CHRIST, what a muttonhead.
Yes. Yes, you absolutely should, immediately. Every minute you dither makes Mother Gaia cry, you know.
Four years ago, during a Zoom work meeting, a colleague who lives in London told me she’d decided to quit flying on airplanes. She simply couldn’t stomach the cost to the climate. Due to her decision, she said calmly, she would probably never visit the U.S. again. My heart skipped a beat.
Her choice seemed so extreme. She shared it with me casually in the context of conversation, without a trace of judgment or moralizing. Still, I felt shocked and inexplicably a little defensive—but also intrigued. At the time, I traveled by air as often as ten times a year for my work as a journalist and to see family members strewn about the country. I couldn’t imagine my life without flying.
But my colleague’s comment lodged in my mind as a beautiful and challenging seed. Over the next few years, it cracked through the concrete of what had been, until then, a completely unexamined belief in my inviolable entitlement to flying. When the pandemic arrived, grounding travelers and shrinking international air travel by 60 percent in 2020, I began to see that significantly reducing air travel—or even giving it up altogether—was absolutely possible.
Rare individuals have chosen not to fly for ethical reasons for decades, but in the years leading up to the pandemic, the smattering of outliers coalesced into a movement. It took root most quickly and deeply in Sweden, which in 2017 became the first country in the world to establish a legally binding carbon-neutrality target—a year before Greta Thunberg began protesting in front of its parliament. In Swedish, the movement became known as flygskam, which translates to “flight shame,” a term commonly attributed to Swedish singer Staffan Lingberg, who gave up flying in 2017.
The number of people pledging to stop flying grew so much that Swedish air travel declined 5 percent between 2018 and 2019, and the movement strengthened in other parts of Europe as well. In the U.S., the flight-free movement, in the form of groups like Flight Free USA and No Fly Climate Sci, has been slower to spread but is growing. This year, Flight Free USA, for example, is on track to see the largest number of pledges to stop or minimize flying at 436. By comparison, tens of thousands have pledged in Europe over the past four years.
Well, an admiring pat on the head for all those Neo-Luddite lackwits, then. But y’all should by no means stop there. Ditch your cars, your houses, your modern appliances, any clothing you didn’t sew with your own two pwecious widdle hands. Throw out your computer, your tablet, and your sail foam, all of which are made of plastic derived from *gasp!!!* fossil fuels. No more mass transit, either, most of which consists of either gas or diesel-engined buses or electric trains and/or subways which rely on a mostly coal-burning power grid.
Squatting in your dark, freezing-cold cave to cook over an open fire? Perish FORBID! When I think of the miasma of planet-killing pollutants spewed into our fragile atmosphere by such unnecessary indulgences, I can but weep. Small-scale agriculture? Non: cow farts, plus plants have feewings too, you know. Composting? Nein: that is just soooo 2010; you should be scooping, bagging, and eating your own poo like more enlightened pyrsynz are doing. Travel/commuting by horseback? Nyet, nyet, NYET: animal cruelty, you heartless, soulless monster, amongst a whole slew of other objections.
Criminy, but these navel-gazing, sanctimonious handwringers really make my hair hurt sometimes.