In an online thread with people insisting that they have no choice but to fly for family and work reasons, I wrote the following, which I’m sure some will disagree with. I’m learning too, though I hope to help people looking to find joy in polluting less.
One flight will brings people closer.
Flying in general led them to move far apart so they felt they needed to fly to get back together.
It also leads to people constantly leaving their physical community.
Global warming is front page news almost daily in some seasons. We fight wars for oil. There’s no mystery the causes. If we never change our behavior we will feed these systems. We have choices.
I don’t see it as a moral issue, just simple cause and effect. Flying contributes to global warming, which causes suffering. There’s no way to change it. It’s not complicated. It also disperses community and makes relationships more distant.
There’s another view. After the withdrawal symptoms pass, flying less leads to closer relationships, lower pollution, and saving money.
Anyway, it’s a free country, flying is legal. It’s even subsidized.
Someone asked what I meant by “After the withdrawal symptoms pass, flying less leads to closer relationships.” I wrote
I mean that switching from one set of values to another means a period of adjustment, not yet knowing what old values to keep or drop and net yet knowing what new ones will stick, since the new ones don’t create reward yet.
In that period, things that used to be rewarding, you miss, but things that will be rewarding haven’t taken hold yet.
For example, when you stop flying, you miss what you used to enjoy about it, which for me included adventure, new cuisine, and new cultures. I also felt I had family and work obligations. When I challenged myself to a year without flying the first few months felt lacking in adventure, cuisine, and culture. I had to turn down jobs. My uncle died. The pressures on my to fly were tremendous.
By the end of the year, I developed the skills to create my own adventure. I learned to cook from scratch more and built relations with the farmers and vendors in my CSAs and farmers markets. I found diversity in people nearby by deepening my relationships with them. I developed income nearby. The time and emotion I share with family is about the same overall, but I distribute it more to those closer to me. The ones farther away get less, but I feel closer to all humans and life overall.
So now I enjoy more of everything I used to get from flying, since I don’t rely on external sources, but without the costs to myself and Earth’s ability to sustain life and human society.
We all know that someone stopping heroin, meth, alcohol, sugar, gambling, playing victim, or whatever their addiction will in time get more reward from diet, exercise, responsibility, and what we get from life, but the user only sees the loss of their rush. They don’t know how much more they’ll eventually prefer broccoli to Doritos, push-ups to injections, earning money to stealing, but you and I know when they get there, they’ll wish they had sooner and they’ll never go back. Our values are causing people to suffer. The laws of physics and cause and effect aren’t changing any time soon so either we keep causing suffering or we change our values.
In the meantime, they say “I didn’t ask for judgment” and feel we don’t understand them. I don’t know the rush of heroin, but I know people who kick it wish they had earlier and are glad they did. The pattern with flying in a warming world is the same. I wish the world weren’t warming. I wish drilling for oil didn’t lead to wars. In the end I find it improves my life to accept the world as science says it is and not a fantasy world where my actions don’t cause others suffering.
I see everyone who changes their values go through similar transitions. I call it personal growth. I’ve learned to ease the transition for guests on my podcast https://joshuaspodek.com/podcast and I hope to bring that ease to the world, since I don’t know anyone else doing it, and I see the joy it brings. It’s like moving someone from addiction to something that brings them a jolt of pleasure or joy but undermines the rest of their life to getting joy from exercise, diet, and responsibility.
Actually, stopping flying is not like moving someone from an addiction. It is. The cold-turkey scene from Trainspotting illustrates the process, though on a different time scale: cursing at the people who love you and try to help, despair at what appears a dull life to follow, etc.
Who knows, maybe I’ll fly again. I’m in my fourth year avoiding it, closer to my nearby family than ever, more capable than ever, healthier than ever, and by every measure that I value better. I could never have predicted the improvement it brought. I wish someone had said to me what I’m saying here earlier. Maybe it doesn’t resonate with others, but it’s what would have helped me.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees