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Flight Free for 2020: Maria Ardley

We hear from our pledgers about why they've chosen to be #flightfree in 2020

FlightFree UK
26 Jul 2019 3 min read

A piece of paper with the Flight Free 2020 pledge on it is resting on a copy table next to a mug. In the blurred background stand two women drinking coffee and chatting.

Thank you for signing up to be Flight Free in 2020. Can you sum up what motivated you to sign the pledge?

I have a 2 year old son and am very aware of the consequences for him and his generation of not taking immediate, strong action on climate change in any way that I can.

How long have you been aware of climate issues?

I've always had a general awareness of the damage we're causing to our planet but was able to disconnect from it. This was partly for the sake of my own mental health. Reading about deforestation, for example, made me feel awful, but I felt powerless to do anything about it, so I simply stopped thinking about it. I also lacked knowledge where I had awareness. I didn't know, for example, that taking up a plant-based diet could have an impact on deforestation. Whenever people said eating meat was bad they'd say “it's because cows fart and produce methane” and I'd think 'but so do humans!' and leave it at that.

"I used to be able to disconnect from the damage we're causing to the planet. This was partly for the sake of my own mental health."

That changed last summer, when we had such an unusually hot, dry summer in the UK. I started to panic about that, and then I read the headlines about us heading for a 'hothouse earth,' and after that I started to read as much as I possibly could about the problem and what we can all do to fix it.

My family and friends say that I've become an environmental activist but I don't see it like that. I'm not part of some niche group who people think they can afford to ignore. I'm a normal person who's woken up to the urgency of the situation we're in and everyone else needs to do the same.

How often have you flown in the past?

To be completely honest, I don't like flying and had stopped in 2015 for this reason. However, when I found out about the environmental impact earlier this year, I decided not to do it again.

"When I found out about the environmental impact of flying, I decided not to do it again."

Before 2015, despite feeling nervous about flying, I'd done it on quite a regular basis, flying to other countries in Europe and further afield, to Mexico and Cuba, Japan and South Korea. My husband and I flew to Morocco on our honeymoon.

Only around 50% of the UK population actually flies, but most of the flights we do take are for leisure. What do you think would be the most effective thing in reducing them?

I suspect many people don't know exactly how bad flying is for the climate. I always viewed it in the same way as any other form of transport, and I suppose this applies to other people too. So, this is largely about education- labelling flight tickets with clear information, within a context, about the emissions, so that people know exactly what impact their seat on a flight is having, and just those of us who do understand the impact having that conversation with family and friends, even though it can be difficult.

Also a frequent-flier levy, for those who will continue to fly despite knowing the impact it has.

How will being flight-free next year affect your life? Do you have any plans for holidays or travel?

As I said, I'm not a fan of flying anyway, but I live in the Basque Country and come home regularly to visit my family. I can only do this twice a year because it takes quite a long time by train, so I won't be able to come home for any long weekends.

Is it daunting or exciting to have taken the pledge?

It's exciting, because people have started to ask me why I've done it, and I like the fact that making this pledge is getting people talking about the issue, even if they don't yet agree with me!

What reaction do your friends and family have to you going flight free?

They seem to think it's commendable, but not necessarily something they want to do themselves.

What might you do to influence others to go flight free in 2020?

I think putting a photo of myself with the pledge card up on my social media accounts has helped. It's given me a way in to discussing it with people I know, as it's not a very easy topic to bring up in conversation without an excuse to do so.

Thank you!

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