Subject: Re: First flights of 2020
Date: 1/23/2020 06:52:00 PM To: Tantek Bcc:

Hi Tantek,

Thanks for posting about personal logging of environmental impacts and different mitigations. I’m thinking now about how I can post on my own site not just the actions I’m trying to follow in terms of my own behavior and my advocacy but also a running counter of some of my activities and their carbon emissions (this IndieWeb environmental impact page is a great resource).

I don’t know that air travel is singled out inaccurately for its climate change impacts. While aviation as a category has lower impact than many other categories, that seems to primarily be because it is currently accessible only to the rich. For individuals who do fly, each flight emits large amounts of greenhouse gases. This study from Wynes and Nicholas* suggests that avoiding a single, roundtrip trans-Atlantic flight has a much bigger impact (approximately double) than switching from an omnivorous to plant-based diet for one year. Those authors also reviewed how often reducing air travel was suggested as a mitigation (in corpora of high school science textbooks and government-produced guides) and found that it was recommended far less often than other actions that had less substantial impact on carbon emissions.

Maybe the frequency of that advice is changing, especially as we see Europeans shifting some travel to trains (over “flygskam” or based on Greta Thunberg’s widely publicized example). I agree that guilt, shame and self-harm aren’t useful ways to make these decisions and I’ve certainly experienced the feeling of freezing up because of my guilt and the enormity of the problem in ways that were unproductive or counterproductive. For me, reviewing comparative data has been meaningful and actionable, both in changing my diet and in changing my travel decisions.

Collectively, I hope we can talk more about how to shift Web standards meetings (and tech and academic conferences more generally) into remote communications or regional satellite meetings. I’ve been inspired by Jacob’s pledge and Eliot’s I-D ("We gotta stop meeting like this.") and it seems like a fruitful area for the Web and the Internet to contribute solutions, rather than adding to the harm. I’d like to take the train to a TPAC/US-East meeting in DC this October, where room-size videoconferencing is set up for nearby attendees to communicate with the “main” conference in Vancouver. What do you think?


  • Wynes, Seth, and Kimberly A. Nicholas. “The Climate Mitigation Gap: Education and Government Recommendations Miss the Most Effective Individual Actions.” Environmental Research Letters 12, no. 7 (July 2017): 074024.