As a travel writer, I used to joke about the so-called ‘downsides of the job’. The stupidly complex shower-fixture in the five-star Maldivian Paradise. The unexpected commission to go to Denmark in winter. The vague but real sting of disappointment upon realising that the free hotel pillow-chocolate is actually a mint.
But in recent years a genuine and troubling downside has arisen. When I meet someone and tell them what I do, the listener often winces, perhaps with a hint of moral superiority, and says something like: ‘Don’t you feel guilty about your carbon footprint? You’re killing the planet!’
This query pains me because, while I may question a few details of climate change theory, and while I find Just Stop Oil trustafarians as annoying as anyone, I can say that I have seen – with my own travelling eyes – what the last 40 years of urban, demographic and industrial expansion have done to Planet Earth. And it ain’t pretty.
Let me give some examples. Across much of the world I have witnessed the near-complete disappearance of vultures, due to poisoning, farming and a hideous trade in their body parts for use in traditional medicine or as spiritual protection. The collapse is so bad that Indian Zoroastrians have had to abandon their traditional sky burials which rely on vultures to scavenge corpses. In Kenya I’ve stroked one of the last northern white rhinos; in Madagascar I’ve watched forests torched as I stand there; in Egypt I’ve driven 200 miles across the Sahara and noted plastic litter all the way.
So, yes, I feel sad and guilty about the way we humans treat our planet, travel writers very much included.
But all is changed. Now someone has come to my rescue, and made me feel a lot better – at least relatively. His name is Patrick Hansen, and he’s the boss of private-jet firm Luxaviation.