Friday, 22 July 2011


Back in the saddle! So, writing about this stuff does send me to a bit of a delicate balance. I need to get it out, but such intense concentration on the subject brings me out of whack too. I have to wrap up this non-flying thing before moving on.

My friend June tweeted a link to me just this morning, an article about being the spouse of an extremely environmentally conscious person. It hit home.

I'm a difficult spouse and daughter to start off with. Without exposing all of my father's faults, let's just say that I unfortunately inherited a lot of them. I can be egoistic, distant, even callous at times. I'm too old to make excuses for it, but I try my best.

When my husband and I met, one of the first things we agreed on was travelling. It had to be a part of our lives, and if we had kids, they'd go where we'd go, full stop. We managed our fair share of air travel before I made my decision to stop flying. We went round the world twice. Once when I was pregnant with Dante, we did Denmark - Texas - Colorado - Los Angeles - Sydney - home, and a short trip to Madrid after that. Then, when Dante was 9 months, we did Denmark - NYC - Texas - Los Angeles - Hong Kong. When I was pregnant with Halfdan, we flew to Istanbul. We loved it. We loved the experiences we had together, we loved being so far from home, we loved seeing friends and family and feeling the cosmopolitan thrill of touching down somewhere where we felt just as at home as on the cobblestoned streets of Copenhagen.

When I stopped flying, I effectively put a stop to that. I could see it on my husband's face, could see the wheels of his brain turning, trying to imagine what a static, earth-bound life he'd just been served.

And that was just him. What about my mother, grandmother of two of the wonders of the world, but just on the other side of it? Sure she flies here, I can't tell her not to, but as she told Mikael on tape once, she's been hurt over the notion that I won't fly to see her at her home in Texas while she's alive, but I'll come over to bury her. Well, I put her straight on that. My mother's only child has refused to take care of business when she no longer is. Ouch. I have to give it to her - she's taken it well. She has friends lined up to do the job, she's even friggin' donated her body to science (!), so I won't have to think about all that from afar. My decision to not fly has really had quite far-reaching consequences. I also have a godmother in the States who considers me her child, and my children her grandchildren. Her health isn't the best, so flying here is not really an option right now. Inside, I want to make everybody happy, want my kids to be loved and coveted by those who love them, want to enjoy home-cooked meals with people I enjoy spending time with.

There's just that glitch you know? That huge gap between our way of life and our....way of life. The one way of life being our own human construction based on habits and fossil fuels, the other way of life being the physical world and the high-school science that explains exactly how it keeps us all alive here. If we want the latter, the former has got to go.

It's not all bad though. My decision had brought us on rail-powered trips to France, Spain, Morocco. Trips where we've seen and done things that no flyer will ever do. It's different. It's better for the earth. It's still extremely satisfying. Admittedly, I get a high on other people hearing about our trips - "train to Morocco?", "with TWO children?". It can be done, really. It can be enjoyable too. Just sayin'.

The odd thing is, as perspectives go - what have I really done? Not much at all. I haven't sold all my worldly possessions and moved to the woods to live off the land or anything. I just stopped flying. Loads of people don't fly, maybe not for the reason I don't, but because they're afraid of it. And somehow, it's a more acceptable reason. In a way, I'm afraid of flying too, but more in a long term sense, not in a "we're going to crash and burn right now" sense.

I'm not going to apologize for making my decision. I don't adhere to a lot of doctrines in general, but I'm sticking to this one. It's pretty much the only way I can live with myself in these times, where merely exhaling would seem an act of climate treason.

I will however, extend an apologetic thought to loved ones for somewhat disrupting their lives. To my mother, for shafting her posthumously. To my husband, for doing a 180 on our future travel plans. For keeping him from fulfilling his dream of buying a house somewhere exotic, because it's too difficult to travel there for short stays. To our friend Elijah, for missing the most important day of her life. But I hope that my children will applaud me for being unyielding on this. When they ask me one day, sea water up to their knees, what I did when I'd realized what we were doing to our habitat, my answer will be more satisfactory than "nothing".


  1. I'd say it wouldn't be much problem, there are always the trains and the ship and it makes all the travelling experience more fun and thrilling in my opinion. The catch is that it's takes longer time and usually more expensive.

    People take planes because it's cheaper and faster. At least you *can* travel with trains. You travel for holidays, and not for work and you have time to plan stuff with your family. Enjoy, I am sure Dante and Halfdan would appreciate the good old travelling time with their parents in trains rather than sitting bounded in plane seats

  2. In deep respect for your decision and for your persistance it also rises a discussion about what 'an action' really is. Is it meassured on the intention or on the effect? Or: how and to what to extend are we supposed to adopt the paralax view: that you aim at an effect that is not changing your originally decision when it is not obtained? And the very pessimistic one: Is it possible to act on reason or insight - or will an action always be caused by another action, incident or catastrophe? These questions must be considered in the existentiel approach to the climate crisis.

  3. Indonesian - no doubt! Train travel with small children is *much* more fun than air travel, we've tried both. Air travel is so confining!

    Blogstorff - Interesting you raise this subject. I wrote a "strategy" for the climate ministry back when I was doing a term paper. They never read it, but I put a lot of new terms out there, among them climate "action" as well as climate "inaction". As for me, I'm mostly climate "inactive", as in, choosing not to do something. In my case, it's more about my conscience. My conscience does not allow me to fly, or demand more of the dimishing resource, oil, since that will lead to higher demand, which will in turn lead to oil companies turning to tar sands - the depletion of which will mean "game over" for the climate (James Hansen, former NASA scientist).

    You could say that the catastrophe, in my optic, has already happened. In Cold War terms, the button has been pushed. It's just a very slow effect, compared to actual nuclear warfare, and the outcome.

    But "action" in this case means so much more than just getting out of one's seat, and writing a letter, or joining a picket line. The definition is not clear, but I believe, starts with a line of thinking.