a former News editor.