Growing up with a geography teacher for a dad, I was fortunate enough to do a lot of travelling as a child and I’m grateful for those experiences, even though they felt more like field trips than leisure breaks a lot of the time. Visiting different parts of the world is a lot of fun, but I felt increasingly uncomfortable about flying and the effect it has on the environment. Although I reduced my flying habit over the years, I continued to tell myself the harm couldn’t be as bad as I feared, or people wouldn’t carry on flying so much, right?
Then, in 2019, the full scale of the climate emergency hit home, thanks to the hardworking activists who succeeded in getting the message across to the masses. It wasn’t welcome news by any means (I’d just returned from a transatlantic trip, and plunged into a major case of flygskam), but there was no denying the truth, however inconvenient.
Like most people, I try not to do things that I know are terrible for the planet, and make an effort to be environmentally-friendly in all the usual ways (walking, avoiding wasteful packaging, etc.). But the moment I get on a plane, all those efforts pale into insignificance. If I really care about protecting vulnerable people and wildlife from the devastating effects of climate change we’re already witnessing, then I need to stay on the ground.
Whenever that seems like a sacrifice, I remind myself that it was never actually possible for me to visit all the places on my list safely or ethically. Now I’m looking forward to travelling shorter distances and making the most of the many destinations within reach. I’m still spoilt for choice!
I’ll admit I’ve been disappointed by the reactions I’ve received when talking about this. At best, people seem to perceive this as a quirky hippie lifestyle choice, and at worst, an extreme attack on their holiday habits. I understand not everyone is ready to acknowledge their part in this crisis, but I hope the Flight Free campaign will help them get their head out of the clouds the way it did for me.
Community worker, South Coast, UK