“Flight shaming” is a fad out of Europe, where residents vow to not use air travel in favor of cars, trains and ships.
This works for people living in tiny countries where all points can be reached within a day’s train or car ride. Here in the U.S., by comparison, a cross country trip is 5 to 6 days by car, and that’s just in one direction. This does not work for people living in or traveling to Hawaii or Puerto Rico either!
Some in the flight shaming community are self contradictions: they tend to be young elite who have traveled the entire world before the age of 30, sometimes making a dozen flights per year – and now feel guilty so they advocate others stop flying to make up for their own self indulgence.
Flight shaming seems poised to be the next Minimalism, a fad that is sort of dying off now.
CNN picks up the story by quoting a 29 year old who has traveled the world extensively, thanks to her status as a privileged elite – and now advocates that others stop flying to make up for her past transgressions:
A few years ago, Charlotte Wolf returned from a trip around the world and totted up the number of flights she’d taken.
“I think I did about 80 flights in quite a short space of time,” the 29-year-old tells CNN Travel today.
To make up for her past world travels – by the age of 29 – she has joined Free Flight, a group that pledges to fly less while supporting flight shaming.
She lives in England, a geographically tiny country a mere train ride away from anything in the UK or the European continent. What works for her, obviously works for everyone else all over the world. Not. (It took us 5 days of driving – in each direction – to visit our daughter, an environmental consulting scientist – on the other side of the U.S.)
She advocates for slow travel, taking longer to travel – because this works for her as a self employed digital nomad who does not have to be physically present anywhere to make actual physical goods or to deliver in person services.
She acknowledges she is a privileged elite and advocates for government (meaning taxpayer) funded incentives for others to take longer vacations so they too can engage in time consuming, inefficient travel. She can take a 2-week trip to America by ship – but you probably cannot.
Charlotte is 29 years old and has enjoyed the benefits of huge international travel. She is quoted in the news report for having made over 80 flights, with 5 flights per year between the UK and the US alone. Based on her age, and that her IG page says she went “flight free” 4 years ago (age 25?), that suggests she’s been making up to a dozen flights a year since a teen.
Now that she has experienced the world, to make up for her transgressions and feelings of guilt, she wants to punish you by harming your opportunities for future travels! Of course, they are not suggesting banning travel but instead are erecting large hurdles as to stop travel by most of us! Same effect.
This report by CNN reads more like a parody of self absorbed young people who have a privileged, elite life that they assume is typical of everyone else and who have already enjoyed the benefits of travel they wish to deny to others.
Charlotte’s life story reads like a satirical comment on her own life.
Flight Shaming has led to “experts” telling us that merely looking at travel photos online is destroying the planet:
“Saving the planet requires that we stop gaping and gawking at travel blogs and vacation selfies. Instead, everyone who cares about the environment should shame those who clamber onto an airplane every chance they get.“
This is mental illness, not environmentalism (see my footnotes for what I’ve done to minimize my foot print).
The Flight Shaming agenda will not go over well among those who have not yet traveled and shared those benefits.
Global travel is huge. 60% of US residents have traveled internationally; 50% have traveled to an ancestral country. In 2018, 25% of US families with kids traveled internationally. In 2019, about 1 in 3 U.S. residents traveled outside the U.S. Up to 1.5 billion people world wide, pre-pandemic, traveled to at least one other country each year. Everyone who is anyone has traveled.
Global experience is a virtual requirement for professional jobs, and is a de facto mandate for anyone moving in to management. We live in a globalized world, with globalized supply chains and a globalized employee base. We no longer live in isolated villages of 1821.
I strongly encourage college aged youth to consider a study or work abroad program. Even if not college bound, international experience and perspective is likely to be valuable.
- 100% of my peers studied abroad, worked abroad, lived abroad, immigrated from abroad and/or did extensive international travel. 100%.
- 100% of my peers who moved up in management had had prior (and usually a lot) of international experience.
- International experience is a de facto requirement for anyone wishing a long and successful professional career.
- As the odd (and old) one who has not traveled, I planned to catch up starting in 2020 … . now postponed until 2H 22 or ’23 or perhaps forever if public health continues to restrict travel. While waiting, I am studying international history, culture, food, and two languages, every singe day. I hope to be the best prepared first time traveler in history. Charlotte’s story was a direct hit on a sore spot for me – my lack of international experience and that is partially why I have written this blog post.
- After reading the parody story about Charlotte, I will not feel guilty about future air travel. At all.
Flight shaming is at odds with the demand for international perspectives – and seems likely to meet the same fate as minimalism. Which is to say, it is a passing fad that will disappear in a few years as its adherents find more and more reasons why they need to travel, but you should not. This will be similar to the public health hypocrites that issued rules and regulations on your behavior – which they ignored because they are more important than you and felt their life situation was special, unlike yours. Flight shaming will go down the same path.
My house is powered by solar PV, insulated to R-60, and heated with locally sourced wood. My old ICE car gets 42 mpg. All of our lighting is LED-based and we often have as little as 1 to 4 LED lights “on” in the evening, in the entire home. I commuted by bicycle for about half my career; including suffering a 5″ skull fracture, and two separate knock out bike accidents that broke other bones and my bike helmet, I no longer advocate cycling as a meaningful solution to anything.
Air travel is said to account for around 2% of global warming impacts – recent research says about 2/3ds of its impact is due to contrails, not fuel usage – and this may be reduced by making modest flight changes. Extensive work is being done right now on electric aircraft – especially for regional flights – and eventually, hydrogen power or other non-carbon or very low carbon fuels.
The benefits of air travel greatly exceed hypothesized harms. Flight shaming is a fad that ignores this – and is best ignored by everyone else.
Listening to inconsistent, contradictory, illogical and incoherent statements from privileged elite who are more interested in controlling us, than solving problems, rubs us in other than their intended direction.
I was stupidly virtuous while smart people like Charlotte Wolf were off galivanting around the globe when travel was accessible and inexpensive. Her parody story backfired: I need to develop global skills urgently and will undertake any approach available to me. It’s time for me to give up my life of virtue and so it will be.
The Iron Law of Politics
Any fad or political movement that advocates making you worse off is doomed to fail – that’s known as the Iron Law of Politics.
The solution is innovation, not restrictions.
A solution based on hypocritical, self serving, self absorbed persons who have derived benefits from their own travel and now wish to make your travel near impossible – is not going to travel very far (pun intended).
The Media has adopted flight shaming as the next meme to terrify us. CNN and others have had many reports on this. Their goal is to have us emotionally riled up, commenting on their stories, sharing them on social media – and generally attempting to create a more divisive, angry society. It’s good for selling eyeballs to advertisers.