The elephant in the air.
“You won’t get people to stop flying, Dave” – everyone always used to assure me – as I called myself the carbon coach to the rich and famous, back in 2005. No, but I can stop myself, I probably thought.
Part of me was sure they were right. And anyway, I surely didn’t want to ‘stop’ anyone from doing anything. But I did choose to live in ‘active hope’ that frequent flyers would soon (in 2018 perhaps?) come to realise, be conscious of, and take responsibility for, the well-hidden but jumbo-sized planet-trashing impacts of their personal flying habit.
‘Hidden’ as in invisible, concealed, and unspoken of: a taboo. Like an elephant, hanging in the air?
‘Invisible’ like the accumulating atmospheric greenhouse gases we chose not to see; ‘concealed’ by the travel, holiday and associated industries, in a commercial media-wide conspiracy of radio silence; and ‘unspoken of’ largely, by, well most of us. Until now.
For me, having done the maths and looked at the climate science in the 1990s, it was a no brainer. And I don’t fly. I made that pledge two decades ago. (And last flew long-haul in 1981.)
In the past I would often play it down: saying that it ‘went with the territory’ if you call yourself the carbon coach; or that I didn’t actually much like flying; and that I didn’t really much want to fly anywhere anyway. Which was partially true. And partially untrue. “Not like flying?” – How could an engineer, nature lover, bread-winner and former GB athlete not like flying?
The thrill, the power, the majesty, the ascendance, the transcendence through cloud, the view, and the experience – what’s not to like? The acceleration during take-off, the thrust, and the trust, given to an invisible pilot whose skill delivers a (low-jeopardy-dose) thrill – during touch down. How could anyone suggest that life could be bearable without these things?
“Don’t want to fly anywhere?” – how could anyone not want to see the wonders of the world. To witness different climates, tribes, landscapes, oceans ecosystems, forests rivers and mountains.
How could anyone not want to fly?
I guess that’s true. And I observe that I don’t want to fly to see ecosystems if that means I am party to a collective act of unwittingly destroying them. As in “Last chance to see”. But I can be (and am) an avid viewer of all Sir David Attenborough’s programmes, and armed with a good energy efficient television I can transport myself anywhere in the world and see anything: from outer space, to molecular biology, to ocean depths. I don’t need to fly to see what others have flown to see.
And I notice that I am lucky. In that currently I do not need to fly to be with loved ones. All my family and loved ones still live relatively locally. So far. Many friends are not in the same fortunate position and some now have grandchildren spread across the globe. Love miles. A moral maze. The only solution to which is a new commitment to try to bring our ‘nearest and dearest’ back to being nearest once again. Or to learn to love the people and the places where we are, not where we wish we could be. To ‘love local’ – in effect reversing the process of (50 years of) far-scattering tribes all over the planet. Because we could. It’s time to regroup friends. And to love the people and place we call home.
Dave is a prolific campaigner for social and ecological justice, and an ethical brand ambassador who stood for MP for Beaconsfield, for the Green Party, in UK GE2015. He gives counsel over coffee (carbon coaching) to individuals and families, CEO’s and celebs., and has his own weekly radio show “Watt Next?” on Marlow FM 97.5. Dave initially studied Engineering at Cambridge University. At the age of 23, he was selected for GB in rowing.
The first 25 years of his professional career he spent influencing thought-leaders and ‘captains of industry’ towards deeper sustainability. In 2005 he set up on his own as ‘The Carbon Coach’ – the world’s first. He has won several awards for Sustainability Leadership. In March 2016 he delivered his first (sustainable) stand up comedy set in Soho, London, appearing as the “carbon carbon carbon carbon carbon komedian”
Dave is now working with a number of Olympians who are speaking out courageously on today’s ethical issues.