December 5, 2023
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Now tech bros still wax optimistic about artificial intelligence and crypto, but many of us don’t feel it. Those who worry about the climate crisis and don’t own Tesla stock (most people) feel a lot less cheerful about human cleverness and the capacity of the future to deliver a better life. These planes invite us to dream about progress again. And they’re weird-looking in a beautiful way—a reminder, as Bill McKibben has been arguing for years, that the climate crisis demands some change to our aesthetic.

Many climate activists and environmentally conscious global citizens eschew—or minimize—plane travel because of the carbon impact. Aviation is also a righteous target for left critics of the environmental toll of consumerism, since the vast majority of flights are taken by society’s richest people, and climate activists have for this reason singled out the private jet for special ire (through both direct action and social media accounts dedicated to shaming celebrities like Taylor Swift who seem to use private aviation as casually as you or I might hail an Uber).

Greta Thunberg famously doesn’t fly, and she’s not alone; last month a German scholar announced that he had lost his think tank job because he refused, on climate grounds, to fly all the way home from a research visit to Papua, New Guinea, instead planning a series of trains, buses, cars, ferries, taxis, and a couple shorter flights, which would have resulted in a journey of 35 days.