Flygskam (AKA. the flying shame movement) has been sweeping through Sweden at extraordinary rates… And now, it’s making its way across the entire globe too.
For those that may not be aware, the concept of flygskam refers to the shameful feeling people experience when participating in air travel due to its negative impact on the environment. I’ve felt it, and I’m sure a lot of you have too!
The reason this has recently become such a strong movement is that according to the IPCC report, each person on the planet needs to stay under 2 tonnes of CO2 per year in order to combat climate breakdown. And that’s simply not possible if air travel is involved.
Here are a few examples:
A return flight from Melbourne to London is 5.1 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. A return flight from LA to Dubai is 5.4 tonnes of CO2 PP. A return flight from Vancouver to Toronto is 1.3 tonnes PP. A return flight from Singapore to Delhi is 1.6 tonnes PP, and a return flight from Melbourne to Auckland is 1 tonne PP…
Average CO2 emissions per kilometre of air travel is 285 grams, compared with 158 grams per kilometre in a car, and 14 grams per kilometre for trains.
So even if you only go on one long flight per year, it’s pretty much impossible to keep your footprint under 2 tonnes when combined with all of the other emissions we produce in everyday life. But flying shame is no longer just about the feeling that we personally experience… It has now become a movement where shaming and belittling other individuals has become the norm that feeds the campaign.
Whilst I understand the concept and the importance of reducing our impact for the sake of our own survival, I can’t help but fall back on the fact that we must think holistically.
This movement began in Sweden; a European country where it’s possible to travel internationally via train within a matter of hours. For me personally, I live in Australia… A place where travelling to another city without air travel is a very rare occurrence. Our train networks are poor, most of our public transport systems don’t connect to other states, and it takes a lot of time and money just to get to neighbouring cities on the ground.
It’s much easier for those on other continents to quit flying when they have access to such advanced train systems and alternative transport methods. But it’s simply not the case for everyone…
As @lifeinminiaturepictures mentioned in a powerful Instagram post, many Pacific Island Nations who are on the front line of climate change, are actually investing in aviation… And I bet that might surprise you! But this is why it’s so incredibly important to always think holistically.
It would take 13 days by boat just to get to Kiribati’s capital city from one of the other major islands. In the words of Natasha: ‘Air travel is critical in connecting different parts of these island nations to each other, as well as to larger international markets and to promote tourism and trade’… As I’ve said many times before, sustainability isn’t just about the environment!
What I’m getting at, is that the flying debate is so far from black and white. Yes, we should all be reducing our impact and making individual sacrifices where we can, but belittling people (especially without taking their circumstances into account) isn’t going to help the movement grow.
“While we should all try to do our best to make our personal, everyday choices line up with our politics, we shouldn’t flagellate ourselves if we don’t always manage it.
Guilt and shame heaped on the heads of individuals is neither fair nor helpful in the long-term fight for the climate… It’s just a way for climate deniers to distract from where the real blame for our climate crisis lies.“
Whilst this flying guilt continues to sweep its way across the planet, major corporations continue to add further destruction whilst deflecting the blame onto consumers…
Heathrow Airport, the 7th busiest airport in the world with over 80 million passengers in 2018, is continuing its plans to open a third runway. This will cause aviation emissions to rise by 4.9 million tonnes by 2030… Major coal mines are being constructed in Australia, one of which is estimated to produce 4.7 billion tonnes of carbon pollution over its lifetime.
There’s so much to be said for the 1% of people who are making a lot of money off the destruction of our planet, and who are causing far greater devastation than individuals, and they need to be held accountable. Fossil fuel companies and huge corporations are investing billions into disinformation campaigns just to confuse and manipulate the public and fuel their corporate greed…
Don’t get me wrong, in no way am I encouraging people to get on a plane with every cheap flight that comes their way, and we most certainly shouldn’t be flying at the same rate that we get a haircut… Individual changes do matter, so if you have the privilege and ability to quit flying and are willing to make that sacrifice, I commend you, I really do.
But with that being said, we must remember that for a multitude of different reasons, it’s just not possible for everyone. Although flying is a privilege, it’s arguably an even bigger privilege to choose not to fly due to having the time, ability, location and money to choose other alternatives.
Flying used to be something that people strived for, but now it’s something that’s frequently criticized. That’s really hard to grasp, especially when most people just want to go on their yearly holiday, see their families, travel for their career or just experience something new.
My problem with the flying shame movement, is that people seem to be instantly depicted as “bad people” for having other priorities. This isn’t effective, nor fair, and the quicker we turn our anger to the governments and corporations that fuel this destruction, the quicker things will change!
We need to push the aviation industry to look for green solutions, to lessen the frequency of flights that have well-established overland routes, and for governments and corporations to make other alternatives more accessible to all. Right now, the #flyless #stayontheground movement is doing nothing but allowing destructive industries to stay hidden behind the chaos.
No one is perfect, and everyone is complacent in this.
We HAVE to collectively move past the hypocrisy and finger-pointing, because if you have to be a perfect environmentalist to talk about these issues, then no one will be allowed to talk about them, and that will get us absolutely nowhere.