The Ford Airport, Dick DeVos and global sustainability
Earlier today MLive reported that Dick DeVos addressed an audience of 80 businessmen, some with the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and some with the Regional Air Alliance of West Michigan.
The article essentially states that DeVos was calling for more regional businesses to utilize the Ford International Airport. The article cites DeVos who claims that there is no reason for regional business people to use any other airport, because the Ford airport is the most cost effect.
The MLive reporter did not verify such claims made by DeVos and the only other person cited in the story was Joseph Tomaselli, who chairs Ford Airport’s Board. Interestingly enough, Tomaselli is the CEO of the Amway Grand Hotel, one of the DeVos owned hotels in Grand Rapids and a member of the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Another example of the inter-locking systems of power in this city.
Dick DeVos is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Regional Air Alliance of West Michigan, which also has representatives from OXFORD Partners, Meijer, Treystar Group and Passageways Travel joining DeVos on the board.
In addition, there are numerous private and public entities listed as members and supporters of the Air Alliance, such as Amway, Autocam, Gentex, Herman Miller, Metro Health, Rockford Construction and another DeVos owned entity The Windquest Group. Several area universities are also members along with the Grand Rapids Press. This begs the question as to why a news agency would be a member or supporter of an organization whose main goal is to get more people to travel by plane from the Ford International Airport. The Grand Rapids Press membership in the Regional Air Alliance of West Michigan also calls into question the credibility of their reporting on the Alliance and area air travel in general.
Beyond the incestuous nature of the power brokers in this story, the other issue not addressed by the reporter was the question of ecological sustainability. DeVos and his business network often makes the claim that they practice environmental sustainability. If this is truly the case, how does increased air travel fit into the notion of sustainability?
The British journalist and environmental writer George Monbiot in his important book Heat: How we can stop the planet burning, devotes a whole chapter on the ecological costs of air travel. Monbiot states:
There are two reasons why flying dwarfs any other environmental impact a single person can exert. The first is the distance it permits us to cover. According to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, the carbon emissions per passenger mile “for a fully loaded cruising airliner are comparable to a passenger car carrying three or four people”. In other words, they are about half those, per person, of a car containing the average loading of 1.56 people. But while the mean distance travelled by car in the UK is 9,200 miles per year, in a plane we can beat that in one day. On a return flight from London to New York, every passenger produces roughly 1.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide: the very quantity we will each be entitled to emit in a year once the necessary cut in emissions has been made.
The second reason is that the climate impact of aeroplanes is not confined to the carbon they produce. They release several different kinds of gases and particles. Some of them cool the planet, others warm it. In the upper tropo-sphere, where most large planes fly, hot, wet air from the jet engine exhaust mixes with cold air. As the moisture condenses, it can form “contrails”, which in turn appear to give rise to cirrus clouds – those high wispy formations of ice crystals sometimes known as “horsetails”. While they reflect some of the sun’s heat back into the space, they also trap heat in the atmosphere, especially at night; the heat trapping seems to be the stronger effect. The overall impact, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is a warming effect 2.7 times that of the carbon dioxide alone.
In addition to the environmental costs of air travel, it is important to keep in mind the primary reasons for air travel and those costs to the environment. The number sector of society that travels is the business community, which more often than not are traveling to do business deals that will further deplete resources, create a larger gap between the 1% and the 99% and contribute to global warming.
When Dick DeVos and his circle of business aren’t traveling to make deals that will land them more money they are flying long distances to vacation at exotic locations. For DeVos, this is not done on regular commercial airplanes, he flies on private planes owned and operated by the DeVos Family.