Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for May, 2008

Let’s talk about planes. Pretty cool things aren’t they. Big hunks of metal that somehow fly around in the sky and can take us from place to place very quickly.

It won’t surprise you to hear that I don’t like planes much, and I try very hard to avoid using them where possible. The responses that I get to this can be annoying (if I’m in a particularly bad mood), amusing, but generally not all that surprising. “The plane’s going anyway, you might as well get on it”, “Green consumerism won’t save the world” etc. etc.

Let’s think about that for a minute. Yes, the plane is going anyway. If I never take another flight for the rest of my life there will be plenty of people to take my place. Numbers of flights will increase dramatically, it will contribute to the drastic rise in temperatures worldwide, and people will die as a result. So if it’s going to happen anyway, why bother? There are two reasons.

Firstly, I will hate myself for it. It’s a very selfish reason, but it’s true. I will feel bad. It will piss me off that I did it, knowing that I am ultimately contributing to a humanitarian disaster, however small this contribution may be.

Secondly, it has an effect on other people. It engages people in the issue. It provokes a response, even if that response is negative. My seemingly drastic action might bring someone to realise what a big problem we face.It might even make them think twice when they are next flying to Paris instead of going on the train. It might only make them think “What a self-righteous little twat!”, but if I stick to my guns, at least they will take me seriously.

So, for this second reason, I will be having an effect. A very small effect, but an effect nonetheless. And what if 10%, or 20% or 50% of people decided to do the same? Then obviously, there would be a big effect. Planes aren’t going to fly around empty (well some might – see here) – it isn’t profitable, and if there isn’t demand, then there won’t be supply either.

It might be obvious, but it’s not the plane I don’t like. It’s the way the plane works. Pumping out lots of gasses that are heating up the globe. If we could find a way of getting from London to New York in a few hours without contributing to our own demise then I’d be the first on the plane! I’d save up and get a private jet! But we can’t (see here), and unless by some miracle that happens you won’t see me on many more planes.

Notice that I haven’t at any point said that I will never fly again. Strong-willed though I am, and annoying though it will be, I know I will get on a plane sometime in the next few years. It would be unrealistic to expect the world to stop flying altogether. But how about getting rid of needless short-haul flights? A huge percentage of flights from the UK could easily be made by other, less destructive, means.

The mentality surrounding the issue is slowly changing. It used to be very difficult to admit to people that I didn’t want to fly. It would prompt an uncomfortable pause in the conversation, followed by comments of a veiled pity. A kind of patronising “Oh don’t worry, you’re young and naïve. You’ll understand that you can’t win in the end” type conversation. This sometimes still happens. But more often now the pity and disbelief is replaced by an often false admiration. “Well done you” or sometimes, “If only we could all do that”. It’s now commonly sociably acceptable to appreciate the problem, but it is not yet commonly sociably acceptable to actually do anything about it.

This mentality is a microcosm of the global warming problem itself. The same goes for coal power and driving around in unnecessarily polluting vehicles. We need to stop treating it as something that wacky ‘greens’ or ‘environmentalists’ do, and realise that it’s something that is practical, and that if we don’t do it then we are just hastening our own demise.

I don’t expect people to stop flying. What I do expect, is that people who fly have thought about whether they could use an alternative, or if their trip is more important than the consequences of their actions. It’s not a lot to ask.

At the next election are you going to vote? If you are – then why? Why bother?! It won’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

If you’re not, then why not? Is it because you don’t believe you could change anything? Well you can. And you should.

Read Full Post »