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How Flight Shame Fights Global Warming

Climate activistsSource: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Seventeen-year-old Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist, has been making waves by calling out older generations on irresponsible energy use and their carbon footprints. One of her biggest issues is with flying, which uses non-renewable energy and creates very high emissions, contributing to climate change. That’s where the concept of flygskam, or “flight shame”, got its wings, as she encouraged people to skip flying and find alternate transportation.

Taking her advice to heart doesn’t mean skipping the casino, though—you can play all your favorite games in an online casino like All Slots. People speaking out against flying don’t just suggest that we stop traveling altogether though, just that we opt for more environmentally friendly forms of transportation, like trains. Find out how to fight your carbon footprint shame.

The beginning of the movement

Greta Thunberg and countless activists before her have shared a goal: to make people realize that our current lifestyle is at odds with the environment. We’re quickly depleting natural resources, causing air and water pollution, endangering plants and animals, and causing climate change.

Air travel makes sense as a target in the fight against carbon emissions. The fuel that’s burned during flight produces greenhouse gases like CO2, which trap heat in the atmosphere. A BBC report of data from the BEIS tells us that a domestic flight puts out 254g of emissions per kilometer traveled per person, compared to 171g in a car and only 6g in a Eurostar train. (We can only imagine what will happen if space tourism really kicks off.)

These figures take into account how many people are traveling—one car with four people in it is more efficient than two cars with two people each. So unfilled commercial flights, private jets, and first-class flyers all contribute more to emissions.

All of this led climate activists like Thunberg to suggest that it’s shameful to choose flying, especially when there are other options. Our choices about travel are often made out of convenience, because flights are faster, more available, and sometimes cheaper than other ways to travel. The concept of flight shame makes more sense in Europe, where taking trains is more practical, though the whole world could benefit from considering how our travel impacts the environment.

Trains are a greener way to travel.Source: Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

Avoiding flight shame

Some airline companies are worried that this increased concern about the impact of flying could affect ticket sales, as passengers choose different modes of transportation. However, for trans-Atlantic trips, there aren’t really other options (though Thunberg notoriously decided to take a zero-emissions yacht to NYC). This could mean that environmentally conscious travelers just choose to travel less.

Many airlines started looking at ways to reduce emissions long before the flygskam movement started. United Airlines has committed to cutting emissions in half by 2050. Other companies, like Delta, have focused on carbon offset projects, and carriers like KLM and JetBlue have taken strides in reducing the amount of waste generated in-flight. Flybe boast aircrafts with fuel efficiency equal to that of an eco-friendly car. High-level changes like these could certainly make flight less shameful.

Many environmental activists have advocated train travel instead, which is the most efficient means of mass transportation. Rail operators have moved toward using renewable energy sources and making their trains more efficient.

Reducing travel is an option, too. With the world more interconnected than ever through technology, business travel is no longer as much of a requirement. Opting for web meetings when possible could help reduce the amount of travelers.

People don’t really want to fly less.Source: Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

Does flight shame work?

Many people are asking if flight shame has actually had a significant impact on the number of people flying, and if efforts at offsetting emissions are really effective. The truth is, most people won’t stop flying—they just don’t want to feel bad about it.

One criticism of the movement is that individual choices don’t often lead to large-scale change. One person choosing not to fly just means one more empty seat on an airplane, which will still use the same amount of fuel. A decreased demand for flying could lead to reduced offerings, but this would take time…which is running out as climate change intensifies.

Transport & Environment, a European association for sustainability in transportation, warn that focusing on offsetting emissions can actually be a distraction from creating policies that drive large-scale changes. So perhaps flight shame shouldn’t really fall on individual travelers—but on corporations and governments that do little to invest in real environmental policy change.

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