Ashes to Ashes

Given the recent shut-down of European airspace as a result of the volcanic eruption in Iceland, there may be more irony and truth in the expression (“ashes to ashes”) usually associated with a funeral service. A Satirist with a sense of daring imagination would have a feast with this!

All the hype and alarm as a result of the disruption centred in the 1st instance, around the inconvenience this caused to people, that is, all of us innocent travellers enjoying our well-deserved holiday breaks, as well as, those travelling for business. Then there was the real worry: the millions lost because of how so much of our economic lives depend on air-transport – including all those exotic and out of season foods we cannot do without. The familiar gospel reminder – your heart will always be where you treasure is (my paraphrase) – is quite appropriate here. For a moment, I got the impression that no one cared a hoot about the people of Iceland. After all so much of our savings have gone up in smoke, because of foolish investing in Icelandic banks. As I was not affected by the events – except being bombarded with it on the news (which I could easily switch off), I had the luxury of playing with a variety of ideas as a result of the air-space lockdown.

I was struck by the fact that too many of us travel. All these so-called cheap holidays and destinations mean that we can get up any morning and board a plane without even changing what we wore the night before. It also means that I have to travel with people I may have nothing in common with – especially the drinking, boisterous and swearing type who believe that all the other passengers must listen to their conversations, bantering and expletives. But who cares: it is our right – this is a free society, away with snobs and power to the loud and foul mouthed. Besides we need to get the industry going in order to fill the pockets of executives!

But the more serious concern is the fact of how this flight shut down relates to the lvery alive and hot subject of the environment and the future of the planet. There seems to be lots of rhetoric and platitudes, while we continue to want to keep our travel habits. Yes – ‘let’s save mother earth’: but, who really wants to give up travelling that pollutes in order to minimise their carbon footprint and save the planet? A few days of disruption and it is as if our whole world has collapsed and we start behaving like a person coming off an addiction. Perhaps, it is an addiction! Or is it that our response is a mere microcosm of a larger problem – our inability to give up our luxuries and to change our life styles? Change must start with us and our life styles.

And by the way: while many have been moaning about the loss to their businesses and the impact on the travel/tourist industry in some instances, I am reminded (as a member of the Caribbean Diaspora) of that controversial Air Passenger Duty Tax that has effectively made it cheaper to fly to Hawaii than to the Caribbean. And who is talking about how that region’s fragile economy (so dependent on tourism) is being strangled by such policies?

As the ashes settle and the temperature in Greece rises, perhaps we may wish to turn to the Caribbean and other developing countries for some lessons on the art of economic survival. With the economic bubble in Greece punctured, the tables have turned. Welcome to the vortex of disappearing economies – Britain swimming in debt, the USA up the mess of debt creek with broken paddles, Greece (probably to be joined by Spain and Portugal) swimming in the sludge of living above their means.

Only the Divine can rescue us and I have a feeling she has decided to go on a Caribbean Cruise.

© copyright April 30 2010

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