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Posted at 10:39 AM ET, 08/11/2008

Freedman: In-flight Magazines and Polar Bears

By Andrew Freedman

Ah yes, the dog days of summer, when even the CNN news crawl seems to slow to an actual crawl. This is the time of year when it's fun to pick out a few stories that might otherwise sail past like a catamaran on the Chesapeake that I wish I were on right now. A sleek white one balancing gracefully in the stiff southerly breeze... Alas, I am not on vacation (yet).


According to the Guardian newspaper, Emirates Airlines, which is world-renowned for their high class service, has announced they are doing away with a traditional part of air travel: the in-flight magazine. The reason? To save fuel.

Keep reading for more short takes on climate from Andrew. For the weather outlook through the week, see our full forecast.

In-flight magazines have long been a great place for freelance writers to get published, especially if you're itching to write a glowing 200-word blurb about what's new in Cleveland. But in this age of airborne entertainment via personal television, Emirates thinks it can earn more money by lowering fuel consumption than it can through print advertising sales.

By removing the magazine, the airline says it could save two kilograms per seat, with a total weight savings across the entire fleet that would be equivalent to 500 seats, which is about the capacity of a Boeing 747. "We are doing it because of fuel prices and the environment," an airline spokesman told the newspaper.

The Guardian article, by Conor Purcell, includes some illuminating nuggets about the unique world of in-flight magazines. For example, Purcell reports that Japan Air Lines once earned so much advertising revenue from its bulky in flight mag that it actually reduced the number of seats in its planes in order to accommodate the magazine. Apparently advertisers really, really love a captive audience.

Considering I write for a blog, I have no qualms about moving to electronic content, like Emirates is doing, but mark my words: I will vehemently protest against any effort to take my precious SkyMall catalog off of airplanes. A guy can never have too many motorized pool loungers.


According to Reuters, the state of Alaska filed suit last week in federal court contesting the Interior Department's May 14 decision to list the Polar Bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The listing was prompted by the threat that melting sea ice poses to the ice-dependent species.

The state government doesn't want the listing to hurt oil and gas exploration or tourism, which together constitute the bulk of its economic activity. "Additional regulation of the species and its habitat under the Endangered Species Act will deter activities such as commercial fisheries, oil and gas exploration and development, transportation and tourism within and off-shore of Alaska," the lawsuit said, according to the article.

Environmentalists scoffed at the suit, with Greenpeace characterizing it as an effort to "do the bidding" of oil companies that want to drill in polar bear habitat.

On the lighter side of this issue, Alaska may be discounting the positive effects that an endangered species listing could have for the state's economy. People from the lower-48 could be more motivated to observe a species in the wild that may be gone soon, compared to an ordinary, plentiful creature.

You tell me which is more appealing advertising copy for a tourism brochure: "Come to Alaska and see an endangered polar bear, before it's too late" or "Come to Alaska and see many polar bears, because they're a lot of them up here?"

Come to think of it, they should put those ads in the in-flight magazines, which as Emirates shows may themselves be endangered, to see which proves more effective...

By Andrew Freedman  | August 11, 2008; 10:39 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Environment, Freedman, Media, News & Notes  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Make Way for a Magnificent Monday
Next: CommuteCast: Comfortably Cool


Quoting Mr. Freedman, "... I will vehemently protest against any effort to take my precious SkyMall catalog off of airplanes."

Unbelievable! You do realize that saving fuel means polluting less, don't you? And you are going to "vehemently protest" the resulting lower CO2 emissions? Is this a parody column?

And you follow that up by suggesting that Alaska embrace the polar bear listing, and use it as a tourism draw.

So Alaska should encourage people from the lower 48 to either drive or fly to Alaska? Won't this create more CO2?

Let me make sure I understand this -
1. You do agree that the polar bear is endangered by global warming.
2. You agree that the polar bear should be placed on the endangered species list.
3. You encourage Alaska to capitalize on the polar bear being placed on the endangered species list, by using that as a tourism draw.
4. So all kinds of people from the lower 48 can fly or drive to Alaska and produce more CO2, which causes global warming, which endangers the polar bear.


You guys need a "Parody" tag. That was an awesome column! Using parody to point out the insanity of the environmentalist's position. You are the man! Well done, Mr. Freedman.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | August 11, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Re the previous comment, I hear the word "gullible" isn't in the dictionary either. But I think "sarcasm" is...

What I wonder is: has Skymall's business suffered since airlines got rid of the phones in the seatbacks? Or is Skymall part of the no doubt nefarious coalition pushing to allow cell phone use on planes??

Posted by: JackTrade | August 11, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

sorry to change the subject, but i wanted to remind folks that the perseid meteor shower peaks either tonight or tomorrow (can't remember)... with no humidity, the sky should be nice and clear if there are no clouds (what stage is the moon at these days?)

Posted by: dave | August 11, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Judging from an earlier comment, it would seem that the moon is full, but according to the charts, that doesn't happen until the 16th.

Posted by: CapitalClimate | August 11, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

It's tomorrow morning:

Posted by: Guillemot | August 11, 2008 3:44 PM | Report abuse

The Perseid meteor shower is tomorrow morning...

Posted by: Guillemot | August 11, 2008 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, are you going sailing on the Chesapeake Bay for vacation?

Posted by: ~sg | August 11, 2008 10:11 PM | Report abuse

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