Sunday, August 3, 2008

The end of travel

Nicole Baute: In Europe's late medieval period, the labouring masses rarely travelled further than a few dozen miles from where they were born. For them, travel was dangerous, onerous and slow.

But wealthy aristocrats travelled far and wide in the name of diplomacy, meeting leaders from other countries and extending their power and influence.

For Steven Flusty, an associate professor of geography at York University, this is what society could once again look like if predictions that the lower-middle classes will no longer be able to afford to fly in just a few years come true.

It would be tremendously debilitating and could wind up "breaking down everything below a certain class level, where they are being held in space as if it's some kind of a container," he says.
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Harteveldt says airlines in North America are only profitable in their current form if oil costs $100 U.S. or less a barrel. Right now, it's at $124. Harteveldt says the next generation of fuel-efficient airplanes, which companies like General Electric are working on, will not be ready for five or six years. That won't be fast enough.

He says the industry's troubles will come home to roost within a year.

"If people cannot move about, and do business, and travel for leisure and personal reasons the way they'd like, this could create the business equivalent of the Dust Bowl that existed in the Depression," Harteveldt says. "It is very sobering. It concerns me deeply."

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