Some bird species have evolved from their ability to fly, our feathered friends the kiwi, cassowary, ostrich, rhea and emu remain rooted to the ground, responding and adapting to new and altered environments.
Is there a lesson to be learned from those birds? Flight and air travel comes at a price to the wellbeing of our planet; our habitat is being altered by its impact. It’s time to re-examine and question our relationship with flying, and like those birds, evolve.
Hour for hour there’s no ‘better’ way to burn fossil fuel and heat the planet. And yet our collective appetite to take to the skies shows no sign of slowing, indeed the 25th of July 2019 was the busiest day of flying in aviation history. Over 230,000 planes took off.
But there is cause for hope.
Some of our species have chosen to take action, to evolve and ‘shed their wings’. Flight Free 2020 is a social movement of people who commit to foregoing plane travel for 12 months to reduce their carbon footprint. Non-fliers from all over the world pledge to travel only by rail, road and sea. Putting convenience to one side in the hope that their stance will inspire others to get off the runway and address our changing climate.
Whilst the flight-free movement is gathering momentum, non-flying could be fast-tracked exponentially by an evolution of politics. Earlier this year the French Transport Minister announced an “eco-tax” on all flights departing France. The tax collected being used to finance alternative, environmentally friendlier forms of transportation.
We also have environmental leaders showing us another way. Greta Thunberg recently arrived in New York after setting sail from the UK on a zero-emission boat to speak at the UN Climate Action Summit. The craft adorned with solar panels and underwater turbines generating enough electricity to power the two-week voyage. The journey and the message reverberating around the digital world and into our collective consciousness.
Convenience can no longer be the primary motivator for our lifestyle choices, they often come with inconvenient truths. It might be seen as a nuisance to switch banks to one that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels, to curb our carnivorous ways, to acquire power from a renewable energy provider or indeed to forgo flight, but that is what our planet needs from us now.
Let us shed the notion of the inconvenience of not taking the fastest, cheapest mode of transport, and instead embrace flightless-ness as an opportunity to connect with others, to truly travel to destinations rather than simply arrive, to slow down and breathe and to know that we are playing our part in caring for the planet.
We need to change our story, flying has evolved to become a disposable, throw-away commodity. It was introduced as a luxury that a privileged few could afford. It is now time for those who are privileged with the ability not to fly, those that can sacrifice a little extra time and money, to interrogate their choices first.
As our climate becomes more extreme, each season punctuated by droughts, flooding, bushfires and storms, we, like our avian cousins, must adapt to our changing environment, one that we as a species have created, in order for all living things to thrive and survive.
This is our evolutionary moment.