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The green flight gap

Photo by Etienne Jong on Unsplash
The BBC has just spent a week attempting to encourage a more green way of life - a worthwhile aim, even if it often resulted in distinctly uninspiring advice such as 'Use a reusable coffee cup.' However, on a couple of programmes I heard a suggestion that struck me as simultaneously both sensible and stupid in its limitations.

We were told to reduce shorthaul flights. I think the logic behind this is that it's easy to use a more environmentally friendly option like rail for relatively short journeys. And I certainly would both advise people to consider taking the trains and ask governments if they couldn't do something about the ridiculous situation that it's often much cheaper to fly than travel by rail. However, the flying elephant in the room (is that a mixed metaphor, or just Dumbo?) is that longhaul flights have a far bigger negative environmental impact than shorthaul. So why weren't we told to reduce them as well?

I suspect there is an element of self-preservation amongst media types, who may well fly longhaul a lot more than ordinary people do. But if we are serious about climate change, we need to steeply reduce longhaul flying. And, of course, cut out private jet use - but that's not really the point here. 

Incidentally, don't give me that guff about offsetting. Flying does the damage now. Planting a tree will reap benefits in future years when it's too late. Do plant trees, but don't think they offer you a get-out clause for flying all over the place.

We need to seriously ask ourselves whether each flight is necessary. Of course there are circumstances when flying is important. To meet up with distant family, for example. But is flying for tourism ever necessary? Do academics need to fly half way across the world to conferences? Do business people need to meet in person now the pandemic has shown how possible it is to do business remotely?

At the very least, if you or your organisation espouse green values (and especially if you tell other people that you do), perhaps it's time you looked again at your flying habits.

This has been a Green Heretic production.


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