August 3, 2019

A Triumph of Principles

A return flight from Halifax to Calgary for two would produce 1.11 tons of CO2.

I could have went with the title, "Should we Stay, Or Should We Go?" for this post. I consider this after we were invited to fly an 8000 km round trip to attend a family gathering for the weekend.

Then running across some Ralph Waldo Emerson helped me out with what I thought to be the better title. 

“Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles", he said.

That really spoke to me, so I thought about it for a while.

First I looked to see if there was still a climate emergency. Check. There is.

Then I added to that the extinction emergency, resource emergency, and inequality emergency (to name just a few). The flight was not looking as good as it looks on the surface.

"At what point?" I wondered, "should one start to change ones behaviour?" When it is a Class 1 emergency? A 5? Are we at at 10 yet? Should I change my ways now? 

How about now? Now? When? 

Are we being "climate ignorers"? Being addicted to a consumer lifestyle, like any addiction, requires the denial of the consequences. How long can the ignoring go on?

Moving forward, we all will have to determine exactly what our principles are, and what we are willing to do, or not do, to be true to them. 

Am I willing to stand for what I believe, or do I cave easily and do something that doesn't jell with me just because it would be nice? Or fun. Or out of the ordinary? 

My principles tell me that the two of us flying such a trip would significantly increase our carbon footprint at a time when scientists are imploring us to reduce and even eliminate our carbon consumption. 

My principles tell me there are consequences to our behaviours, and those consequences are now coming to haunt us. The time to change our ways, it seems to me, is now.

Therefore, in the end we decided that while family is important, the importance of our commitment to the Earth, to the larger human family, and to our principles, is greater still. 

Going on such a trip would bear gifts, no doubt, but for us, not as much as not going will.

We are willing to make this sacrifice for the greater good, and see our decision as a triumph of principles. 

We are staying.

That brings me peace, even if I do miss my family.


  1. Greg this is a very hard decision to make. I agree with your thoughts though in that you have to live the life you believe in, even if it means family don't understand. I've also made the decision not to fly again (which is difficult as we live at the bottom of the world and it's pretty much the only option to get anywhere lol). My parents don't understand my decision and think I'm letting my children down by not taking them to different countries and experiencing different cultures. I don't disagree with them however it's more important for me to look my children in the eye when the shit hits the fan and tell them I did everything I could ;(

    1. An air traffic specialist in the US estimated what percent of the world's population takes a flight in a single year. His estimate was 6%. While most people I know take flights for granted, it is obviously only the most privileged among the human family that are doing it. Everyone else seems to get along just fine without flying, and I think I can, too.

      In our new home in Nova Scotia we are surrounded by extended families all living in close proximity. Many families have been here for hundreds of years. Not being rooted myself, I admire their sense of family, community, and place.

      It is unfortunate, but my own family is scattered across this giant country. One of my brothers lives 6000km away. Perhaps Linda and I will consider taking the train to the west some time, as a lower carbon mode of travel. I would love to take a sailing ship.

      It is difficult at times, but one does have to stick to one's principles. Otherwise, why have them? I admire your stand.

  2. Anonymous8/03/2019

    A principled decision, flights to visit family and study abroad are probably the only reasons left to fly now and if you can live with it - it's a good decision. I don't fly and haven't for over 10 years and now only use the car for family stuff and work. I have given up runs where I need to drive to - which I used to enjoy - as it didn't feel right driving to a run.
    There appears to be a detectable slow shift in the UK at present as the media is waking up to the enormity of the potential destruction ahead of us.

    1. Like driving to the gym. Walk, ride, or run and make the whole event focused on exercise. I love the freedom of getting around without dragging a ton of steel, glass and rubber with me.

      I like outside. In a vehicle, you are inside. Driving a pod that isolates you from important things. Like the breeze in your hair, the smell of flowers, and the laughter of people having fun.

  3. That is a tough decision. Family is important and it may the last chance to see some of them (coming from someone who just lost their mother) I can't think of anything that would entice to me to fly again. Good on You for doing what you know is right.

    1. That is an important thing to think about, Marla. It is a tough call to make.

  4. Anonymous8/04/2019

    Here's a little ray of hope for us all. I was just looking at the US Bureau of Labour statistics and it listed bicycle repairer in the top 15 fastest growing occupations between 2016 and 2026! And in case you were wondering, 9 of the 15 occupations were in the 'sickness' industry and the top two were solar energy technician and wind energy technician.


    1. Hooray! As I come to rely on my bicycle more, I am going to have to learn to be a bicycle repairer myself. Love learning new skills, and so much information is available at our fingertips.

  5. I praise your decision. Not an easy one for sure - family vs nofly principle. I have run into something similar countless number of times - where everyone else is like "what - you don't want to fly? Why would you do that?" .

    1. We take flying for granted, which is weird considering the huge carbon footprint attached to that particular mode of travel. The way I see it, each time someone asks about why I am not flying is a chance to talk about this important issue.

      A person could ask, "why do you want to fly? Why would you do that when we know so much about the tons of pollutants planes emit?"

      It is important to stand up for what we know to be the best truth currently available. And that is, we shouldn't be flying for non-vital reasons during a climate emergency.

  6. Anonymous8/06/2019

    I am so grateful to read everyone's comments on this excellent post. I follow 1Million Women on Instagram - they are an Australian organization that is trying to make a dent in climate change. Their most recent post was an image of the exterior of Denver (I believe) Airport, with a plane flying overhead on a beautifully sunny day. The caption lauded the airport for pledging to do away with its use of plastic by 2025 (I may have the year wrong). The image was a joke to me...that's great, but what about the dang planes?!! How could they not see the hypocrisy?

    I left a comment saying as much, and have seen that several people (ostensibly environmentally-minded) are shocked I would suggest that planes need to go. What good is stopping plastic use if the emissions from the aviation industry trash the planet further? It seems that people want to be "green" by recycling and reducing in certain areas, but aren't willing to stop such a wasteful and unnecessary habit as flying. I was weird to have my comment chastised by members of an environmentally-friendly group. Total disconnect on their parts. It has made me wonder if this mass denial is bigger than I thought.

    I can't say I will never fly again (I have no idea what is to come); but I can say that I haven't flown in two years (since I left my old job) and my spouse and I have found it very difficult to make the flight to Washington state, where we love to vacation. As things are right now, we can't justify polluting so that we can get in great hiking and cool weather. I've researched carbon offsets, but am not sold that they conscionable. So we are looking at where we can drive (short distances) to get our nature fix and vacation in peace.

    Gregg, thank you for pointing out that only a tiny fraction of humans fly - sadly, those that do believe it is their right, everyone else be damned.

    1. Congratulations on doing the right thing. Even though it is hard. Peace of mind will be yours. You can't put a price tag on that.

      When people see us changing our behaviours in response to current crises, it will make it easier for them to do the same.


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