Food for thought on air travel and flight shaming


Why, exactly, is air travel SO bad for the environment? Is flight shaming the best way to address the problem?

Food for thought on air travel and flight shaming /img/flight-shame.jpg

“Flight Shaming” is the new trend of making people feel “ashamed to fly due to the environmental impacts of air travel”.

This post is just my own synthesis of what I consider a useful Twitter thread on this topic, that started here as comments about some data about flying and flight shaming (in Norwegian)

  • 80% of the world’s population have never flown
  • In 2017, only 3% of the population flew

This is my own synthesis of those comments:

  1. In big picture, aviation is small [but] There are serious inequities in who has access to, & uses, flying. Perhaps these inequalities are why so much attention is put on aviation emissions.
  2. [of course] we should NOT ignore aviation emissions, but… the growing movement on “flight shaming” in Nordic countries (#flyskam in Norway, #flygskam in Sweden) [seems] “an opportunity for the elite of the elite to name call the elite who take flights”.
  3. [surely] aviation is overused by some. But… why isn’t “car shaming” a thing? Is that because it hits everyday folk, not the elite that we love to hate?
  4. [eventually] flight shaming will have a marginal effect, primarily among the already engaged [BUT] It may cause more polarization (class warfare), which may offset the marginal gains.
  5. Worst, it distracts from the bigger problems. So, flight shame if you must & if it is your thing. Just don’t lose sight of the bigger (climate) objective, reducing GHG emissions…

Another Twitter user replied that focus on flying is relevant because:

  • Radiative forcing of aviation emissions is about 2.7 times higher than other GHGe (=GreenHouse Gas emissions)
  • Aviation grows faster in relative and absolute share than any other subsector.
  • Technological solutions in aviation are harder than in road transport.

And another user remarked that “flying is mainly done by rich people - globally speaking absolutely, nationally speaking predominantly - and is thus in practice usually a luxury leisure product. In any sane world luxuries that cost other people their homes and lives would be heavily constrained.”

My own take? Shame systems, not just people!

Weeks before reading that thread, I had already asked: “WHO can AFFORD not to fly in 2020? People or companies?”. Read that post, and you will find many of the same arguments summarized above, plus a concrete proposal. The general issue remains the same I have discussed in another post: what we need now, more than taxes or social pressure on any individual action, from flying to shaving, is rationing at the system level.

Image source: “The New Swedish Trend of Flight Shaming Hits Europe”

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