Fifty years ago airports were designed to reward fliers with architecture as striking as the new experience of flight was rare and exciting. From those early days, only a few airports remain unspoiled by renovation and expansion. The Long Beach Airport south of Los Angeles is a survivor. The low lines of midcentury modern architecture captivate today’s visitors just as they did the first ones. The restaurant overlooking the tarmac remains as elegant and perfectly simple as always. Walking the concourse, it’s easy to imagine men in ties and women and children in their Sunday clothes waiting for a plane while uniformed porters manage their suitcases.
Flying is different today—no longer exciting and rare, it’s just frustrating and crowded. Recognizing that reality, when the large European nations combined to form an airplane manufacturer, they didn’t choose a distinguished and elevated name for their enterprise, they just called it Airbus: a company that makes buses that happen to go up and down.
Airplanes are tremendously polluting. In the United States, large passenger flights account for about 3 percent of released greenhouse gasses. That doesn’t sound like much, but when you compare the number of flights with car trips, it’s clear that each airplane is billowing massive carbon dioxide. And the problem is only getting worse, at least on the tourism front. Over the course of the next decade, global tourism will double to about 1.6 billion people annually.
Tourists aren’t the only fliers. Planes are also taken by people heading to other cities to talk about tourism. One of them, Achim Steiner, is the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program. At a recent conference in Spain, he said, “Tourism is an extraordinary growth industry, it’s the responsibility of operators—from hoteliers to travel companies—as well as governments to ensure that sites are sustainable.” [3]
Sustainability has at least two sides. On one side, there’s the economic reality: revenue provided by visitors pays for needed services. An example comes from the Masai Mara park reserve in Kenya. In villages surrounding the park, schools were forced to close when political unrest scared away the tourists and their money. On the other side, sustainability also means environmental protection. According to Steiner, there’s the possibility that “Masai Mara could be overused to the point where it loses its value.”
1. Airplane exhaust contributes significantly to the damage currently being done to the environment. Steiner rode an airplane to a city to talk about that damage.

A. What is a cost-benefit analysis?

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B. How could a cost-benefit analysis be used to show that his boarding the plane and going was actually an environmentally respectable act?
2. Fifty years ago, airplanes contributed almost no pollution to the environment because so few could afford to fly. One way to limit the amount of pollution into the air is through incentives. In the airplane case, a large tax could be attached to an airline ticket, thus providing an incentive to tourists to stay home or use alternate sources of transportation. Of course, for the very wealthy, the tax will be more absorbable and, presumably, airplane travel would tend toward its origins: flying would be something the rich do.
How could a utilitarian analysis be used to justify the action of, in essence, reserving plane flying for the rich in the name of helping the environment?

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