To Fly or Not to Fly: That should be the question

Copyright to Maureen Howard

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about flying. As Wellington Airport plans to put an extension to its runway, residents nearby are waiting and nervous. They’d rather have a view of the Cook Strait than a view of a noisy runway. I really sympathise.

But there is also a bigger issue.  The latest IPCC report is telling us firmly that we humans have less than 12 years now to turn things around and to get on a low carbon pathway – if we want to limit the worst of climate change. That’s not far away. So I think we need to ask – why are we even contemplating putting in more infrastructure that will lock us into a high carbon future?

Many of us take flying for granted. We live on a long thin country and far from the rest of the world. A really powerful statistic I think is that it’s estimated that  less than 20% of the people who are alive today have actually ever flown. For those of us in NZ who fly, and who are surrounded by people who fly, we understandably think that this is normal. But in fact for the majority of humanity, not flying is the norm!

Flying sits at around 3.5% of our global GHG emissions and it’s rising all the time in a rather exponential fashion. This includes other factors operating. CO2 released at high altitude has a more powerful warming effect.  And other emissions such as water vapour, sulphur and nitrogen oxides add to the greenhouse gas effect.

The empowering news (I think) is that at the personal level, if we reduce our flying it will probably be the most important thing we can do to reduce our CO2 emissions.

So what can we do?

  • Get inspiration! Join the newish Fly-Less Kiwis Facebook page for support and for news and articles relevant to New Zealand.

  • This year – why not do a baseline of your out-of-town travel. Check out Enviro Mark’s webpage. Here you can calculate your carbon emissions.

  • Then set yourself a goal to reduce! There are many options to suit your personality and circumstances. For example,

    • You can go Cold Turkey and have a No Fly year or stop flying altogether OR

    • You can set a reduction goal – 20-30% is a doable figure

You’ll find unexpected benefits. For example, you are bound to feel happier because you’ll know you are doing your bit. Carpooling to Christchurch with a colleague might lead to some new collaborations. Bus trips can be cheaper and more relaxing than flying. Video conferencing means much less time away from home. Having a holiday in NZ instead of a big overseas trip will keep the money you spend in our New Zealand economy.

Whatever it is, find something that works for you and become a Fly-less Kiwi!