Or, do you just want it?
Artist and snowboarder Kieron Black asks some really tough questions about necessity and indulgence. Can you tell the difference?
Sex, they say, is like oxygen. Neither really seem that important until you’re not getting any. This is an example of necessity.
But a snow holiday? You might feel like you’ll die if you don’t get to enjoy a departure-lounge coffee while anticipating the soon-to-be-felt crunch of fresh snow underfoot, but chances are you won’t. This, dear friends, is an example of indulgence.
Yes, you’ll probably be a bit grumpy this Christmas and not as grateful as you should be to Auntie Mabel for the new additions to your sock collection, but in the long run, the big picture, and in the grand scheme of things, you’ll probably be ok.
And the planet will be better off if you do take a staycation to Centre Parks this year instead, no doubt there. The carbon footprint of everything that it took to get you to that ski lift (the diesel for your drive to the airport, the aviation fuel to power your Airbus A320 across Europe, the plastic wrapper for your in-flight slice of soggy cardboard, sorry, I mean sandwich) is of quite considerable size and will need a good deal of offsetting to restore the planetary balance (your window-box of garden herbs is not going to put much of dent in it, that’s for sure).
Yes, the whole thing is definitely a massive indulgence. That new jacket that you had to get (because the old one had the water-resilience of a square of kitchen roll despite the six-gazillion tech-washes you put it through) is most likely made of goretex, or real name – take a breath – polytetrafluoroethylene which is in itself inert and non-toxic. But poly-can’t-say-it-twice-goretex is made using (another big word coming up) perfluorooctanic acid which is really nasty stuff and persists in the environment for ages.
Then there’s your skis / board. There’s a tree in the core of each one, give or take, which is now obviously no longer home to a squirrel or sucking in carbon dioxide. The p-tex base? Bleugh – that’s polyethylene. Plastic, basically. Not great.
Then there’s the resort itself. There’s a chemical used in some snow cannons – the nucleator – that may have an effect on the drinking water and fragile mountain ecosystems it’s used in. And there’s the fuel for the piste bashers, the litter dropped from lifts, and never mind all those big bloody poles driven into the earth to keep you and your eight-man chair and your plastic and poly-whatever-it-is happily doing laps of whatever mountain range you have chosen to grace with your presence this year…
Phew. It’s all getting a bit depressing. What a big, massive, stinking, costly, unnecessary, polluting indulgence your holiday is! How dare you? What’s wrong with you, sorry, I mean, us?
‘Woah’ I hear you say, ‘hold the phone. Shut the f-f-f-front door. You’re saying the snow holidays I go on are a shameful indulgence and a needless waste of the planet’s dwindling resources?’
‘Well’ I reply, ‘sort of, yes.’
‘And your holidays aren’t?’
‘I don’t go on holidays.’
‘Uh, you don’t?’
‘Oh no. I go on snowboarding trips. How else would I be able to write sassy and well-informed articles like this one?’
‘I see’ you say, sounding somewhat unconvinced, ‘here’s an idea…’
‘Yes?’ I say.
‘Well’ you say, ‘I love your dedication. Kudos on that. But couldn’t you take it further?’
‘Oooh! Yes! How would I do that?’
‘Well, there’s an awful lot of, let’s see, yes, toothpaste gets spat down the sinks of the world every year, right? And, well, technically, you could live on just soup and smoothies, couldn’t you? So, and I might be wildly extrapolating here, but couldn’t you just let all your teeth fall out and live on soup and smoothies all your life, thereby saving the planet by reducing your toothpaste spit-print, I mean, footprint, to zero?’
‘I… uh… you know what? Maybe your holidays aren’t such an indulgence after all….’
‘That’s what I thought.’
Because, really, is your ski holiday an indulgence? The passion for sport and the appreciation of nature I see around me on an average day on the mountain is pretty inspiring stuff – human nature at it’s most chilled and appreciative. And it’s very difficult to make the effort to care about something if you have no direct experience of it. If you have never seen or smelt or stood on a glacier, why would you care if they’re retreating or not?
And that’s just one of so many tangible positives gleaned from your round trip on that Airbus A320. I don’t know about you, but there’s something extremely bittersweet about that transfer ride back to the airport… the white-water rush of afterglow endorphins just ever so slightly tainted by the knowledge that Monday morning is coming up fast and hard. But, for right now, you can just lay your head against the bus window, close your eyes and play back every slash, traverse, straight-line, float, rooster, bail and cold glass of après you had during your stay. It’s an amazing feeling.
And what are you doing with that emotion? You’re bringing it back home with you to help tackle that afore mentioned Monday morning… and I don’t mean morphing into the crushing office bore banging on to those who are clearly not interested about how it was slightly icy on the Tuesday, your thumb now hurts a little if you click it and Jenny had a massive girl-crush on her tutor…
No, I’m talking about taking that glorious, soul-deep glow the mountains gave you and using it to make your life and the life of those around you just that little bit better. You smile more. You care. The mountains did that for you. Which makes your winter holiday, just like the sex and the oxygen, so much more than a mere indulgence. It makes it a bona-fide, straight-up, no-frills necessity.
So you’ve decided your holiday is a necessity after all… good for you. There are plenty of ways to offset your footprint, and while not as straightforward as pressing the ‘book now’ button on your airline website, it’s probably easier than you think.