Greta Thunberg's climate activism is a thing of beauty. The fact that a teenager from the small country of Sweden can have such a powerful impact on world opinion is inspiring. But another Swedish environmental sensation, known as flygskam (flight shaming), might need a bit of tinkering.
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While 100 percent on board Greta Thunberg’s carbon-neutral yacht, I can’t help but wonder if another phenomenon coming out of Sweden is an equally efficient use of energy. Flygskam, or flight shaming, in which airline passengers are derided for their choice of transportation, is quickly becoming a thing around the world. As the movement grows, it’s likely that other sectors of the transportation industry will be targeted as well.
Right now, the impact of this bottom-up approach to activism is being felt by Europe’s aviation industry. That’s because train travel is a legitimate alternative for most people traversing that continent. But elsewhere, perhaps the ire of flight-shamers might be better directed elsewhere. After all, if one is going to reproach travelers for their wasteful transportation choices, how about looking at the millions who take cruises every year? While many long-distance airline passengers have no choice but to fly for business reasons, everyone who is cruising is doing so solely for recreational purposes. There are plenty of greener vacation options. Plus, since the time I started covering travel back in the last century, the cruise industry has consistently displayed a lack of concern for environmental matters.
Or what about private jets? Think about it. You have thousands of small planes crisscrossing the skies every week with less than six people on board. Sure, small planes might not pollute as much as jumbo jets, but given that there are fewer people on board, they end up being much less energy efficient per capita. Since commercial carriers usually fly the same routes — albeit without all of the conveniences and creature comforts — shouldn’t we be shaming those Richie Riches who opt to fly small and the private jet companies that fly them?
Better still, maybe people should spend more time demanding policy makers and transportation companies green up their acts, rather than shaming the hoi polloi. That way, maybe one day, all of us will be able to have the option of traveling via energy-neutral yachts, à la Greta Thunberg, or have the option, beyond the European continent, of traveling by train versus plane.
— Laura Powell, Skift Luxury Editor
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Skift Luxury Editor Laura Powell [[email protected]] curates the New Luxury newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Tuesday.
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Photo credit: As flight-shaming spreads, will airline passengers prefer to remain incognito? 163189 / 163189