19 Apr 2010 05:04:08
Could the volcanic ash cloud be a wake-up call for the UK?
Since last Thursday, TV screens across Britain have been filled with images of disgruntled holidaymakers stuck in airports, unable to return to the UK. The reason; a cloud of volcanic ash has entered European airspace making it dangerous for aircraft to fly.
It is estimated that this ash has grounded 63,000 flights in the region, the Times reports. And in turn this has saved around 1.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being pumped into the atmosphere.
To put this figure in an environmental perspective, the newspaper explains that this is equivalent to the level of CO2 emitted from a developing nation over an entire year.
This may not be a surprise, as Europe is one of the worst culprits for aviation-related emissions. But now many people may be questioning the sustainability of a society which relies so heavily on air travel as a form of transportation.
Fears are being raised about the potential problems which could arise if deliveries of fresh fruit and vegetables are unable to reach the UK.
Around 50 percent of the country's food is imported from abroad, with supplies coming from 25 different countries.
As early as Friday some of the major supermarkets were warning that they could face a shortage in their supplies of some foodstuffs if air traffic restrictions were not lifted over the next couple of days.
However, while people in the country may have to manage without their five-a-day for a while, this causes even greater issues for the developing nations that export the goods, which must stand-by and watch them rotting in their containers.
Further to this, the transportation of perishable medical supplies and drugs, such as bone marrow, is being held up, delaying potentially lifesaving treatments.
Nats, the UK's air traffic control service, has said that services will be restricted until at least 01:00 BST on April 20th, although the backlog of flights means it could be some time until the situation is back to normal.
The question is will the authorities learn their lesson and use the event as a wake-up call to address Britain's reliance on air travel as a form of transportation? Or once normal service resumes will the issue be simply swept under the carpet?