Will you join me?

I write less on here than I’d like about not flying. Which is, after all, ostensibly the focus of this blog.

I suspect that this is not least because it’s hard for me to talk about something that’s so confronting for so many people. I am keenly aware that you, readers, are mostly people who fly. And it’s not pleasant to be told that your behaviour is morally questionable. Especially by a hypocritical travel blogger, no less.

So I find it lonely, talking about the environmental imperative to give up flights. I feel isolated, and maybe a little mad. A lone voice tapering out into nothing, met with silence. Or hostility.

It’s so insistently important to me though, such and obvious wrong in the world, that despite the discomfort I feel I must talk about it.

We cannot afford to take leisure flights. There is not room in the atmosphere for such an emissions-intense mode of travel. Full stop.

When I do occasionally hear another voice sharing this message, a burden is lifted. Last week a friend sent me a link to a Washington Post article about the pressing environmental need for us to stay at home. I was so very grateful. It’s galvanising, hearing others voices shouting the same thing as yours. I am not alone, I thought. This is not impossible.

It takes a Village

Community is so important in effecting change, and it’s something I feel I’m missing. I don’t feel I’m connected to other people who recognise the destructive nature of air travel, and I want to be. There’s power in numbers. There’s amplification, and mutual support. But trying to find this community, this connection, I keep hitting a frustrating wall of broken links and expired web domains.

I don’t even know what words to use to find my allies. Sustainability means a lot of things to a lot of people. Most sustainable-travel bloggers don’t bat an eyelid at taking a flight. If they are not my people, then who is?

I looked for a Facebook group today, hoping there might already be a lively community of environmentally minded non-flyers out there. The one small group that I found hadn’t been active since 2012. But in this dormant group space the posts from all those years ago were still up, like sun-bleached posters on a long-abandoned village noticeboard. I felt like a detective, on the trail of a moving target. The trail led me to Ed Gillespie‘s (also dormant) blog, and to a TEDx talk he did, where he frames sustainability as the new progress.

The main message of this talk (which is very watchable, if you’ve got the time) is that we are going to have to actually change, really change, if we want the planet to remain a place we can live. And that that is a good thing. It’s progress. The line that I connected to the most, that had me grabbing my notebook and pen, was this.

Our willingness to act, perversely, is inversely proportional to the impact of those actions.

Yes. Exactly. This is an idea I’ve been wrestling with for months, not quite managing to get into satisfying words. There he has it though. As long as the changes we are asked to make to live sustainably are small enough, we’ll happily do it. But small changes have small impacts. We need real change if we really want to solve this. Real change like quitting flying, buying less stuff, travelling less, cutting out meat, and leaving our cars behind on long journeys, not just short ones.

That’s another thing that community is for, you see. Adding ideas together to make them bigger and better. Clarifying them by passing them back and forth.

And that is the frustration of only finding years-old blogs, and abandoned Facebook groups, when I try to reach out to other people who are committed to avoiding flights. To fulfil this function a community needs to be a living breathing, interactive thing. Not a static, silent notice-board.

Can you help?

I can’t find a community, so I’m going to have to make one. But where do I begin? Perhaps by asking for your help. For your thoughts, and your ideas.

Let’s talk!

  • Do you know of any groups or resources I might have missed?
  • Anywhere that discussion or campaigning about quitting flying is happening?
  • Is there anybody else writing on this right now who I should be reading?
  • Is quitting flying something you’d consider doing in your own life?
  • Or are you already there?
  • What are the obstacles you see to cutting out flights?
  • What interests you about this issue, what do you want to read about?

I’m reaching out, in the hope that somebody reaches back. In the hope that I’m not as alone as I sometimes feel. And if that sounds very self-involved, it is a little. But the point is that I want very strongly for this not to be all about me, about my personal thoughts and feelings.

I want it to be about us, doing something together to make our lives together on this planet a little more sustainable.

Will you join me?

7 thoughts on “Will you join me?

  1. Kirstie, I know how you feel! My partner and I gave up flying a couple of years ago and are currently attempting a round the world trip as well. It’s so demoralising meeting people who are also travelling and don’t think twice about the impact that their choice of travel has.

    One book that really gave me comfort was ‘How to Change the World’ (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14478551-how-to-change-the-world). In it he talks about how change is often made by seemingly everyday, unglamorous actions. The section that keeps coming back to me though is the idea that simply by voicing views on topics most people are ignoring, it gives others permission to think about them also. Like your blogs; simply by saying you don’t fly and your personal reasons for it you make others (like me) feel like we’re not taking crazy pills and are justified in having similar concerns.

    I’d recommend the whole book though, it’s very short and to the point, and made me feel a lot happier about the life choices I’ve made.

    Sadly I think the only thing that will stop people flying is cost, which is bad because it will turn travel into another thing only the wealthy can enjoy.

    I’ll keep reading your blog in the hopes you find a community (or create one) which I can join!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. This is exactly the kind of connection I was hoping for, putting this post out there. It’s so nice to hear from somebody on a similar journey.

      Do you know, that book has been sitting on my ‘I should really read this soon’ list for a few years. I will bump it to the top of the pile!

      I think I agree with you, the likelihood of wholesale change without a financial incentive is slim to none. But I think the price of flying is insanely cheap at the moment. I think it would make a big difference if the price was much more than it is now, say double or triple, And I think that would still be accessible to most people who currently fly as a rare purchase. For an emergency, or very special trip. At the moment people are often choosing flying because it’s cheap, which is awful.

      In terms of those who can’t currently afford it getting access, I think that’s primarily a problem of badly divided resources in the world. It sucks, and it should be fixed, but not with cheap flights. Sorting the pricing of flying out so that it better accounted for the damage it does would push people towards more sustainable modes when they’re an option, which would make business better for train, bus, ferry companies etc. And mean they could charge even less (economies of scale).

      Could probably write a whole post about this, maybe I should!

      I will keep reading yours too, now your comment has led me to it! It’s really thoughtful and interesting, I wish I’d been reading along from the beginning of your travels. I think I found you guys on instagram a little while back but didn’t realise you were blogging too!

  2. Hi Kirstie,

    I, like many people, hadn’t really thought too much about air travel and the environment. I had no idea how disproportionately damaging it is. Until I started reading your blog. So you’ve informed me and, I’m sure, many others.

    It’s funny, before I read your blog I chose to go on an extended trip, traveling by train. I chose land travel, before I knew how destructive flying is, because I wanted a closer experience. I wanted to watch the land change from Utah desert, to the endless dry dust of Wyoming, to the mountains of Colorado. I wanted to talk to people on the train, meet the other people who were moving between these places. I wanted to understand the space between the more visited destinations. Some of my favorite experiences happened in those small places I just stopped in, on my way to somewhere else. I think you’re right, giving up air travel isn’t all sacrifice. It means giving up a lot, but there’s a silver lining too.

    That’s my two cents anyway.

    Cheers,
    Carol

    1. I’m glad you learnt something from my rambling 🙂 Yeah, absolutely. There’s a real value in seeing the transition from place to place, watching the edges overlap, and gently blur. I find it hard to put into words, but you’ve done a great job. I’ve found that the only real sacrifice is not being able to just hop on a plane to see friends and family, in terms of travel I think the pleasure and interest of travelling slowly has more than made up for any extra inconvenience or cost.

      Thanks for your two cents, I always like to hear them! And thank you again for sending me the article. 🙂

  3. I am guilty of choosing to fly because it is the most time and cost efficient way to get where I want to go. I too never really thought about the environmental impact of flying until I began following you and Arthur. By simplifying my life and slowing down the pace of my travels; however, I have reduced my air and automobile travel. By traveling more on foot and by bus, I can connect with the local people and better integrate into their cultures. As a result, I feel like I am experiencing life in a more reflective and methodical way. I support your ideas and applaud your efforts.

    1. Thanks Joe, I’m glad to have brought it to your attention, sorry about the ensuing guilt! Yeah, absolutely. It’s a much richer experience slowing down and seeing things along the way. The couple of times we have had to fly in recent years, I experienced a real sense of displacement and confusion. Like I wasn’t really in the place I’d landed, or I couldn’t quite understand where or what that place was. It took a while to adjust, and really feel being there. I wonder if you’d ever get the real sense of where you are in the world if you fly in and out for a short break. It’s been so long since we did that I’ve forgotten what it feels like!

      1. I couldn’t agree more. By flying here and there, and dropping in on various places and cultures, we miss the subtle transitions and complexities that really define our world. Traveling slowly overland, we can experience and appreciate the variations in topography, physiography, linguistics, architecture, agriculture, urban planning, general lifestyle, and so much more.

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