Be patterns, be examples

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.

2 thoughts on “Be patterns, be examples

  1. Hmm… if we elev­ate you to the status of godesses&consorts who do our right action for us, then… …that gives us equal excuses not to. Folk have been trav­el­ling over­land for years, and still will whether you hap­pen to fly this time or not. XXX m

  2. @mark: the point is not that we are god­desses (bohid­sat­tvas, maybe), but that as social human beings, we tend to fol­low one another’s beha­viour. Because of that it seems import­ant to be mind­ful in our choices.

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