She may be small, but she sure as hell is making a difference. 16 year old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thumberg, founder of the School Strike for Climate, has recently embarked on a two week sailing voyage in order to attend the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, in order to prevent the harm flying can cause to the environment.
You may be wondering why she doesn’t just take a flight – a much easier and quicker alternative to reaching her destination. However, she is keeping in mind that a single flight from Europe to New York would release approximately 1000 kg of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. Despite the UK’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, it doesn’t help that tax regarding air travel remains low at the same time that the aviation sector continues to expand as a result of globalisation.
Greta Thumberg, has recently embarked on a two week sailing voyage in order to attend the UN Climate Action Summit in New York
Greta’s journey demonstrates her determined effort in reducing carbon emissions for the sake of the planet and its future. In addition, by doing this, she is showing the world that there are alternatives when it comes to travelling, and that it is possible to achieve this without adding more fossil fuels to the atmosphere.
Greta’s recent journey has brought about a conversation on whether it’s time for us to cut back on summer holidays in order to save the environment. According to Flight Free UK, an organisation which is campaigning to reduce levels of flying in the UK in order to “lessen our impact on the planet”, airplanes are the fastest growing cause of climate change. In addition, the organisation claims that despite taking other steps to be environmentally friendly, such as not driving a car or eating a plant based diet, one flight can completely cancel out all of our efforts to reduce carbon emissions. For this matter, Greta and organisations like Flight Free UK are taking measures into their own hands in order to encourage people to cut back on air travel. “It’s about taking collective responsibility to reduce the amount we fly in order to lessen our impact on the planet”, declared the organisation.
The fact that there are no viable solutions available for us in order to fly without releasing carbon into the atmosphere might tell us that there are no other alternatives to travelling. However, Greta’s epic voyage across the Atlantic on the Malizia II (a zero emissions boat which is powered by solar panels) is a way of offering the world alternatives to travel. Greta has made it clear that she is aware taking a boat across the Atlantic is not for everyone, however it is an option that is available nonetheless.
According to Flight Free UK, airplanes are the fastest growing cause of climate change
Zero emission boats are not the only alternative in order to travel in a less polluting style. Making small changes as simple as taking a train over a flight is already an effective way for you to play your part in protecting the environment. A recent study conducted by the Guardian indicates that a ride on the Eurostar from London to Paris would only produce 4.1Kg of CO2 per passenger, which is significantly less than what a flight would release. This style of travel has become increasingly popular in Europe, in part due to the modernized and high speed rails available as well as affordable international train journeys provided by the Interrail pass. In Sweden alone, the number of rail passengers has increased from 28 million in 2016 to 32 million in 2018, according to the Washington Post. Governments should play a role too by subsiding public transport, such as trains and buses in order to facilitate this form of travel. Greta makes a point of using public transport for every journey she makes within Europe.
Social media pressure also plays a massive role in forcing people into going abroad for their summer holidays. Surely when your Instagram feed displays images of everyone you know relaxing on a Greek island, you’re going to want to go too, right? However, Flight Free UK recommends a “staycation” for your summer holiday in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions. On the organizations website, beach and city destinations within the UK are recommended in order to ensure you have an equally as exciting holiday as you would when traveling abroad, but you’re protecting the planet at the same time. If a staycation doesn’t appeal to you, Flight Free UK also recommends visiting the numerous destinations Europe has to offer, which are all possible to reach in more eco-friendly forms of travel, such as by rail, sea and road.
While flying less or not flying at all is a way of compensating the planet at a price that doesn’t cost the earth, realistically, flying cannot always be avoided. However, people could consider making decisions such as buying a carbon offset when booking a flight, in order to reduce emissions of CO2 or other greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for emissions elsewhere. Additionally, organisations are working towards making air travel less polluting. For example the International Civil Aviation Organization has pledged to fight carbon emissions by cutting fuel use by 4%, and NASA is working on designing new planes that would cut carbon emissions by 50%.
Social media pressure also plays a massive role in forcing people into going abroad for their summer holidays. Surely when your Instagram feed displays images of everyone you know relaxing on a Greek island, you’re going to want to go too, right?
Before you plan your next summer holiday, take time to consider the cost of getting to your destination. Why not take a train to Amsterdam instead of a flight to Palma? As Greta Thumberg would say: the future of the planet might depend on it.