Categories
Stories

Inés, France

I have always felt concerned about our planet, but this turned into crippling eco-anxiety and an overwhelming feeling of inconsistency and helplessness in the last few years. 

Pledging for the second time for a flight-free year is for me a way to stick to my principles, to live in harmony with my wishes for the future and to try to teach by example, because how could I advocate for something I don’t even try to implement in my own life? It’s a way to be (a tiny bit) at peace with myself. 

This pledge has kept me reflecting on how travelling far away is a privilege and challenged me to question inner patterns of thought that made me want to travel just for the sake of travelling as if it was a goal in itself, patterns that sadly seem to be widespread in a society based on competition. But seeing more people committing themselves for others and for the environment is a source of joy and hope for me.

Inés Tomas
France

Categories
Stories

Vipul, UK

When I realised just how fragile a state our world is in, I tried lots of things to reduce my impact, and the easiest, and best, decision I made was to stop flying for holidays. Now the journey is part of my memories, not something to forget. So, I’ve gladly signed the FlightFree2021 pledge because it’s a tiny no for me, for a huge yes for our planet and its life.

And the best bit? Because I’ve made this public commitment, I hear and see my friends talking about not flying and asking about their ecological footprints – people who wouldn’t normally have given it a second thought!

The best campaigning is definitely to set an example and talk about it.

Vipul Patel
Bath, UK

Categories
Stories

Bilal, Morocco

I am Bilal from Morocco. For me, not flying is not a big step. I have never been on a plane before so I will not be flying this year, either for work or on vacation, as I have always preferred trains. I choose not to fly because flying contributes to global warming and pollution and leaves an enormous carbon footprint. Aeroplanes run on kerosene which, when burned, releases a very large amount of carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere, and although aviation is not a large industry, it has a major impact on the climate.

Bilal Àl Màdàni
Morocco

Categories
Stories

Flip, Belgium

As a young boy I was privileged to see a lot of our beautiful world. The Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia, and also Russia, the Middle East and the US. All faraway places. In those days these destinations were highly uncommon and pretty expensive to reach, so the only way of getting there was by flying. Sitting in an aeroplane was thrilling and exciting, and my childhood dream was therefore to become a pilot. Nevertheless, it all went differently and I decided to study aviation technology instead. I was even doing research into how to make flying less polluting, by using satellite navigation and computer systems to calculate the most optimal flight path as a way of saving kerosene.

While undertaking this research, I began to realise that the aviation industry is not at all progressing towards a sustainable system. Flying seems beneficial for humanity, as it is a cheap mode of transporting people and goods, but that is only if you look at it from a short-term perspective. Its tremendous growth has resulted in a system with so many negative effects that in the long run – and even in the near future – it cannot be beneficial for humankind. In more ways than one, flying has lost its sex appeal.

When I heard about this new movement, Flight Free, I felt that this is the way forward. As someone who loves seeing the world, I was then amazed to learn about all the sustainable alternatives. And there are many! Take the train for example. This marvellous piece of engineering can take you through beautiful landscapes and to spectacular cities. It had already brought me to exotic places in Europe and Asia.

“But it takes too much time,” friends constantly tell me. Good point. But think about it this way: We can do two things. Either we can be more efficient, reducing our transport time as much as possible and going quickly from one place to another. But this is stressful, and while it sounds counter-intuitive, when we try to go fast, we actually end up wasting more of our time with things like waiting around at the airport or standing in queues. 

Or we can take more time to do the things we like, and do them well. In my case this means more time for travelling. When I took the Trans Mongolian Express from Europe to China several years ago, it was a real revelation. By taking the train, I saw and felt how big and beautiful the earth is, and I encountered the loveliest people. I learned more from this way of travelling than from just taking a plane, sitting like sardines in a can, looking at some movies with earplugs in and being detached from my surroundings. Something that seems ‘inefficient’ and ‘stupid because most people do otherwise’, might not at all be so.

To come full circle, Flight Free allows me to say: I am choosing a better world. I am choosing the good life.

Will you?

Flip Cuijpers
Belgium

Categories
Stories

Charlie, Australia

I took the Flight Free pledge in 2020 after making a commitment not to fly with my band the previous year. I’d read the IPCC 1.5 degree report which, quite frankly, freaked me out and I realised that enough was enough and that I must start making some hard decisions around becoming more a part of the solution rather than the problem. 

It was a very hard call, as my band Formidable Vegetable had been flying internationally for 7 years successfully promoting messages of permaculture and regenerative grassroots action on the world stage to some very large audiences – a worthy path to climate action in many people’s eyes. However, the growing gap between my ideals and my own lived experience raised some serious questions for me about ‘walking the walk’ rather than just ‘talking the talk’ (or singing it, in my case). 

Something I also realised was that by rushing around from festival to festival trying to get The Word out to as many people as possible, I was still following the ‘bigger, better, faster, stronger’ growth paradigm, which had started to do my head in. After experiencing a very noticeable decline in my mental health over the years as a result of excessive travel, I also decided that cutting out flying could drastically improve my wellbeing and help me to get back in touch with the local community I had been unwittingly neglecting back home. 

Of course, with the extended lockdowns and border closures of 2020, pretty much everyone now seems to be in the same boat (and not on a plane). After a year living in a permaculture community, growing most of our own food and living a home-based life, I’ve realised that true positive climate action can also have countless personal benefits when done well! Local is where it’s at.

Charlie Mgee
Musician, Australia

Read more about Charlie and his band Formidable Vegetable here, including how they were the first band in the world (according to the BBC) to turn down a show at Glastonbury due to the ecological impact and then end up playing anyway, due to the entire festival going online during COVID.

Photo by Mara Ripani

Categories
Stories

Maike, Germany

I’ve never really enjoyed flying because I’ve always had the feeling that my mind doesn’t arrive at a place as quickly as my body. So I was never able to fully and consciously enjoy traveling. In addition, at some point I wanted to reduce my CO2 footprint and really experience traveling. In 2019, I decided to take a long distance train journey for the first time (to Portugal) – it was one of the best and most adventurous experiences of my life. There are so many great places to discover, even without a plane. I will stay flight free, even beyond 2021! 

Maike
Germany 
Instagram: @maikemaroni

Categories
Stories

Börje, Norway

In 2007 we migrated from Sweden to Norway, after struggling financially when our honeybees died. I had also developed problems with my back. I worked as an agricultural advisor in the local administration in Norway, and one of my tasks was to motivate farmers to embrace ecological farming and consider new ways of production with the goal of meeting the climate change challenge. This was not an easy task when farmers generally are living in a situation struggling with increased costs as well as reduced income.

I realised that I could change my own lifestyle considerably and I could try to convince others to begin to think in similar ways. We built our own low energy house in 2010. We combine production of solar electricity with wood heating in a well insulated house. We grow our own vegetables and fruit and we pick wild berries and mushrooms. We also started up the beekeeping again and have chosen to work with the native dark bees that have adapted to the local flora in western Europe. We recycle as much of our waste material as possible.

We live in beautiful mountainous countryside and use electric bicycles for short journeys and exercise. We cannot live without our car but use the bus, boat or train whenever available. However, it was an easy choice to stop flying two years ago. There are so many interesting places to visit in our neighbourhood or across the border in Sweden, together with our children. We still see the white stripes in the sky from passing jet planes, but we feel confident and satisfied that we will see the number of planes being reduced during our lifetime.  

Börje Svensson
Agricultural advisor,
Norway

Categories
Stories

Anne, Spain

I haven’t flown for approximately fifteen years due to an increasingly uncomfortable claustrophobia on flights. This culminated in my actually getting off a flight from Malaga to London when I was faced with that mass of people all jamming stuff into overhead lockers on entry to the aircraft. I got off the aeroplane and took the train to visit my mother who was ill in Birmingham. 

I live in Malaga and most of my family are UK based. Since the ‘revelation’ I’ve found great enjoyment in visiting places I’d previously only flown over, and in visiting other places across Europe and Morocco. My love of train travel has increased. 

In parallel to this was the deterioration of our climate and my developing awareness of how air travel is adding to the disaster, so my feelings were fixed! Signing the flight free pledge was easy in the same way as it was easy to become vegetarian and eat an increasingly plant based diet and to stop using plastic etc. There is no one single factor that will stop climate change but every single one of us has to engage NOW!

Anne Smyth
Malaga, Spain

Categories
Stories

Livy, UK

One of my mum’s favourite books is Cider with Rosie. I remember her telling me about a couple from the book who lived their whole lives in one village, perfectly content, living as “snug as two podded chestnuts”. The image this conjures humbly reminds me that people have not always lived how we do now, and this doesn’t mean they weren’t happy or content.

Last year I realised that the climate crisis is not going away and won’t be solved by “greening” our current lifestyles. Given that we are a long way off finding a sustainable way to fly, technology simply will not save us either. Learning more about this has left me feeling hopeless and ridden with eco-anxiety, which I remind myself is a completely natural reaction given the situation. What I find helps with eco-anxiety is making tangible changes to my own life. Taking the Flight Free pledge has been empowering. Something I could do right now, in the moment, that makes a difference.

I have never taken a flight solely because I enjoy getting on planes. In fact, it was that part I never really liked. It was the destination that brought me to the airport. The opportunity to rest, get away from home and experience new things. In truth, when I first thought about giving up flying, these were all things that I worried I might have to give up too. I found other lifestyle changes relatively easy, but giving up flying… no I thought, that would be too hard, and travel is worth it anyway.

But choosing not to fly is a privilege and being able to relax and experience new things closer to home is too. For me, making the choice not to fly in 2021, is a pledge to be more content in my everyday life. To stop living for my next holiday abroad. To have new experiences closer to home. To learn how to relax more. To stop comparing myself to others. To spend more time outside. These are things that I truly want in 2021 and I don’t need to get on a plane to do them.

Livy Wallis
Derbyshire, UK

Categories
Stories

Catarina, Sweden

I will be flight free 2021 as I have been for many years now (with the exception of a funeral of a family member combined with attending and speaking at a UN climate event in NYC in 2019).

I work with climate action as a public speaker, program host and moderator and I am the chair of the independent think tank Global Challenge. Global Challenge will launch our biggest project so far this year, and it is purely about climate action. Climate action is my major concern so of course I can not and do not want to fly. I love train travel and I travel by train to my assignments in Sweden and abroad. It is not a sacrifice, it is travelling the way we used to travel in Europe before the deregulation of the aviation industry. It is an office with a magnificent and ever changing view! For vacation I take the train or an electric car.

I am involved as a spokesperson in the Swedish climate organization Our Kids´Climate and I am a firm believer in the bottom up approach. We as individuals need to walk the talk in order for the decision makers to understand that we are ready for policy changes and decisions that take us down to net zero. I am a firm believer in the power of the many. We need to join together – as in Flight Free World and as on the climate action platform We Don´t Have Time and the organization Our Kids´Climate to push for change. Please add your voice to any organization that pushes for climate action! And please stay on the ground. Our children and grandchildren will thank us.

Catarina Rolfsdotter-Jansson
Sweden