Niels Jobstvogt

ATTAC Berlin - Degrowth
ATTAC Berlin - Degrowth

The following personal account is an excerpt from a blog post on “Why I quit flying”.

A jetsetter lifestyle can be exhilarating, I know from experience. Working as a researcher at a British University, I flew frequently to conferences and to visit my family and friends on the continent. I grew up as part of a generation that experienced flying as a cheap way of transport, where flights often cost less than bus tickets. When I wanted to visit my friends abroad all what mattered was whether or not I could afford to go. With dropping flight fairs that was often the case. Only much later did I start worrying about the ecological baggage of my decisions.

I deeply care about the planet, not only as humanities only life-support vessel, but also beyond that. For years I had a bad conscience about being an environmental scientist and still making use of the ecologically worst means of transport that there is, namely flying. I told myself, that everyone was doing it and that globally it would make absolutely no difference, if I quit flying or not. Also, what other way of moving around was there really?

Today, I agree with activist Nimue Brown, when she says:
“If your life doesn’t express your values, then your values appear pretty hollow to anyone looking. […] Don’t ask other people to make lifestyle changes you haven’t made yourself.”

I want to take responsibility for my actions and that includes my way of travelling. It does not make any sense to advocate for a socio-ecological transformation of western consumerist society and then live as unsustainable as everyone else. Changes won’t happen by wishful thinking and I do think that individual sacrifices will be necessary to turn the tide. It won’t be enough and should come with political pressure, but it is a good starting point.

We need a different way of thinking when it comes to taking responsibility for our actions. Maybe we should start discussing how it is possible that we can live fulfilled lives without travelling to the other end of the world.

I quit flying in 2014 and haven’t boarded a plane ever since. I very much enjoy the comfort and tranquillity of train rides and rather skip a trip than travel 1000 km or more for a two-day meeting.

I graduated as a Marine Biologist and have a PhD in Ecological Economics. My interdisciplinary research, at the University of Aberdeen, was looking into the value(s) that people hold for nature conservation and marine protected areas in particular.
Nowadays I work as sustainability trainer, independent researcher, workshop facilitator, event moderator and environmental activist. With ATTAC Berlin I work on a wide spectrum of Degrowth topics, including climate change and climate justice.