THE BLOG
05/30/2008 11:15 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Olympic Torch's Mile High Club Membership

The Olympic torch is a member of the mile high club. At 35,000 feet, it's screwing mankind.

With its very own Airbus 330, the torch has a busy itinerary jetsetting from Beijing to London to Paris to San Francisco to Bangkok to Islamabad to Almaty and back to Beijing. To facilitate this 85,000 mile trek, the A330 will burn 462,400 gallons of jetfuel, thus blasting 5,500 tons of carbon into the atmosphere. The appearance of green games is already being thwarted by the reality of a false promise. 2008-04-22-olympic_torch_jet_small.jpg

It's not just another reason to be pissed off at China. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been parading the flame around the globe for half a century. The torch first boarded a plane for the 1952 Oslo games and has been airborne ever since - even traveling by concord. Yet since that celebration of technological advancement, air travel's atmospheric consequences have become increasingly evident. In 1994, the IOC, in partnership with United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), added the environment as a progressive third pillar to its cause. UNEP states that "the opportunity of the Games can also be used to provide sustainable environmental legacies, such as rehabilitated and revitalised sites, increased environmental awareness, and improved environmental policies and practices." Then why is the IOC still allowing the host country to recklessly parade the torch? Couldn't this be an opportunity to educate the globe on air travel's carbon footprint?

Aircraft emissions, such as nitrogen oxides, are dangerously potent by virtue of their elevated location. The immediate effect is more than double that of carbon dioxide alone. Over the long-term, these other pollutants fade, but the carbon dioxide lingers, capturing heat for decades. (http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc/aviation/023.htm#2124)

In 1934, the IOC introduced the Olympic flame to symbolize unity and the purity of sportsmanship. This beautiful combination of runner and torch is the mobile yet unwavering epitome of all three pillars of three Olympic games -sports, culture and the environment. There is a fourth pillar that we should add -- hubris. Our unquenchable thirst for decadent displays turn us blind to the destructive costs. When the conceptual foundation is symbolism, why must we literally fly this thing around the world?

UNEP also declares that "all cities bidding to host the Games are required to have a comprehensive environmental programme which is followed through during the preparatory phase of the Games." According to the Sierra Club, China could plant 93,000 trees to offset the torch's carbon footprint. Right, when monkeys jet-fly outta my butt.