Thursday, 14 December 2006

Big Flying Chunks of Metal

I hate cheap flights. Cheap, annoying, planet-cooking flights that make people think that it’s fine to fly out to their Spanish second home eight times a year, or just pop back over to Zurich to pick up the jumper they left at the ski resort, and thus happily churn out a few extra thoughtless tonnes of carbon dioxide despite the painfully ironic fact that their behaviour is gradually bringing swarms of mosquitoes nearer and nearer to the Strait of Gibraltar and melting all their precious Swiss snow-caps.

I especially hate cheap flights when I need to get one. The timing of the WSF has meant that I’ve had to make several difficult choices. Firstly, there’s no way I could have enough time off work to travel there by any means other than flying. There is also no way I can easily justify putting 2.8 tonnes of CO2-equivalent into the atmosphere (calculated using the City Distance Tool at and the UK Government’s official long-haul emission figures - - combined with the extra effect of releasing these gases so high in the atmosphere, as explained in

I do want to make this trip as useful and effective as I can, by informing as many people as possible in the UK about some of the crucial things that are being done by grassroots movements around the world, and providing useful information and contacts to as many campaigners as possible; the idea is that if I can get 100 people to read and interact with my blog, then that’ll be 100 people that got something out of the WSF without having to fly there, which will dilute my environmental impact. Sort of. Which is all very nice, but doesn’t actually take any greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere.

The only other way I can try to desperately justify this to myself is by reminding myself that I live a relatively low-carbon lifestyle the rest of the time. I reckon I’m down to approximately 2.5 tonnes of CO2 I year, or 4.5 if you include all of the things that happen in the UK economy on my behalf, like healthcare and education and stuff; the UK average is over 10 tonnes. It still doesn't work, of course, coz we're all going to need to get down to a tonne each by 2030, but it makes me feel a little better.

I’m coming to the conclusion that, in order not to be a total hypocrite, 2007 will have to be my final year of personal flying. In fact, after Kenya I’ll maybe go to China and then that’ll be it. No more holiday flights, slow travel all the way. Which actually has its attractions…

The other annoying thing is that in order to get a flight I can afford, I need to travel on the Thursday night before the Forum, which means I can’t perform at the Hammer and Tongue climate change poetry event ( which I’d really been looking forward to. I could put something about poetic justice here, but a joke as bad as that would be really unforgivable.


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