Thank you for signing up to be Flight Free in 2020. Can you sum up what motivated you to sign the pledge?
I felt very uneasy going to the extinction rebellion protests in Westminster having just agreed to speak at a conference in the USA. I was planning on offsetting my flights but that’s such a capitalist solution to a capitalist problem (pay more money to reduce your guilt!) and I was concerned about some of the problems with offsetting. One of the blog posts on this website (by Milena Buchs) really spoke to me and made me realise I wouldn't be alone in refusing to fly to academic conferences.
How long have you been aware of climate issues?
Quite a long time, and in all other areas of my life I am pretty good: I’m vegetarian, don’t have a car, and use a green energy supplier.
How often have you flown in the past?
An embarrassing amount: enough to have had a 'status' frequent flyer card. These schemes really shouldn’t be allowed and could easily be banned. A generation ago people got points for buying cigarettes: this would be unthinkable now.
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?
Better awareness of alternatives, banning frequent flyer schemes and airline advertising, and proper taxation of aviation fuel. Basically, all of the measures which were used to reduce tobacco smoking and to make it socially unacceptable. One important thing about the flight free campaign is having a well written and attractive website to counteract the powerful advertising from airlines.
How will being flight-free next year affect your life? Do you have any plans for holidays or travel?
I’ve always preferred to travel by train, and am planning a holiday to Germany and the Netherlands by train. Instead of the conference in Baltimore I’ll be going to one in Dublin by train and ferry. Happily my best friend from school lives in Dublin so that is an added bonus.
Is it daunting or exciting to have taken the pledge?
90% exciting! I'm sad that I won't get to see my cousin and his family in Massachusetts next year, which I would have done on the way to the conference.
What reaction do your friends and family have to you going flight free?
Mixed: from ‘I decided that in the 80s’ through to justifications like ‘well I had to fly as I couldn’t get more time off work’. In general people seem interested and I’ve managed to get some others to sign up too.
What might you do to influence others to go flight free in 2020?
Leading by example. I’m careful not to judge others: at least half of my daughter’s class at school have close family abroad and I would never say that they shouldn’t fly to important family events. Having said that, I’ll probably raise my eyebrows next time someone tells me they’re flying to Barcelona for the weekend, or from London to Edinburgh…