There’s an elephant in the room with my #FlightFree2020 pledge.
My work is tied inextricably to the international travel industry, which in turn relies heavily on flying.
In other words, if I continue to do my job well, I will increase overall aviation emissions – whether or not I myself take any flights – as a result of what might be called the multiplier effect.
Through my blog TomsBikeTrip.com, for example, I dish out advice and inspiration for bicycle travel to 50,000 visitors a month, encouraging them to explore the world on two wheels.
But what if, in acting upon my evangelism, my readers then fly all over the world in order to ride their bikes? For how long and how far should they pedal their human-powered, zero-emission transportation devices for me to justify keeping that blog online?
With the Transcaucasian Trail, I am actively encouraging hikers to travel to the Caucasus, because I can see the huge potential a healthy trail tourism industry could have to make rural life here more liveable.
But what if those hikers fly here, perhaps as a result of blog posts like this (which I am obliged to write and publish as part of my ‘job’)? How many days’ walking will it take to negate the impact of landing?
From another angle, I believe it’s critical for the team who are building the trail to engage with the global community of long-distance trail developers. To that end, I am sending one of my Armenian colleagues to Nepal in September as a delegate to the biannual World Trails Conference.
Should I ask him to spend a month travelling overland halfway across Asia and back so I can avoid responsibility for his flights?
These are just a couple of examples of the spiralling complexity that emerges when you consider the multiplier effect of your actions. In my kind of circumstances, it can easily make participation in a single-issue campaign like #FlightFree2020 feel futile.
The way I see it, however, minimising aviation emissions is a long-term project. And long-term projects succeed when the goal is broken down and tackled piece by piece.
So this is what I am going to do:
1. I am going to consider all of my professional activities in turn, and ask: ‘In what ways are my actions encouraging others to fly?’
2. I am then going ask of each item on the resulting list: ‘What actions can I take to change this?’
And I will report back with the resulting answers.