Saturday 30 October, 10.30am until 12.00pm, Student Union
The newest edition of the Oxford English Dictionary includes the word ‘staycation’, a vacation taken in your home country. David Cameron took one in Cornwall this summer, and has urged Britons to follow his lead to help boost economic recovery. With no sense of irony, he then advocated making the UK one of the top five tourist destinations in the world. Presumably staycations are not to be encouraged for the Chinese. This seems to capture today’s ambivalence about mobility.
We are more connected then ever – by travel, culture and the economy – and people have consistently demonstrated their desire to live more mobile lives. Take any measure from car ownership or rail use to the rapid growth in air travel, and the picture is clear: people embrace opportunities for increased mobility. Visiting the world’s great cities and sights is no longer restricted to the wealthy. Millions of us are able to travel and visit historical and cultural destinations, or just lie on a beach and relax. Many have staked more than the cost of a holiday on our ability to live a more mobile life: we are increasingly able to maintain relationships across long distances and migrants are able to return home regularly to visit family. At the same time, however, there are cultural pressures to rein ourselves in. Concern for the environment increasingly clashes with peoples’ desire to see the world or eat food air-freighted foods. We are warned of the consequences of our ‘hyper-mobility’ and the cultural impacts of our trips on host communities. Be it in food, culture or customs, a fashion for going ‘slow’ and keeping it local seems to buck the globalising trend. Our ambivalence to mobility was recently illustrated by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud this year. Many saw the disruption caused to flying as a chance for us to take stock of whether we needed foreign travel at all. One TV commentator even celebrated the chance to hear the birdsong ‘all the clearer for the fact that the sky is silent’. Others suggested the ash cloud made us appreciate we’ve become too reliant on air freight and travel. Are we making too many unneecessary trips; doesn’t technology such as Skype and webcasting mean we can cut down on our flying?
While the cliché goes, ‘Think global, act local’, isn’t there a contradiction between localism and our global aspirations. National infrastructure projects, for example, often run aground against the opposition of locals whose wishes seem to trump those of others who want easier travel to see faraway relatives. Is there a danger of undervaluing the benefits of mobility, of a common humanity living in a global civilisation? Do we risk giving up on the gains of a more global world and retreating into local differences?
INTRODUCED BY: Ekua McMorris, president, students’ union, Royal College of Art
Listen to session audio:
emeritus professor of geography, University College London; editor, Risk in a Hypermobile World website
|Michelle Di Leo|
director, FlyingMatters, the national campaign for flying
|Dr Peter Heller|
technology consultant, Innovationszentrum Niedersachsen GmbH, Germany; co-editor, Science Skeptical blog
partner, PwC Sustainability & Climate Change; host, BBC World's Down to Business
visiting senior fellow, LSE’s European Institute; author, Immigrants: your country needs them and European Spring: Why Our Economies and Politics are in a Mess – and How to Put Them Right
director of tourism, St. Mary’s University College, Twickenham, London; co-author, Volunteer Tourism: the lifestyle politics of international development
China is doing moon shots. Yes, that’s plural. When I say “moon shots” I mean big, multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing investments.Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 25 September 2010
Flight is one of man’s greatest achievements. Let’s challenge the greens and officials who want to snuff it out.James Woudhuysen, spiked, 12 August 2010
David Cameron’s commitment to the growth of British tourism is being undermined by proposed hikes in flight taxes and a lack of investment in airport capacity, according to an aviation lobby group.Oliver Smith, Daily Telegraph, 12 August 2010
The evolution of the 'New Delhi' strain is unsurprising. Mass international travel and in particular medical tourism - which has seen thousands of people from wealthy countries travelling to places such as India and Pakistan, often for cheap plastic surgery - has led to the rapid evolution and spread of diseases such as this.Michael Hanlon, Daily Mail, 12 August 2010
The financial crisis brought the world to the brink of economic breakdown. Now bankers' bonuses are back, house prices are rising again and politicians promise recovery while unemployment rises, frictions with China grow and the planet overheats. Is this really sustainable?
Philippe Legrain, Little, Brown, 6 May 2010
Mobility is liberating and empowering. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing. The growth in the numbers exercising their freedom and power is fouling the planet and jamming its arteries.John Adams, RSA, 21 November 2001