“Sustainable Traveling”

When I went to Sweden this summer, by train and boat, the decision was a 100% based on my environmental concerns about the growing aviation industry not being a healthy part of our future. It was also 100% based on my fear of flying. And yes, I know that such a thing as 200% doesn’t exist 🙂 but what I mean is that both reasons would have been enough in and of themselves, for me to make the same choice.

Much can be said about traveling in general – from an environmental perspective, from a class perspective, from an inter-cultural perspective and so on. As anything in life, this topic is complex – and any “absolute” truths don’t really exist.

To me, one part of the “truth” (the one that doesn’t exist) is that I don’t want to engage in flying. That doesn’t mean that I am not grateful for the possibility of having my one-year-old niece – and yes, her parents 😀 – to come here for a visit in the spring. It neither means that I think that “flying” is in itself The Biggest threat to our future, or the only thing we need to focus on. To me, it is one of the many things we need to question, scrutinize, check ourselves for – and yes, in many (most) cases, just skip doing already.

I think about these things…a lot. Talk about it as soon as I get a chance. I write about it…and then I think some more about it. And…then it happened – one of my favorite insta-accounts, @hownottotravellikeabasicbitch* which (as odd as that may sound, that it would then be one of my favorites) is a travel-account, made a podcast on “Sustainable Traveling”!

How Not To Travel Like a Basic Bitch

Dr Kiona, the creator of the account, is a person that I really appreciate, in her way of educating us all about issues from all over the world. Yes, it’s a travel account, but so much more than that. I also have, obviously, been interested in her thoughts on sustainability – she has earlier mentioned that this is not her focus, but I have still been wondering about her further thoughts on that – as in my world, climate change and environmental matters definitely go hand in hand with the social justice-areas which are constantly centered on the account (the reason it’s such a good one).

And now I got a chance to hear her thoughts around it all, and to hopefully understand how someone who is so occupied with community-building and other important matters, justifies the flying around the globe as a means to do that – when in my ears those things work against each other, on a bigger scale (as in, those communities that are the most vulnerable ones on this earth, are the ones who suffers first from the effects of the richer part of the world’s behavior – flying included).

I maybe even hoped that she would convince me that my perception of this issue is at fault, because it would definitely be an easier way to…live, I guess. It’s not always a popular stand to take, the no-fly one. Kind of a party-pooper-one to take, actually – always more fun to join in on the yes-side of things, isn’t it?

As a side-track here I’ll mention that I don’t listen to podcasts. My preferred intake of information is through reading. So unless a transcription is around, podcasts have never been my thing. But for this topic, by this person – I made an exception and had a podcast-listening premiere over here! 🙂

The “Only x% of total global emissions”-take

After listening to the episode now, it’s clear (maybe as expected) that Dr Kiona and I have different views on sustainability – for example, the 3-8% (aviation contribution to global carbon emissions) she mentions as being “little”, is in my ears a high number, as it is based on only 3% of the world’s population traveling during 2017 (as per the podcast). In other words – comparing those 3-8% to the actions “all” of us do everyday (eating, wearing clothes and using electricity for example) is to me illogical. Approximately 80% of the world’s population have never been on a plane, so far. That means that the numbers “should” be much much lower than the 3-8%, if they were gonna make any sense at all. But they are not.

One projection is that the international aviation’s share of global CO2-emissions could be as high as 22% by 2050. That’s where the aviation industry is heading, emission-wise, if they get what they want, customer-wise. The 80% that have never been on an airplane – that’s a huge potential market to approach (even if only a fraction of those 80% will have the means to actually start traveling – it’s still enough to raise the total number of flights, and thereby the emissions, widely). And they get great help from inspiring travel influencers and bloggers!

“Other industries are worse”

Kiona mentions that one fifth of the “pollution” in the world are industrial emissions, with the underlying sentiment that it would then be silly to focus on the aviation industry’s 3-8%, in comparison. Apart from that we can’t really compare those things in any straightforward way – “industrial pollution” and the greenhouse gas emissions emitted on a high altitude don’t have a fair way to be compared – this also sounds a bit like whataboutism in my ears.

Just as Kiona disagrees with people coming to her to complain about her flying around the globe, while themselves “not caring about their phones or the food they eat” – here it sounds like she is doing pretty much the same thing, only the other way around (ok, not really, because I’m assuming she is not coming into their comments and dm:s with those complaints). By the end of the episode she does remind us that “travel can contribute to emissions”, maybe implying that people should be a bit mindful of their traveling behaviour (my interpretation)…but in a very weak way in my ears.

Single-mindedness in any matter is always problematic, and as usual doesn’t really lead us forward. It is very valuable to raise awareness of other aspects of our lives that also need to be reviewed – and there just isn’t really any good reason to put these things against eachother. We need to be aware of it all, hard as that might seem.

The (positive) social aspects of tourism

Another thing brought up in the podcast is the positive impact tourism can have on more and less vulnerable communities out in the world, with many people even depending on it for their living. I have understood that this is a common argument from people who claim the world’s need for business as usual in the aviation world, and here I am hoping that there can be other ways to support these communities – if not readjusted now, other, worse adjustments will be forced onto these – and all – societies anyway, sooner or later.

On a personal level I surely understand the stance – and I am all for the greatness of traveling in the sense of cultural exchange and learning that can happen – I just wish there wasn’t so much damage also coming along with it. But yes, for people like Kiona who have built up relationships with people in the places they go, giving important support to everyone involved, I do appreciate the backward feeling of then asking people to travel less…but yet again, the first people to suffer from climate change are not the people who can afford to fly, it is the people in the poorest areas of the world that suffers and will suffer first. So from a solidarity perspective, on a global scale, I simply don’t agree with that point, either, even though I do understand the more personal feeling around, and investment in it.

The Class Aspect

This isn’t specifically brought up in the pod, even if sort of imbedded on all levels in the discussion. It is something I’ve heard a lot, the claim that it would be a classism-view, to ask people to stop or minimize their flying – since that would be the only way to travel that is “affordable”, financially and timewise speaking. Here again we need to remember that most people in the world, right now, don’t have access to flying, or traveling, at all. Meaning – anyone who has time and money to fly somewhere, is part of a global upperclass, today. Requiring “green travel” possibly shifts that line further “up” – not a great outcome or consequence, but also nothing new in how this all works, in the world as we currently know it. I obviously don’t have any “solution” to this, neither do I know how to handle this all myself – I am merely saying that the argument that traveling would become a class-issue from the quest to make it sustainable, is not really a true one. It already is.

An important point is also the fact that we are so used to be able to pay next to nothing for flying half across the world – not at all mirroring the resources actually used (or destroyed) for that very same trip. The cheap price paid for a flight-ticket is a fictive one, thanks to subsidies and tax reliefs (not to mention that natural resources are rarely accounted for in any price in general) and we shouldn’t let ourselves be fooled by that.

I still think Dr Kiona is cool though

I am not writing all this to rack down on “Hownottotravel..”. Not at all. If anyone wants to learn more about the world around us, this is one of the good places to go to – and there are so many other people I would choose to criticise (on this particular topic) before Dr Kiona – if I was a critic, and I’m not. Going through this episode of the @hownottotravelpod rather became an opportunity for me to review some of my own “old truths” about the flight industry and to look up sources and facts, again. It’s always good to check the things we think we know. And it is so important to discuss these things, and nothing is a simple either or in this world, it never is.

The other points made in the episode were all ones I could agree on, as their own important topics – in my world it’s just unnecessary to put them “against”/in comparison with the #flightfree movement. I also see that this approach maybe comes as a response to over-simplified criticism headed her way  – as in people shouting about other people’s traveling while sitting in the middle of their own privileged life having asparagus salad while talking on their lithium-filled phone, to use Kiona’s own examples – and so on…but yeah. Still unnecessary, in my ears.

Aaaanyways, for so many reasons – Dr Kiona is a fantastic educator, and in a complex world we don’t have to agree on everything to be able to appreciate each other. If you need some good educational stuff on traveling (don’t start traveling too far too much though!), and just the world in general, this is a good, maybe one of the best, places to go.

∞∞∞

A refresh on the numbers while we’re here:

A return flight between LA and Stockholm emits 8.6 tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) per person, including RFI (Radiative Forcing Index, an index used to account for the higher impact of the gases being emitted at high altitude), or 3.2 tons without RFI, according to utslappsratt.se (same numbers for LA to New York: 3.9/1.4).

The average American emits between 15-20 tons CO2 in a year (depending on source and method), the average Swede between 6-10. According to the WWF we all need to be down at four (4) tonnes each by 2030, and down to one (1) in the long run, for the earth to be able to handle it.

∞∞∞

*If you’re not on instagram, this is the website instead:

www.hownottotravellikeabasicbitch.com

And remember to read other sources as well, for example starting with this and continuing from there:

www.publicadministrationreview.com/2019/07/16/gnd24/

And here is an example of what the climate crisis looks like, right now, for many people:

www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2019-12-06-climate-crisis-tears-through-southern-africa-with-at-least-nine-million-facing-acute-food-insecurity

 

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