Fly Shame

Recently I read an article in the Guardian that listed new words for guilt about air travel: in the Netherlands it’s vliegschaamte; in Sweden it’s flygskam; in Germany, Flugscham. Literally, they all mean “fly shame.” I wonder if there are also words for “meat shame” or “dairy shame”?

These are the things I have been ranting about lately. Since the Cop 24 climate change talks, the Davos Economic Forum, the UN and Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change, I’ve been increasingly worried about the climate crisis. Greta Thunberg’s presentations at COP 24 and Davos, as well as her TED talk, have made me remorseful about the damage my generation has created, the degraded environment we are leaving for our grandchildren. And, since watching clips of the hundreds of thousands of young people demonstrating around the world to draw attention to these problems, I’ve felt compelled to change some of my own practices. I doubt that I’ll ever fly again, I no longer eat meat or eggs and I don’t drink milk. But I can’t quite give up cheese. The cheese stands alone, says the old nursery song called“The Farmer in the Dell.” For me, the cheese stands alone. For the moment. Maybe one day I’ll give it up.

But, first, what I have to renounce is the random ranting. Yesterday I was having a pleasant conversation with an old friend and then, when she spoke happily about two trips that she has planned, I took her to task about the evils of air travel. “It’s time for everyone to just stay home,” I bellowed, and attempted to make her feel guilty about these holidays.

Why? She’s a good person who, unlike me, uses public transport and walks almost everywhere. She goes away only for long trips to Europe to see friends and to visit relatives in her old country; she doesn’t zip off for five days at an all-inclusive in some warm place simply because winter is getting to her. She shops carefully and locally, recycles diligently, and volunteers at worthwhile local organizations. Who am I to complain about her occasional airplane flight?

And anyway, as my daughter wisely advised me, shame has never been an effective deterrent for any kind of behaviour.

So I’m now going to stick to writing letters to people in high places, leaving my friends to make their own decisions, and focusing on doing a bit better in my own life. And perhaps cutting back a bit on the cheese.


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