It’s hard to remember what life was like before the pandemic hit. A year and a half ago, 2019 was drawing to a close with something like a promise. It had been the year of Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikes, and the momentum was with climate activism. And 2020 promised to be the year of change.
Helped by Thunberg’s yacht journey across the Atlantic, the spotlight was on aviation’s role in the climate crisis. An airline ticket is about the most carbon-heavy thing consumers can buy, and for those of us fortunate enough to be able to access air travel, our flights can quickly put us among the top polluters in the world.
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Personalities including John Humphrys drew attention for declaring they’d given up flying, but beyond the headlines a growing number of ordinary people were also quietly ditching plane trips. Enlightened countries, such as Sweden, saw a drop in air bookings, and rail provision rose across Europe. Much Better Adventures led the charge with Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, a collective of outdoor and travel outfits taking action on the crisis. The travel pages of this paper drastically reduced the number of flights it took and wrote about.