Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.
George Fox, 1656
That famous Quaker quote seems appropriate as we set off to new countries, places, islands nations. We’re in the airport, about to board our flight for Chicago and catching some time to blog. Last time I wrote, we were busy not flying around Europe, and writing about why plane travel is such a bad idea. So why are we about to waste over 2 tonnes of CO2 each on this trip?
Well of course we’ve a good reason: the main purose of the trip is to visit Jane’s sister and her family in Michigan — we’ve not been to visit in the 12 years she’s been there. Mike, her husband hasn’t been well and we’d like to give the family a wee bit of support and of course to spend some precious time with them. A classic example of George Monbiot’s love miles. As he puts it:
If your sister-in-law is getting married in Buenos Aires, it is both immoral to travel there, because of climate change, and immoral not to, because of the offence it causes.
When I told our friend Julian that we were going to break our no flying vows, his response was that the problem was not so much the actual carbon dioxide emissions, but the example. People will think “if Chris and Jane — who seem to think carefully about these matters — are flying, then it’s OK if I do too”. I thought that was a really good point, and I suppose I hadn’t really thought before that people might be taking me as a pattern. But since we did our overland trip to Greece, quite a few people we know have been inspired to make similar travel decisions, or at least to think very seriously before they jump on a plane.
If we aspire, as George Fox put it to “be patterns, be examples”, then we need to realise that that is quite a serious undertaking, and that people might actually follow our examples, positive or negative. It’s not that we should feel guilt, more that we need to be mindful in our choices for action as we walk cheerfully over the world.