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Don’t ask me not to fly!


With the first Climate Week Queensland kicking off this week, Mark Delaney, from St Andrew’s South Brisbane and Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC), explains how we can fly smarter to save carbon emissions and help achieve climate justice

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“I’m travelling to see my daughter and grandchildren in the US!”

“I’m going to an important conference for work in Rome next week.”

“We love skiing. We’re off to Japan next winter!”

Acting on climate change is a complex issue, especially when it involves our international travel.

Many of us in the church are involved in calling others to change. We’re asking our business and political leaders to find more sustainable ways to make products. We’re asking them to prioritise renewables over fossil fuels. We’re asking them to speed up the introduction of electric cars. Topics like this will no doubt be a part of the discussions in the first ever Climate Week Queensland 2019 between Sunday 2 June and Saturday 8 June.

However, many of us, as people of faith, also recognise the need to change ourselves. With the average Australian having a very significant carbon footprint, Jesus’ words are especially poignant: “First take the log out of your own eye…”(Matthew 7.5). By reducing our own carbon footprint, we earn greater integrity to challenge others. And after all, we are the consumers whose purchases necessitate the carbon-intensive production of ever-more TVs, smart phones and clothes.

Therefore, many of us, including in the local Anglican Church through Angligreen, are trying to simplify our lifestyles. We’re riding our bikes more and installing induction stoves.

But some things are really hard to change. Arguably the toughest of all, is restricting our flying. In a globalised world, many Australian families have siblings, children or grandchildren living in another part of the world. Our roles at work can require us to attend conferences overseas. And that’s not to mention all those exotic, overseas destinations for our next family holiday!

I suspect that’s why flying is rarely part of the discussion on carbon reductions. Many people are talking about changing diets or driving less, but very few, in my experience, are talking about reducing air-miles.

But the carbon savings in reducing our air travel are considerable. One fewer return international flights will save anything from two to five tonnes CO2e – much more than leaving your car in the garage all year!

So what can we do? To get started, here are four ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your next trip:

  1. Fly with fewer stopovers. A lot of fuel is used in take-off and landing, so a direct flight will reduce the carbon footprint of your travel. For example, even if the cheapest flight to Europe has several stopovers through Asia, a direct flight will reduce the emissions of the trip.
  2. If you can’t get a direct flight, fly in as straight a line as possible. For example, if going from Australia to India, it’s better to go via south-east Asia, than via Hong Kong.
  3. Reduce the domestic air-miles flown as best you can. Once you’re at your destination (Asia, Europe or the US), do your domestic travel there by train or bus, rather than flying. That will have the added benefit of seeing more of the real country – more than the sanitised airports.
  4. Most carbon-slashing of all, consider taking your next holiday at one of Australia’s spectacular destinations, and not flying at all!

Happy travels!

If you like these suggestions, we’re running a workshop in June where we will explore how to reduce our carbon footprint, not only from flying, but in a number of areas using Living the Change material. The workshop is at St Andrew’s Anglican, South Brisbane, on Saturday 15 June, 2-5pm. For those who can’t make that, we’ll repeat it on Sunday 30 June, 2-5pm. This is an interdenominational and interfaith event. All people of good will are welcome! The workshop is free. Simply bring a plate to share for afternoon tea. Kindly RSVP here any time before the event.

2018 ARRCC inter-faith Living The Change workshop at the South Brisbane Jewish Congregation Synagogue

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