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Severe flight carbon footprint issue leads to Sweden initiation of Flight Shame movement

Traveling around with planes has become a new lifestyle of Europeans as the economy developed rapidly. Although the destination can be reached by road transport, people will choose to travel by planes in order to save time. However, there is an increased awareness of environmental protection recently. A rising number of Europeans have discovered that the negative consequences of air travel. This has led to the initiation of different campaigns – starting individually and with the help of influential social media. It aims the carbon pollution of air travel can be reduced.

According to the report of The Guardian, each passenger who uses the plane to travel 1km will release 285g carbon dioxide, which is the highest among all transportation. Moreover, the increasing rate of carbon dioxide emission of air travel is far higher than other transportations. The United Nations has expected that the air industry may have the highest carbon dioxide emission among all industries in the coming thirty years.

To reduce the carbon pollution caused by air travel and prevent the worsening of pollution induced by air industry, advocates worldwide suggest the public avoid unnecessary flights, some advocates even stated that they will never use the plane anymore. They believed that the environmental problems caused by the air industry should be gaining the same amount of attention as the issues of plastic pollution and meat consumption reduction.

Sweden once was the country with the highest frequency of flights. According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, one passenger was responsible for 1.1ton carbon dioxide emissions in the whole Swedish air industry in 2017. The number was five times the global individual passenger average emission (0.2ton). Therefore, Swedish advocates who concern flight carbon emission problems launched the Flight Shame (Flygskam) campaign in 2018, which hoped to arouse the worldwide public’s awareness of the negative influences of air travel to the Earth, feel shame to their air traveling actions and stop or reduce flying schedules. This Flight Shame movement mainly spread through social media. Citizens worldwide responded to the movement by using hashtags like ‘#StayOnTheGround’ and ‘#agstannarpåmarken’ to connect the world.

At the same time, a Swedish citizen started a page called ‘Aningslösa influencers’ (naive influencers) on Instagram, which has more than 60,000 followers. The page owner uses the Story function to name those KOLs who always travel with planes or do not pay much attention to environmental issues and calculate the average carbon emission per capita caused by each trip abroad, in order to raise people’s awareness of flight pollution.

(photo/captured from Aningslösa influencers Instagram account)

Apart from using social media to influence the public’s willingness to travel with planes, Maja Rosén, a Swede, take actions in real life to oppose. She stopped taking the plane since 2008. In 2018, she and her friends collaboratively initiated ‘Anti-flying Movement 2019’ (now became ‘Anti-flying Movement 2020’), encouraging the public to sign ‘Anti-flying Declaration’. By the end of 2018, there were already 15,000 Swedish signatures. She told The Guardian, it is expected to have 100,000 signatures by the end of 2019.

In fact, the impact of ‘Anti-flying 2020’ Movement is recognizable. The number of plane travelers in Sweden had decreased dramatically in 2018, and the domestic train passengers number grew greatly. “A lot of people didn’t realize that individual actions can affect other people’s decisions. If you choose to continue using the plane, your friends won’t make a change. It is because you consolidated the norm. If you choose to stop using the plane, the people around you will start to reflect,” Rosén said, “their actions of taking the plane basically turned them into consumers who indirectly purchase a large number of fossil fuels.”

‘Anti-flying 2020’ Movement not only getting great responses from Sweden but also received British writer Anna Hughes’s support and implemented in Britain. Hughes stated that she has successfully gathered 1,000 participants who are willing to try ‘anti-flying’ for a year. Hughes who has stopped traveling by plane eight years ago has been to Ireland, Denmark and many other Europe countries. “Every place in the world can be reached with a bike, train or ship. If the destination is far away, just more time is needed to get there,” she said.

Greta Thunberg, a teenager who received worldwide attention due to the ‘Fridays For Future’ movement, also joined the ‘anti-flying’ movement. She has not taken the plane since 2015. She only took the train for her speech tour in different European countries. This year January, while authorities and government officials from all over the world took a total number of 1,500 private planes to join the World Economic Forum, she spent 64 hours traveling back and forth from Sweden to Switzerland by train.

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