Sunday, October 29, 2006

Flights of fancy

Those of you with longer memories will recall I'm in the process of deciding what to boycott.

Terrbile things can happen on planesThe process began with this post where I explained all boycotts were off until I decided whether to replace my previous persona non gratas of Coke and MacDonalds. I've discussed boycotting Israeli goods and Bacardi and Red Mantis has just blogged on Killer Coke. It's about time I added air travel to my list of possibles.

Even the government is thinking about taxing air travel specifically and I think it's well documented that flights account for a large proportion of the CO2 emisions and therefore should be a prime target for those of us who want to save the world. What with the national climate march coming up on Saturday perhaps I should get out the hypocracy corner and start my boycott on this - shouldn't I?

One thing to be said against this is that I hardly ever fly so a boycott might not make a HUGE amount of difference. There are also people arguing for sustainable aviation rather than simply chopping it away. When the Guardian asked itself "is it okay to fly?" they basically said yes. Now who am I to argue with the Guardian?

Well Plane stupid might disgree, and are organising for their day of action on November 6th, two days after the big climate demo. They think that aviation is problematic from word one and attempts to make it nicer can never offset the massive damage it is currently doing. Perhaps they're right.

The thing is I like the fact that ordinary working class people can go further than Great Yarmouth for their holidays and that mind broadening travel is easier than ever. I remember as a kid meeting someone who'd been to Italy and being in awe. I've now met actual Italians!

Ultimately it will be you that decides, reality show style, whether air travel becomes one of the two things I'll boycott. In summary:

Pro: Climate change is the biggest single threat to the continued existence of humanity.
Pro: Aviation is the single largest growing contributor to green house gasses.
Con: I very rarely fly so would that really be a boycott?
Con: I don't want to boycott aviation.

I think it's about that simple.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jim
I'd recommend this website:, which offers advice on getting anywhere in the world without flying. I looked up Iceland and it takes 3 days by boat. I've wanted to go to Iceland for ages, but was sick on the boat to Lundy (2 hours), so didn't relish the thought of 3 days at sea. However, the decision has since been made for me now they have resumed commerical whaling - boycott the country until they stop! On the downside, I don't get to float around in any hot springs...

According to this month's New Internationalist, the 7 most boycotted companies in 2005 were:
1. Nike
2. Coke
3. McDonald's
4. Nestle
5. Adidas
6. Gap
7. Burger King.

Jim Jay said...

Sue - thanks for this!

I think if I boycotted Iceland it would be a token gesture as I'm unlikely to ever go there - despite the opportunities to gawk at incredible archeology...

Now these seven look tasty though and should all go on the list of potentials - what do you boycott?

Renegade Eye said...

I dislike the boycott tactic, unless the boycott is very well organized. It is next to impossible to have an impact.

Derek Wall said...

I think flying is out on ecological grounds, I guess may be some of us really, really need to but it doesn't taste right for greens to fly around the world.

It's very rare I do it but I think not at all for a while...I have to admit I have been to Venezuela which was inspiring but I can mail my friends in Caracas can't I!

Xhris said...

Yeah... boycotting is only effective if there's a clear message getting through to the dodgy companies that their profits are at threat because of it. Most of them at the moment are irrelevant as far as the other side is concerned. My advice is just to fight the market and choose the most responsible option that appears to you as a consumer. Get involved with positive action and such negative tactics as boycotting will be a thing of the past anyway!

On the topic of flying, I've just had a good time backpacking by train and boat and one of the fun parts was explaining to people why I wasn't taking a plane:)

While we're on with boycotts.... an idea for those of you who have campaigning time..... how many reasons are there for socially aware athletes to boycott the Chinese Olympics? That would be a coup against human rights abuses etc!

LeftyHenry said...

The thing about boycotting aviation is that alternative travel could take days compared with hours.

Right now I'm boycotting McDonalds and fast food in general and Nike.

Jim Jay said...

Well, this discussion about whether there is any point to boycotts at all is part of what I'd like to provoke with this really.

To address RE's point though I agree that a single person boycott is pointless - there has to be some sort of head of steam around it - numbers, profile and achievable objectives (even if that's driving someone out of business).

So Coke, Nestle, Nike, MacDonalds, Isreal (and others) - all these things have visible boycott campaigns which have raised the profiles of the issues and in some cases influenced policy. I'd like the two things I end up boycotting to be in this bracket so people don't think I'm really, really strange for boycotting pretzels or something.

If bloggers have their own suggestions for something we should boycott (or would like to post on why we should have no truck with boycott campaigns) let me know and I'll link to your post.

moll said...

Rather than boycotting air travel, how about doing something positive to encourage alternatives? I hate flying. And I say that with my tally of planes up to about 24 for this year alone. I'd far rather go by boat, but the cost of sailing from the US to Europe is over twice even the most expensive plane ticket I have ever brought, and more like 4 times as much as the average. I go back and forth about twice a year, and would be happy to take a week each way to do so if it was just cheaper.

And don't get me started on trains in the US... Or the cuts to the Greyhound routes that make it impossible to get anywhere without going half way in the opposite direction first.

Given how unpleasent it is to fly I would have thought there would be a market for alternative ways of travelling if they were more affordable and better advertised. So my t pence worth I guess would be how can we encourage shipping companies to lower their prices for non-commercial passengers? Or should we just start up our own climate-friendly workers co-op anarchist ferry service?

Jim Jay said...

I'm very much in favour of promoting the alternatives - and I certainly wouldn't want to moralise to people for using air travel... I see in the Cambridge Evening News today I could go from Stansted to Barcelona for sixteen quid return or Nice for eighteen or Munich for 24... hold on... I just need to wipe the drool from my keyboard.

I think it becomes particularly difficult when people are going a long way (like Thailand) it's not feasable to go by boat unless you are a person of "independent wealth" and I guess the question is do you really need to go there. If it's a holiday perhaps nearer is better.

I'm rambling now but I wouldn't like to abolish air travel - the climate can cope with some - but because its the biggest growing secotr of CO2 and contributes so much to environmental degredation we do need to address it.

Train fares that I could afford might be a start! Anarcho-ferries plc is step two. Hanging Richard Branson from a crab apple tree is step three.