On quitting flying

A couple of weeks ago I flew back from a trip to visit my partner’s family. We had a nice time. It was also a milestone, because it was the last time that I am flying anywhere for the foreseeable future.

In the end, this was not a difficult decision. That doesn’t mean that living out its consequences is going to be completely easy. But the decision itself was not hard. Flying has made up more than half of my personal contribution to global warming over the last seven years. I want to cut this footprint as much as I can and so giving up flying is the obvious thing to do.

I’m inspired by the groundswell I’ve seen, just over the last few months, towards cutting flying, both among researchers and the wider public. I am willing to jump on the gloriously awkward #flyingless bandwagon. I think it’s the right thing to do and it’s something that I can do. The question of individual action vs group action is an endless source of tension and debate among decarbonisation campaigners, but for me this individual action is a group action: I’m not doing this on my own, I’m joining in with an ever-growing number of other people who are also doing their best to stay away from appallingly damaging airplanes.

In practical terms, this is going to cause some complications. I live in France but I’m from Ireland and my partner is from Turkey. This means that to visit our families, it’s not a matter of swapping the plane for a simple train journey. But we’ll figure it out. For work, I do most of my research in Eastern Europe – again, not the easiest place to get to from Bordeaux. But it turns out that, for example, there is a direct sleeper train from Paris to Moscow – who knew? So again, I’ll figure it out.

I can’t say I’ll never fly again. I have close family in North America and in Australia, and I have no idea how, long term, I can square that circle. I’m also in a fortunate situation right now, in that I have good research funding to pay for my work trips and I set my own timetable – if I stay in academia, things will probably get more complicated at some point. On the personal travel front, we’re happy to take on the added expense of overland travel at the moment, but our situation might change in the future.

But right now? Yes, for 2019, I’m happy to say: no more flying.