In this month's podcast we are exploring different perspectives on reducing flying and taking positive climate actions across the generations.
Our guests are author, climate activist and grandma Sue Hampton, Sarah Campbell, a social justice organiser and mother to our third guest, Benjamin, an 8 year old environment enthusiast.
Flight Free Fact
According to a study by British Airways, the average youngster takes their first flight when they are four years old. Today’s young people are taking flights much earlier than their parents did, and by the age of 10, the average child will have travelled to four different countries.
We asked our guests what inspired them to take climate action?
For a long time I’ve been vegan so I thought that flying was OK, because I was saving on emissions in my diet. Fifteen years ago I realised the damage of flying and decided even one flight a year was too much, so I took the pledge never to fly again.
When I first held my eldest grandchild in my arms, there was absolute joy and a rush of protective love, but on the other hand there was fear about the world he had been born into. As a grandma I have to do everything I can for my grandchildren but also for the world’s children. Particularly children in the global south in the countries that have done the least to contribute to the problem who are suffering first and suffering the most.
On my fifth birthday I adopted Koalas and ever since then I’ve cared about animals and the environment. I think it’s partly because of my parents – they have taught me to care like they do.
Our way of life often makes it difficult to feel like it’s a meaningful life. There’s lots of research to suggest that this way of life doesn’t sustain happiness. I think about the legacy that we are leaving for our children – do we want to look back and say, I tried my best to make the future better for you, or will you say it was too overwhelming? Taking climate action makes me feel like I’m living my life in a more meaningful way.
Which positive actions have you taken to tackle climate change?
The two main actions I’ve taken are being vegan and not flying. I also shop at a zero waste store which brings me such pleasure to take my tubs and refill them there, and I buy my clothes in charity shops. I have also become an activist which means participating in non-violent direct action. I recently had a spell in prison for breaking the injunction at Kingsbury Oil terminal.
When it comes to not flying, it has only ever felt good. I have never once thought, ‘I wish I hadn’t made that pledge.’ Once you realise the damage you are doing to vulnerable people who have never flown, you simply feel that you can’t do it again.
I use my voice. I did a presentation to the year 5’s in my school about the use of palm oil and the damage it does to the rainforests and habitats. I’ve also made a stop motion video about the use of plastic and I’m going to make more about climate change. For my birthday I asked my friends to donate money towards adopting orangutangs instead of giving me presents.
Having children has a massive impact on the environment so one of my actions is raising Benjamin as someone who is aware and who will hopefully grow up to be a contributor towards good. Pre-lockdown we took the most fun train trip across Europe which really highlighted how fun the journey can be, as well as the destination. Lots of the actions we take, e.g. aiming towards zero waste, writing to our MP, cycling, and charity shopping brings daily joy to our lives and makes for a more meaningful life.
What would help other people from your generation take positive actions?
I find it quite frustrating and depressing that in this country people in my generation seem to think that, now that they have the luxury of time, they deserve to fly around the world. It is very normalised and the majority of people don’t associate flying with damage to the earth. The media has a huge part to play in what we see as normal. I dread watching quiz shows where contestants describe that they will spend prize money on a flight to somewhere exotic.
In terms of making changes, information would help people to understand the human and carbon cost of flying. When you are older, train travel does perhaps seem more daunting, and doesn’t seem as easy as flying. However, we have had some fantastic holidays since we stopped flying, and there is great joy in the smallest things.
It’s quite hard for children because decisions are often down to your parents but you can still make your voice heard. I like to spread the word of how fun train travel is and I hope it inspires people to go on a train or bus holiday.
As adults we forget how exciting it is to take public forms of transport. It is definitely much less stressful taking the train, you don’t worry about the security checks, and the question of will I get my luggage back? It is very relaxing to watch the world go by out the window, listen to music, play games as a family, and interact with people from the country by learning some of the language. You can have a very different type of holiday which is a much deeper and more meaningful experience.
In terms of encouraging others, I think people fear giving things up, but you can have adventure on your doorstep if you seek joy in a smaller, more meaningful way.
Destination of the Month
We've chosen Rosental in Austria, inspired by Benjamin’s train holiday to Austria. If you are after something closer to home we are also recommending the wonderful city of York as spoken about by Sue.
Thanks for listening!