About three years ago, I did an online quiz to calculate my carbon footprint. I can’t remember the figures now but I will never forget the difference a single flight made. I hardly ever use the car, and we live in a well-insulated flat, so my emissions didn’t stack up that much until I got on an aeroplane. Signing the flight free pledge seemed the only thing to do!
When we’ve taken flights in the past, we’ve done so because it was the quickest, most efficient and cheapest thing to do. I didn’t think about what it was doing to the climate. Going on an aeroplane just became the default. People’s expectations of going on holiday, particularly if you live in Scotland, are to go abroad and to go for the sun. When it became cheap enough, that’s what you did, and you didn’t think about it. It was a necessary evil.
When we’ve taken flights in the past, we’ve done so because it was the quickest, cheapest thing to do. I didn’t think about what it was doing to the climate.
It can be easy to feel powerless – I am not a decision maker, so what can I do to make a difference beyond my obsessive recycling? Not doing things is something I can do, and it also helps me to feel less powerless. I am a practical person and I like measuring things, so being able to measure how much lower my emissions are makes me feel better.
This Christmas we are going to see our daughter in Granada by train. Once we’d decided to take the train it became a positive aspect of the experience, even though it's a logistical challenge. I’m really looking forward to what the journey will be like. When you travel like this, the simple things become the adventure.
When you travel like this, the simple things become the adventure.
It’s easy for us because we didn’t grow up flying within Europe – we either drove or took the train. We don't feel entitled to travel just because we're retired – any travel we do is a bonus. Most of the people around us agree that we need to cut back on flights, even if it's not easy for everyone to do so. The flight free pledge is a really good creative challenge to enjoy life as much or more, and the bonus is we never have to go on Ryanair again!
The flight free pledge is a really good creative challenge to enjoy life as much or more.
When lockdown came along I was preparing for an art exhibition with three Japanese artists. Because of Covid, it was the first exhibition I hadn’t gone to. It makes you question driving 400 miles for a private view. During my preparation I thought a lot about how marvellous it would be to visit Japan – but there’s no need for me to fly there. Working in my studio, I travelled to Japan many times in my imagination.
The period of reflection that lockdown brought allowed me to use my imagination as a tool, in the way we do when we are young. When we stop being children, most of us stop using our imagination. If something is handed to you on a plate it simultaneously destroys your imaginative faculty, and maybe that’s true of flights.
There’s no need for me to fly to Japan. Working in my studio, I travelled there many times in my imagination.
A lot of my drawings are memories of walks. Liffy and I have always gone on walking holidays, and it is always, always, better to walk. Rousseau once walked from Paris to Geneva – a journey I often imagine. I doubt I am fit enough to walk all the way to Japan. Maybe I should try? Meanwhile, I am travelling every which way in my studio.