Confessions of someone who flies a lot

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CONFESSIONS OF SOMEONE WHO FLIES A LOT

Nanjala Nyabola flies a lot with her work, so what can she do to help the environment?

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At the moment, I have to travel a lot because of my career. I’m a political analyst so I have to go to conferences and speak to people around the world. This is hundreds of thousands of miles in planes, trains and cars. Compared to the average person in Kenya, I am probably using several times more fossil fuels; I’m probably using a lot more than the average Western middle-class person. I’m feeling more guilty about this and I’m trying to change my life to make up for this. But, like most people, I don’t know where to begin. How can people who help destroy the environment through their work and life be part of the solution?

I’ve tried to cut my carbon footprint. For example I don’t drive at the moment, I’m trying to live with little plastic, and I travel with cups and bottles I can use many times. When I’m in towns that I know, I mostly use public transport. But after 10 flights in four weeks, I find it very difficult to travel by subway in a place I don’t know or don’t speak the language. So, many times, I take a taxi.

But climate change is destroying more of the planet. Recently, Australia was on fire - millions of hectares of forest was burning after very high summer temperatures. In Indonesia, very heavy rains have caused flooding, and many people died or lost their homes. In my own country, Kenya, 140 people died between October and December 2019 in the longest and heaviest rainy season we have ever seen. Ocean temperatures are rising. This means heavier rain, which affects food production; all over the world, the temperature is breaking records.

How can our choices make a difference when it’s big business that poisons the environment most? Several banks have tried to work out how much it would cost to fix climate change. The cost is between $30 billion and $300 billion. But this is far less than the money that all the billionaires in the world have ($8.7 trillion). Individual choices are important, but they can never be as important as the choices we need to make to change the whole global political economy.

Also, the solutions to climate change don’t always help global inequality. When I was a child, I believed it when people told me that the biggest threat to the environment in Kenya was individual farmers cutting down trees for firewood; but a much bigger threat was the large industries that were cutting trees on hundreds of thousands of hectares of land for commercial farming (not sustainable and toxic). When we talk about individual responsibility for climate change, we should not forget about the responsibility of businesses.

I don’t feel less guilty because I know this. I hope to plant a few trees in a place in Kenya that needs trees and I’m going to keep trying to use bicycles and public transport more. I know this is not enough, because the problem we face is so big - but it’s a start.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: https://newint.org/features/2020/02/10/view-africa-flyer

(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed)