Stop Flying Part II – Alternatives to Flying
If you want to be happy, just be. Tolstoy
In part I we basically answered this question put forth by the German philosopher Emmanuel Kant around 1780 to decide whether our choice or action is moral:
“What sort of place would the world be if everyone acted in the way I am considering acting?”
We found out that the answer is clear – the world cannot withstand the damage done by millions, let alone billions, of human flying to have some fun or make some money. Period. That was the easy part. The tough part is – what are the alternatives? I will respond in two parts. Part 1 assumes you still have a need to fly and provides alternative methods while Part 2 examines the more fundamental question: why do you have the need to find fulfillment far away from where you live? Can’t you be grateful for what you have and find a way to grow and learn where you are?
If you ‘need’ to travel there are many alternatives, all of which, of course, take more time. Of course, right away this raises the objection that “I don’t have the time to take a train or ship or ….” Well, that objection actually points to a big part of the flying problem: our need to do everything fast. I propose to you that faster is not better, rather, that slower gives more joy and satisfaction than fast. Travelling, like good food, is of better quality and gives much more pleasure when enjoyed slowly. The real question we should all be asking when we travel for pleasure, is this: “How will this experience enrich my life and give me an experience that will either change me or remain as a joy within my heart for years to come?” Clearly, the answer is unique for every person, but clearly fast is not better than slow. For example, if you have to travel to Europe or Asia – take a cargo ship ! There are many companies providing this service; it is not cheap and it is slower, but your carbon footprint approaches zero! Here is what one person said about this experience:
“I can highly recommend this mode of transport. If you’re not in a hurry to get somewhere, this is a unique way of travelling, guaranteed to give you an experience you will never forget.”
Now, of course, some people ‘have to’ travel for business. Well and good in the pre-internet age. Quite frankly, companies are embracing, albeit too slowly, the wonders of skype and zoom for direct and interactive meeting that can held with many people simultaneously. I ‘zoom’ a meeting every morning at 7 am with around 20 people and it is terrific. There is a moderator who directs who talk and moves an image/written word down the screen. During this time all attendees are free to text the whole group or individuals – it is a daily event I always look forward to.
Clearly, there are other options, including driving for shorter trips [with a full car, or you actually emit more CO2], trains for medium distances – electric trains or bullet trains are best – [ Flying from London to Paris generates 244 kg of CO2 whereas taking the Eurostar train will create 90% less with only 24 kg] or my favourite, if you happen to be in Norway, where they are mandating that by 2040 ALL intra-Norway flying be electric, Fly with an electric plane!
Now for the tough part: why do you need to travel far, far away in the first place? Emmanuel Kant, the philosopher quoted at the start of this writing, lived in the intellectual middle of nowhere for his time – East Prussia. That was the equivalent of living today, without the internet, in the Falkland Islands! And yet, by ‘snail’ mail, he was abreast of the latest ideas from Paris and was a major figure not only of his time but is one of the great philosophers of all time. So yes, those who claim that “I need to fly to learn about the world and myself to grow.. blah.. blah… blah… while partly true [and I must admit travelling, if done properly, ie. not at Club Med, can help you expand you horizons], is only partly true. We can also grow where we live: perhaps not in our home town, but certainly you can become more mature when travelling by a train, car, bike or even better, by canoe. This was well said by our former Prime Minister Pierre E. Trudeau, who loved canoeing:
Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute; pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois; paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature.
As for family, given that many people travel by air to visit family, it’s simple, if they matter that much to you, live close by. Or, if that is not possible and you are older, live part of the year near your kids. However, the best advice I read was this:
Live where you can by happy all year long
Appreciate the gifts Life has bestowed upon you
Spend time with people you love
If I have not convinced you yet, read this excellent article:
Why We Decided to Stop Flying & Why You Should Think About It too
In closing, I leave you with this 17th-century poem by Andrew Marvell who warned his “coy mistress” and himself that life was brief and youth briefer.
…at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
In our day, the winged chariot that is hurrying near is species extinction.
The deserts of vast eternity that lie before us are the wastelands of the planet itself as we send it to its death. But there is something you can do about all that — something big, something easily within reach, something that won’t cost you time or money. Take a deep, slow breath, and throw away that bucket list for good. You are needed at home, my friend, urgently needed. For the love of the Earth and of those who will inherit it when you are gone, stay right where you are.
Jack Miles, a Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur “genius” award-winning author
Finally, Watch CDN canoeing icon Bill Mason’s movie Waterwalker and be inspired to see Canada