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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

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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

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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

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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

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Antoine, Caroline and Tristan, France

In 2021, we – Caroline, Tristan and Antoine – will be flight-free. For the past year and a half we have been leading a project about how to reduce and minimize our carbon footprint while travelling. 

At the beginning, we took a train from France to the south of Sweden, and then we biked through Sweden to meet some people who are fighting for the climate. Our project would then take us to South America after Sweden. At first, we didn’t want to take a lot of planes to go around the world, so we researched the possibility of taking cargo ships to cross oceans, and to hitchhike on boats. But we still thought that we could take one or two planes if we couldn’t find any other solutions. 

However, after meeting Maja [Maja Rosén from Flight Free World], we chose to change our plan and to become completely flight free! For us, there is no sense in travelling by plane while leading a project about green travel. Moreover, there are so many more fun ways to travel than just going from A to B. So we won’t go as far as South America after all. We found a sailing boat to visit some closer Atlantic islands before coming back to the continent. 🙂 

By using the train, the bike or the boat, we can enjoy the whole journey, instead of the destination only.

Antoine, Caroline and Tristan
France

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Olle, Sweden

I do not fly because I want my children and grandchildren to have a chance to see a white Christmas. Unfortunately, this will not be possible if we humans continue to fly and the like. Animals and plants are also affected. The whole ecosystem will be destroyed, it will be destroyed a little with each passing day, so please stop destroying the ecosystem. People are also affected to such an extent that people die every day thanks to climate change. And more people will if we do not stop emitting so much carbon dioxide, so again please stop emitting carbon dioxide because then you can save lives. Giving up flying is a step in the right direction to save our climate.

Olle Rosén
Fifth grader, Sweden

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Jean-François, Belgium

In 2021, I will be flight-free… as I have been for the past 15 years.
I will not only be flight-free for my personal travel, but also for the various journeys I organise for groups of hikers each year. I am what is officially called an ‘International Mountain Leader’ (IML) – I take people hiking in the mountains.

Of course, Belgium hasn’t got any mountains – the ‘summit’ of the country lies below 700m, so my job involves quite a bit of travelling. My favourite spots are Scotland and Corsica, Belgium being sort of conveniently located in between…

When I plan a walk for a group, I always make sure that the start and end points are easily accessible by public transportation, and much less accessible via airports. I also always set meeting times to match the arrival times of trains and boats. Finally, I offer to book the public transport for the participants, at cost. This way, all of them travel together and we get to know each other right from the start.

For most participants, taking a night train to Scotland or going to Corsica by high-speed train and then ferry is something they probably would never have thought of. But once they do so, they come to realise that ground or sea transport can actually be quite fast. Departing Brussels at 6pm one evening by Eurostar, then taking the Caledonian sleeper night train, you can get to the Scottish Highlands the next morning at around 8am. It’s also much more enjoyable, like when you’re waving goodbye to the port of Marseille at sunset with a beer in hand on a Corsica-bound ferry! And it can be cheaper than the airborne alternative.

So hopefully, even though my occupation does have an impact on the climate, as I travel to the mountains several times a year, I do hope that by showing people who come along that it’s possible, fast, cheap and fun to go to many mountains throughout Europe ‘flight-free’, they will also feel less inclined to take the plane for their other personal travel…

Jean-François Fauconnier
Liège, Belgium

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Dan, USA

I calculated my carbon footprint in 2019 and found that 85% of my footprint came from flying. That sealed the deal. October 6, 2019 was the last time I flew in an airplane. And I plan on never flying again.

The climate crisis is an existential threat to all living things on this planet. So what do we have to do? We must stop burning fossil fuels as quickly as possible. One way to do that is to stop flying. I have chosen to live a low-carbon lifestyle because I understand the scale and the severity of the climate crisis. The climate is crumbling before our very eyes. So what do we do in a crisis? Act.

Furthermore, flying is inherently a justice issue. Rich people fly. Poor people can not. Rich people pollute the most. Poor people pay the climate consequences first and worst. Those facing the most extreme effects of the climate crisis are people of color, indigenous people, women, children, and those living in low-income communities.. Flying is not only a climate justice issue. It’s also a social justice and a racial justice issue.

I understand that I have many domains of privilege. And it is my responsibility to take action simply because I can.

What will your legacy be?

Dan Castrigano
Teacher, Connecticut, USA

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Elisabeth, Greece

I have pledged to stay flight free in 2021 out of respect for the environment.

I started living a flight free life in 2019 and although I have missed traveling, I don’t regret it at all. I will keep living like this because I have taken so many planes since my childhood right up to when I was 32 years old that it makes me feel guilty. I can’t keep traveling like this if I want to call myself an ecologist and if I want my actions to align with my values.

In 2017 I was already a vegan environmental anti-natalist (the top 2 ways to minimize your CO2 footprint), but then I read about the devastating effects of the aviation industry on the environment and I felt horrible with myself for travelling so often by plane. Since then I have only taken a plane once, in 2018 to go to Portugal, and I arranged to carbon offset my flight as a way to minimize the damage. But it felt like cheating my values. And I decided not to do it again.

In 2019, I was flirting with the idea of going to Austria but Greta Thunberg’s life choices reminded me of what my values were. I said to myself «If that teenager is pledging flight free, who has certainly not seen the world as you have been able to do by now, then you must rethink your priorities». And so, I didn’t go.

At the beginning of 2020 I took my dogs and my cat and drove all the way to Spain. It was a way for me to see the world again, and my intention was to move there to live. But the pandemic changed everything – no friend would come for a visit out of fear of getting stuck there due to Covid-19, and as I could not afford to go back to Greece by car & boat, with my pets, once each year, I decided I would come back and live in Greece again. I came back because I don’t want to betray my values ever again.

Integrity is choosing courage over comfort.

Elisabeth Dimitras, 34
MSc Biodiversity Conservation, Researcher / Activist, Greece

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Katherine, USA

Considering the urgency of the climate crisis and the necessity to halt carbon emissions immediately for the sake of safeguarding biodiversity and our ecosystems, there is no need (or time) to attribute blame for climate change or wallow in guilt. By being a part of the Flight Free 2021 campaign, we can have a different message: when individuals join together and shun air travel, industry and the government will need to help deliver solutions. This includes more efficient and affordable ground transport and the eventual electrification of air travel. For now, one significant way to feel content with one’s environmental impact is to avoid emitting the tons of CO2 that accompany air travel.

Katherine Leswing
New Hampshire, USA