My carbon footprint has been much too high, largely because I spent years flying far too much for academic conferences and my personal life. Since 2019 I have committed to flying once per year at most. I take trains in the US over short and long distances, including cross-country. Amtrak is a beautiful, if deeply flawed, mode of travel. Taking the train and biking are relatively easy for me because of my job and other privileges I enjoy.
To make train use easier, the US government must dramatically improve the speed and efficiency of the Amtrak system, while reducing its carbon impact. Other wealthy countries’ train systems put Amtrak to shame, largely because the US has not invested in train travel due to the dominance of the US auto industry and investments in the military industrial complex that have come at the expense of investments in public infrastructures of all kinds.
David Vine is Professor of Anthropology at American University in Washington, DC. David is the author of a trilogy of books about war and peace including the newly released, The United States of War: A Global History of America’s Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State (University of California Press, 2020). David is also the author of Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World and Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military on Diego Garcia.