Tuesday 5 January 2010

New Year's Resolution - No More Flights

There's a line in one of my favourite of Billy Bragg's thoughtful older songs that says, "you are judged by your actions and not by your pretensions" and in that spirit I'm making an announcement.

At the moment, I'm stuck in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where I'll be for the next five hours. It's another two before I can even check-in, but still, I'm on my way home. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my return from Thailand today via Malaysia is tinged with sadness, for the following reason. I've concluded that it is impossible to care about catastrophic climate change and still continue fly unnecessarily, so my New Year's resolution is to give up heading off long-haul to sunnier climes.

That's it. Next Christmas I'll be in the UK and I hope not to see the inside of an airport terminal lounge after I arrive at Heathrow tomorrow morning, unless it's an absolute emergency or I'm forced to through work (which, given my job is in an east London community centre, is incredibly unlikely).

In theory this should have been a difficult decision to make, but in truth it has been easy. I didn’t have a great time between Christmas and New Year and this is the second holiday in a row where overall there was more that was wrong than was right. Chiang Mai was fun and I guess Pai is a place to visit for a weekend, but after twelve long, leaden days I was overjoyed to leave. The lack of transport for someone who doesn’t ride a scooter severely limited movement, which left the town, where everywhere sold little more than ‘Pai /ปาย’ branded tat – as though Thailand’s equivalent of Crest of London had taken overall control of the municipality. It’s one of the most boring places I have had the misfortune to be stuck in (despite its fairly recent notoriety) and at times I was thoroughly homesick and depressed.

Coupled with the disappointment I experienced on returning to Goa in 2008, I have come to realise that if I want to spend large amounts of time sleeping late into the day and doing very little, I don’t have to contribute around a year’s worth of carbon emissions to be able to do so. The same is possible in considerably more comfort, surrounded by tons of books, access to cinemas and London’s many delights, a consistent power supply that isn’t repeatedly choked off by the negative impact of tourism on undeveloped local infrastructure, 24-hour Wi-Fi and most importantly of all, my family and my wonderful friends. OK, so it’s freezing in December - at least in London, Brighton and Leamington Spa I won’t spend nearly so much time on my own.

So that’s my New Year’s resolution. It has one immediate and tough consequence, which is that this Easter I won’t be seeing as planned the school that the charity I am secretary of, the Buwan Kothi International Trust, has fundraised to build in northern India. I’d love to see it – but it'll survive without me and unlike getting time off to go and work there for a sustained period, a two week visit hardly counts as essential travel.

And at least I'd be able to attend the Climate Camp London neighbourhood meeting this month still firmly believing that actions really do matter more than pretensions.


DocRichard said...

Off-topic, maybe, but the photo of the wing reminds me that the little winglets on the tip of the wing increase the efficiency of the wing by 5% (yes, five percent).

The same would happen if they put winglets on the tips of wind turbine blades.

I just wanted to say this to someone, thanks for giving the opportunity.

HarpyMarx said...

Ooo, and you have the snow to look forward to when you land (eventually) in London....

Hope you packed some wool garments comrades!!

Btw: You will be at the Jean Charles de Menezes unveiling on Thursday? If so, see you there.

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