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René, Netherlands

Joining the campaign was quite easy for me, because I have been worried about climate change and other crises related to our human behaviour for several years now (and I have known about it since the nineties). 

I used to fly for dermatology workshops and congresses organised by the ESVD and ESVP (veterinary pathology) if it was too far away to drive, even though I did take the train several times. We combined these flights with our summer holidays. I was aware of the consequences of flying, so several years ago I suggested the organisers of the ESVD congress should discourage visiting the yearly congress by plane, but I never received an answer.

Eight years ago my wife and I became climate activists, and we took part in many demonstrations and other actions. We stopped flying and we tell this fact to everyone who wants to listen (not many people, I admit). We also became vegetarians and now we are mostly vegan. One year ago we moved to an old wooden house, removed the gas, insulated it, put solar panels on the roof, and installed an air heat pump.

We try to live within sustainable boundaries, within the carbon budget that’s left for us, even though this is impossible because of the current structures of society. 

Since 2018 my wife, Eliane (see picture), has been a councilor in Heerlen for the Dutch Party for the Animals (campaigning for animal welfare, but also for system change, climate, biodiversity and related subjects) and I am a member of the Caring Vets, Klimaatcoalitie Parkstad, Parkstad in Transitie, Fossielvrij Nederland and Grootouders voor het Klimaat.

René van der Luer
Netherlands

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Bernhard, Germany

I used to fly quite a lot because as a scientist, I am used to going to conferences, visiting other institutions etc. Also, my family is spread out around the world.  I always felt bad about my climate impact, but only after the Fridays for Future demonstrations started did I realise how tight the remaining CO2 budget is in order to stay within the 1.5° limit of the Paris Agreement.  So I decided that I need to do something about this in my personal life. 

Besides being vegetarian and using electricity from renewable sources, it appeared that drastically reducing the amount of flying had a large impact on my CO2 footprint.  This was quite easy for me because, already being an established scientist, I no longer need all this travelling to advance my career.  So I made a pledge to not fly in 2020. 

Unexpectedly, due to the Corona pandemic, it turned out that I would not have flown anyway in 2020 regardless of my pledge, and I extended the pledge to 2021. But the pandemic also showed that a different scientific enterprise is possible, with a lot less flying, and online meetings instead.  

I hope a lot of this can be maintained in post-Corona times. I especially hope that in the future, it is no longer expected and necessary for young scientists to travel so much in order to establish themselves within their field of science. We all have the responsibility to push for change in scientific culture. 

Besides changing my own behaviour, I also try to spread the word that it is possible to travel distances less than 1000 km without flying. I therefore maintain a webpage https://climatewednesday.org/greta-challenge/ (in German) where we collect reports from scientists travelling professionally over long distances without flying. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we haven’t received any more reports. But I hope we will soon pick up again where we left off.

Bernhard Steinberger
Germany

Will you also be Flight Free in 2021? Make your pledge today and help us spread the campaign!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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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