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Let’s create a world in which flying is no longer the norm, but the exception

Because of the corona virus, international air traffic has reached a historic low. But what if we use this situation to create a greener and more relaxed world?

Because of the corona virus, international air traffic has reached a historic low. If billions of emergency government funding remain absent, many airlines will go bankrupt within a few months. But could this problem possibly be an opportunity in disguise? What if we use the pandemic to create a world in which flying is no longer the norm, but the exception? 



Ever since Covid-19 surfaced outside of China, the air traffic industry has taken a serious hit. Because of travel restrictions and a crash in consumer demand, big airlines had to cut their capacities by 90 percent and thousands of planes have been grounded for an unknown period of time. Experts warn that a big part of the industry will collapse before the end of May if governments don’t spend billions attempting to save it.

So what should we do?

From threat to opportunity

In the short term, the collapse of multiple big airlines would have painful consequences for the thousands of people who work there. But just like with the energy transition, eventually new jobs will arise, for example with international railway carriers. After all, research after research shows that sustainable transitions have positive long term effects, both for the planet and our economies.

Smaller footprint

Flying less is one of the most efficient ways to minimise your CO2-footprint. This is because flying is incredibly CO2-intensive. For example, to compensate your emissions of a return trip to Barcelona, you can’t eat meat for an entire year. And flying to Bali and back equals four years of driving a car.

Flying as the exception

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not pleading for a world without flights, but for a world in which the amount of planes taking off has dramatically been reduced. Of course, people need to be able to visit their family abroad. Or to make that once in a life time trip to South America without having to spend weeks at sea. But most flights are completely unnecessary. For example, in 2019 almost 3 million people flew from the Netherlands to London, whilst you can easily go by train and save 110 kilos of CO2 per person in the process.

Time to slow down

But there’s more to choosing a sustainable mode of transport than merely minimising your ecological footprint. Going somewhere by train or bicycle provides us with something that we have a chronic lack of: time. Time to finally listen to that playlist, disconnect from your busy life, do some soul searching or simply enjoy the view.

Smart technology

And what about everyone who doesn’t hop on a plane for leisure, but for business? If the corona virus has thought us anything, it’s definitely how easy it is to work together whilst apart. So next time when you’re about to book a flight for a business meeting, brainstorm or conference, ask yourself: what would I have done in times of corona? By using the technology that’s widely available, you won’t just save on emissions, but also on time. Time you can spend, for example, to go on a sustainable adventure.

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The original version of this article was published in Dutch on MaatschapWij. You can read it here!