Flygskam: Why You Are Grounded

Words we don’t know may still bite us.  Meet Flygskam.  What language is it?  Swedish. And it means “flight shame.”

In Sweden today increasing numbers are ditching planes in favor of trains – even 15 hour trips such as Gothenburg to Lulea (1-½ hours by air).

They cite flight shame as the explanation.

Are they crazy?

Nope. Swedes are throwing flight shame in the faces of flyers and the hot button is how polluting planes are. A New York Times headline spelled it out: Flying Is Bad for the Planet.

The Times’ lede smacks you in the head: “Take one round-trip flight between New York and California, and you’ve generated about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases that your car emits over an entire year.”

Don’t even ask about the airlines’ plastics problem. It’s huge and not shrinking.

What happens in Sweden doesn’t stay there. Know this: Flygskam is heading at you. If you haven’t heard displeased snickers about your frequent flying yet, you will – at the office, at the fitness club, at your community meetings. What had been a badge of honor – platinum elite status – is getting transformed into a badge of shame.

Environmentalism has caught up with frequent flying and it will exact its price.

The driving force behind Flygskam: Greta Thunberg, a 16 year-old Swedish school girl.  Don’t scoff. She and the movement she has launched will change how we travel – certainly how often we travel.

According to the South China Morning Post, “A recent survey conducted by WWF found that 23 percent of Swedes were opting out of air travel to reduce their impact on the climate, and 18 percent of those polled had chosen to take a train rather than fly. ‘Flygskam’ (‘flight shame’) has taken off on social media across Europe, as has the inversely correlated ‘tagskryt’ (‘train bragging’), and the phenomenon is making a difference on the ground.”

The Morning Post continued; “According to a recent Bloomberg report, Swedavia AB, which operates 10 Swedish airports, has seen year-on-year passenger numbers drop for seven consecutive months, while state train operator SJ moved a record 32 million people around the country last year.”

Rick Steves, the PBS travel guru, has acknowledged that flyers are “contributing to the destruction of our environment.”

In Europe, flygskam has spread beyond Sweden. The United Kingdom is a hotbed,

And “the Finnish have invented the word ‘lentohapea’, the Dutch say ‘vliegschaamte’ and the Germans ‘flugscham’, all referring to a feeling of shame around flying.”

An Instagram account that exists to shame boastful travel influencers about their gallivanting – #StayOnTheGround — has over 60,000 followers

Certainly Donald Trump believes climate change is hokum but he probably also has doubts that the Earth in fact is not flat and that the Moon is not made of cheese.  Nobody with the slightest familiarity with climate science doubts that in fact climate change is real and a corollary is that air travel is highly polluting – and much air travel also is not exactly necessary.

Which brings us back to flygskam and us.  The money question is this: what will you do about this at your end?

Me, I’ve already decided to eliminate air travel that can be easily eliminated. I have not modified my position. If a trip can be replaced with a phone call, I’m all in.

And a lot of business trips can be eliminated.

What about vacation travel?  This year I find myself planning vacation trips from where I live in Phoenix to San Francisco, Texas, northern New Mexico – and, yep, I see all happening in a car.

Can I go the next six months without once boarding a plane?  I’m not prepared to promise that. A family emergency could trigger a flight.  So could the right business proposition. I am not for hurting myself.

But I am for doing what I can do to save the environment and part of that is indeed eliminating superfluous air travel.

Are you down for likewise?

Or are you pinning on a “smygflyga” button?

That’s flying in secret of course.

And isn’t that a change? A generation ago we might have lied that we’d flown from LA to Vegas because driving seemed so lame.  But now we lie and say we drove.

Climates change. So do customs.  

For the environment let’s hope this change sticks.

1 thought on “Flygskam: Why You Are Grounded”

  1. The Swedes can kiss my ass. I don’t travel anymore than I have to, and would take the train, if there was a reasonable train option available, but it’s not because I’m worried about being shamed. I don’t like air travel anymore. It’s a Pain, and if I didn’t ever have to get on another plane it would good with me.

    Unfortunately, that’s not reality. I travel for work, and if I don’t have a decent train option, I’m sure as hell am not going to get in my car to drive to BFE, wherever that may be on a given day. I’m tired enough at the end of a day of travel without the headaches of car travel.

    As I said, the Swedes can kiss my ass, and so can anyone else that wants to pull that bs with me. If they want to do something actually productive, they can develop some technology that addresses the problems related to pollution, air or water. Otherwise? They can kiss my ass, and I’ll do my part to figure out a solution while their silly asses are posturing.

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