Our conversation focusses on bringing the climate crisis into the public conscious simply by talking about it more, and also by being a role model. Our chat takes place over a delicious cup of tea from Comins Tea House, which means there is quite a lot of tea-making noise and chatter in the background, so hopefully this doesn’t distract too much from the conversation! Many thanks to Paul Arnold for trying to clean up the recording.
You can listen to the full podcast here and find a summary below.
Anna: Hi Vip! It's really nice to meet you. Thanks for talking to us.
Vipul: Hi Anna. It’s exciting to discover your campaign because I’ve been talking a lot to people about flying. It feels like the ‘new meat’ and is one of the things that’s often not talked about. I’m absolutely convinced that the problem with the climate issue is that we don’t talk about it.
Back in 2015 there was a survey on the top political issues in the UK, and climate change was number 13, even though many of us know it's been number 1 since the 1980s! This is not new. It’s not new to the scientists or to politicians – Margaret Thatcher was the first world leader to say ‘climate crisis’. Yet we’ve done nothing about it.
The reason we haven’t done anything about it is because we don’t talk about it. If we don’t talk about it, there’s no public awareness, and politicians who look at four-year election cycles are not going to pick something that’s number 13 on the public radar. These things that we’ve known about for so long should have been on the front page ALL the time.
Over the last few months there seems to have been a shift, with Greta Thunberg, Anna Taylor in the UK and Alexandra in the US – teenage girls who are taking the scientific message, and reaching a very different audience, because though the message isn’t new, the messenger is. It’s getting through to parents, the same ones who get on a plane without thinking about it, because they’ve grown up in a society where we don’t think about our environmental impact. You watch Planet Earth and the world looks fantastic! Why would you think there was a problem?
Anna: And why wouldn’t you want to go and explore every corner of it?
Vipul: Yes, we’re encouraged to go and see these places and there seems to be no consequence to it.
Anna: And you say that just as important as talking about this is being a role model.
Vipul: All personal actions are important, whether it’s large or small. So, one, talk about climate change, and two, talk about what you’re doing about it. I used to fly a lot – I was absolutely the problem. Then about 15 years ago I realised what was happening and started changing my ways. I still flew, but not very often – no unnecessary holidays – though I was aware of the hypocrisy of it, talking about taking action on climate change and still taking long-haul flights. So I stopped completely.
Of all the actions we can take (apart from changing lightbulbs which is a bit pointless!), stopping flying is really easy. We talk about cutting down on meat and dairy and becoming vegan, and these are really important things and they do have a big impact, but far, far bigger is not taking that flight. And it’s a lot easier! You know, it’s one holiday that I’m going to take by train, or I’m going to go and see something in Britain and Europe. Yes, there are amazing things all over the world that we all want to see, but the reality is, we’re not going to see all of them.
Anna: Indeed! Global travel seems to put pressure on people to travel more. You see one place and you want to go back there, or to the neighbouring place, or what about that other country I haven’t visited yet? And that never stops. Viviana who wrote a blog for us said that once she’d decided to stop flying, all that pressure to see the world fell away. And she didn’t feel that she saw any less, because there are equal number of things to see on your doorstep.
Vipul: To be a personal role model you don’t have to preach or be judgemental. It’s as simple as taking the pledge, having the photo taken with the pledge card, and when you’re talking to people, say, “I’m not flying because I’m worried about the climate.” Don’t just say, “I’m not flying.” It’s as simple as, “I don’t fly because I’m worried about my carbon emissions.” Say a little bit more if you wish but don’t feel that you have to get into that uncomfortable conversation.
Even if that person then decides to go and fly, you can guarantee they’ll be thinking about it. It’s their personal choice, and if you leave it that way, they’re more likely to follow the social proof: here’s a friend or someone I care deeply about showing this kind of behaviour, which has an influence. If you go in guns blazing telling people they’re a bad person they’re going to switch off, carry on flying and ignore the conversation.
Anna: Hopefully your community here in Bath will be influenced by your action. Thank you for signing our pledge!
Vipul: And thanks for starting the campaign. It’s great.