I am a climate activist and author of a book of (mostly) easy ways that people — even the busiest of parents — can help change our laws, not just our light bulbs.
Most of my family/my husband’s family is far away, and our daughter will soon move to Central America. I fly now almost exclusively for “love miles” — my father’s 90th birthday, for example. I try to Skype/Face Time more, text a lot, and call. Those things help me stay close to those I love, and they cost little and are easier on my body than being shoe-horned into ever-smaller spaces for long flights. I make time for online visits that let us “tour” each other around — I see my loved ones’ living spaces, meet their friends and neighbors who come to the door during our chats, and admire sunsets from their balconies. These are wonderful visits, and are a little like being there.
I like this site’s focus on leveling the playing field for those of us who are climate-conscious and still want to see our work expand — especially when it’s actually climate-related. The challenge of being a climate communicator is that we already face well-funded, active adversaries (i.e. climate deniers, misinformation from institutions such as Heartland Institute, or our own government) making it very hard to get our message out about the causes of and solutions to the climate crisis. Grounding ourselves– because we know and care about the impact of flying– can make it more difficult to build the needed movement for system-wide political change, so activists/educators staying home may not always be worth it in the long run.
So yes, sometimes I fly to lecture or teach workshops, if it seems the audience will be big enough and the reach worth the pollution, because we really do need to focus less on individual footprints at this point and more on stopping new pipelines, terminals, fracking, and oil drilling. I advocate going easy on ourselves as communicators and activists if we can get our message out to people who really need to hear it or might help grow the movement for climate justice. That said, my husband is a math teacher, and doesn’t fly to conferences. We do limit our flights, and skip a lot of things we’d love to attend. Since most academics aren’t actually trying to build the climate movement (though I heartily encourage everyone to!), this forum is wonderful for engaging a large and influential demographic during this unprecedented global emergency.
I’m the co-founder and former creative director of 350.org Eugene. My book, The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution: 100 Ways to Build a Fossil-Free Future, Raise Empowered Kids, and Still Get a Good Night’s Sleep features a foreword by Bill McKibben and is a finalist for the 2019 Oregon Book Award. It has been endorsed by Dr. James Hansen, featured on Yale Climate Connections and NPR’s Life Kit, and recommended in The New York Times.