Julia Stephenson: Green Goddess

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The Independent Online

I've just returned from Sicily. Faced with an £400 train fare (it would have been cheaper had I been organised to book enough in advance) and a 24-hour journey, I'm afraid we caved in and flew at a slither of the price. Never again. Even if one isn't concerned about the environmental impact of flying surely the complete hideousness of modern airline travel is enough to put everyone off.

I know conspiracy theories are commonly seen as the province of the gullible and the deranged (and Americans), but unlike most of my compatriots I believe in practically everything until proved otherwise.

Today I'd like to share a new conspiracy theory that I wish were true. Imagine if the whole airport debacle was created by governments to stop us flying? Unless you have a rock-solid constitution and are completely brain-dead, it's really intolerable.

I've got nothing against rules and regulations. My happiest times were spent in Switzerland where it's illegal to throw away rubbish unless it's in special bags or put on your washing machine after 10.30 at night if you live in flats. But what I can't bear are rules that serve no purpose, and none of the recent airport malarkey is necessary at all. It's amazing so many passengers accept the draconian pointlessness of having their toothpaste confiscated as somehow necessary to protect them against the evils of terrorism. People are up in arms about microchips on their bins (a potentially useful tool on the war on waste) but accept this. Extraordinary!

Travelling back from Palermo I was relieved when we didn't have to surrender our potions. But things took a turn for the worse in Milan when we changed planes. A throng of security locusts set upon the contents of my carry-on. They let me keep my toothpaste, but a bottle of rosemary essential oil was chucked into a tempting tray of exotic lotions (it was Milan fashion week) never to be seen again.

Unfortunately my Bush Flower Emergency Essence really held things up. An Armani-clad security "chief" had to drop his vital toothpaste-sorting duties to peer with understandable disgust at the contents of my carry-on (100 per cent cocoa chocolate that had melted all over a Lurex hemp bikini) and very ostentatiously pulled on a pair of surgical gloves to protect himself. "Don't take my essence," I begged. But no deal.

I won't bore you with the endless delays, the awful food and utter misery. We know that airports are now hermetically sealed Hades, which we voluntarily choose to experience. Politicians won't tax airline fuel and are too feeble to discourage us from flying. But these pointless restrictions may well encourage punters to take to the trains instead. As a guilt salve I offset my emissions at www.climatecare.org. It calculated that for a paltry £3.28 I could offset the 0.44 tons of carbon used in the flight. Offsetting isn't a solution, but it's better than nothing. I wonder why we all want to move around so much anyway? If I'm looking for mysteries close to home I could just join the Cloud Appreciation Society.

Surely the agony of paying for this maltreatment will filter through eventually and we'll stop doing it. Won't we?