Reducing my flying to emergency, time-sensitive travel recently has been an important part of developing my political witness as a historian of climate and American global power. It’s also been important for me personally in greeting climate grief with creativity and action, along with other choices (moving to a more plant-based, local diet, gardening more, using home solar energy, and advocating/voting for the most progressive climate justice policies on offer in California and the U.S.)
The flying choice has led me to learn more about the ecosystems and communities near my home as well as prompted me to increase my skills in digital archival research and learning about policies and politics of less carbon-intensive transit infrastructure. On balance, the choice has brought me more joy and learning than what I might have missed by forgoing the air travel that defined my life previously. I’ve recently started sharing more about my choice without engaging in flight shaming of others. I do so by contextualizing my choice as part of other choices rooted in my professional journey and political commitments, as well as what I’ve gained from the choice (rather than focusing on loss). I found most responses to be affirmative. I encounter the most pushback from institutional structures that require fast, carbon-intensive travel for work (e.g. institutional rules that *require* air travel for conferences rather than EV or rail, even if cheaper). A few friends and family, unfortunately, have taken my choice personally rather than responding with the understanding they have (for example) of my dietary choices. This has been the most painful part. These conversations — affirmative and invalidating alike — reveal how deeply carbon intensity is baked into global North political culture and society. I know my individual choices can’t change infrastructure and ideology, but I make this small choice to try to prefigure, partially, a world defined more by climate justice than injustice.
I’m a historian of American global power and the Anthropocene, working on a project relating mid-twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy decisions to trajectories of the Great Acceleration. As a scholar and American, this research has repeatedly confronted me — on professional and personal levels — with the massive climate impacts of the choices of those in the global North have had, especially Americans with significant power and privilege. I’m grateful for the organizers of the No Fly Climate Sci group and delighted to find a community of shared values. As a historian and humanist, I stand in solidarity with politically-engaged climate scientists and their important work and witness.