I first heard of the concept of love miles a few years ago. It is the concept of incurring mileage to see loved ones through flying.
At that point I had already started wondering about the carbon footprint of all our activities, even ones we don't talk about as much, such as flying and internet usage (apparently one Google search requires as much energy as boiling a cup of tea!). Then in mid-2019 I read how an average American couple took one round trip flight, and that one activity made up about half their annual carbon footprint.
|Dec 2017 - the last time I flew, maybe ever|
|My family flew out to see me in Calgary in 2014|
It's nice that we've been given choices on how to live more sustainably by, say, turning the lights off, taking less showers (I haven't taken a proper shower in 4 months), eating more locally (I dumpster dive or "urban forage" when I can), eating less meat (I do this about once a week), or by alternative commuting (I rode my bike to school and work in 2019).
But we've not been told to reduce our worst individual carbon emitting activity of all - flying.
Why is this?
Maybe because flying has become so common in developed society that it has become ingrained in the culture. Maybe because those that fly are so used to it, they're no longer able to give it up, or admit to their environmental impact. Maybe because it is extremely profitable for the airline industry and all collateral industries.
Flying is seen as a luxurious activity that makes traveling the world, accomplish business and going to weddings and family reunions accessible like never before. People brag about their flying around the water cooler. "Guess what I did for the holidays? I flew to Bali!" People are similarly guilt tripped into not flying out to visit their friends and family. "Why didn't you come to my wedding?"
It's true. I have missed most of my friends weddings. And I have not been home in about one year now, after driving one week halfway across my vast country of Canada, from Toronto to British Columbia.
Do I feel guilty about this? I can't help but feel a little. But I keep looking at the bigger picture and can no longer justify flying in my life.
|I've been very fortunate to travel a lot|
|Probably my favourite picture from my Peru travel|
I have been very fortunate - looking at the big picture of my friends and family, I've done more traveling than most of them ever will. Looking at the global picture, I'm fortunate just to be able to step on a plane once. But now that I carry the awareness of the impact of flying, I can't step on a plane knowing that that one flight I take will contribute significantly to my carbon footprint, in an era when climate change is wreaking havoc on our environment.
My previous flight was in 2017 and I hope it can be my last. I've since adapted beautifully to my pledge - I've had several amazing road trips around Canada. Road trips are an amazing way to travel - a much lower carbon footprint, while engaging in slow travel, a movement to reclaim a more immersive way of traveling by avoiding flying and country hopping. And I do still plan on long distance traveling - my last great journey will be to hitchhike a sailboat to Eurasia, cross overland to the other side, then hitch a sailboat back to North America. After that I think I'll be ready to settle down, hopefully tend to land and foster community.
Please understand this is my own decision. Please don't judge me, and understand I'm not judging you. I'm not asking you to stop flying like me and hitchhike sailboats. I'm simply sharing my story to spread the awareness of the impacts of our actions. If we all had awareness of every single one of our actions and its impact on the bigger picture, I think we'd be doing a lot of things differently. Awareness can be a burden but it's also a responsibility and duty incumbent upon us in this day and age, where our decisions have a global impact, all the way from flying to buying an avocado at the grocery store.
Just like the rhetoric and culture have slowly changed over several generations regarding cigarettes, and more recently, over eating meat, the same thing I'm sure will happen someday regarding flying. Perhaps in the future, people will be guilt tripped into flying instead of the other way around.
(PS. I have also read that flying as a technology will take a very long time to make a leap to becoming sustainable. Gravity is a huge force to overcome)