Swedish flygskam (or flight shame) is spreading across Europe – Finland, Germany … Brits yet to catch on….
Fears about climate change have led many to rethink the way they travel and, in Sweden, there is a new word – flygskam (flying shame) – for the shame associated with flying, knowing the carbon emissions it causes. The subject has come higher up the agenda with the vast protests in Central London by Extinction Rebellion, since Monday 15th April. And there are protests in many other cities and countries. The Swedes are now travelling a bit less by air, and a bit more by rail. But it’s not just the Swedes racked with guilt about their carbon footprints. The Finnish have invented the word “lentohapea”, the Dutch say “vliegschaamte” and the Germans “flugscham”, all referring to a feeling of shame around flying. Brits are lagging behind … The Swedish rail company reported 32 million passengers in 2018, a good increase. Many understand that flying has a huge negative climate impact, and there are other words associated with this: “tagskryt” (train bragging) and “smygflyga” (flying in secret). The 16 year old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, started the world wide movement of school strikes, to draw attention to climate change, only travels by train to meetings in other countries.
How flygskam (or flight shame) is spreading across Europe
Fears over climate change have led many to rethink the way they travel and, in Sweden, they’ve even invented a new word for the shame associated with flying
Climate change and travel have been on the lips of most Londoners this week thanks to the Extinction Rebellion protest group currently camped out in Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square.
In order to escalate the protest Extinction Rebellion announced plans to disrupt London’s rail and tube lines today, a move which Sadiq Khan said in a Twitter statement would “damage the cause for all of us who want to tackle climate change.”
The Swedes meanwhile have wholeheartedly embraced their rail network. SJ, Sweden’s national rail service, reported a record 32 million customers last year. The company attributes “the big interest in climate-smart travel” to its unprecedented growth.
Flying, on the other hand, has become almost taboo as a result of its negative impact on the environment. And, in typical Scandinavian style (see hygge, lagom etc), they have created a roster of new words to describe this antipathy: “flygskam” (flying shame), “tagskryt” (train bragging) and “smygflyga” (flying in secret).
The move away from air travel was spearheaded by teen activist Greta Thunberg, who single-handedly kicked off the student climate strikes after boycotting school once a week to raise awareness for climate change. Thunberg refuses to fly and travelled by train to the World Economic Forum in Davos and the climate summit in Poland, while 1500 delegates flew in by private jet.
Swedavia AB, which operates 10 Swedish airports including the ones in Stockholm and Gothenburg, has seen year-on-year passenger numbers drop for seven consecutive months. In 2018 the company reported its weakest overall passenger growth in a decade.
As ever, social media is playing a substantial part in turning the tide of opinion against air travel. One anonymous Swedish Instagram account has amassed more than 60,000 followers for shaming influencers promoting trips to far-flung destinations and the hash tag #StayOnTheGround has been trending on twitter.
But it’s not just the Swedes racked with guilt about their carbon footprints. The Finnish have invented the word “lentohapea”, the Dutch say “vliegschaamte” and the Germans “flugscham”, all referring to a feeling of shame around flying.
In contrast, in the UK, plans continue for a third runway at Heathrow despite the airport already being the biggest single source of CO2 emissions in the UK and claims that a third runway would cause aviation emissions to rise by 4.9 million tonnes by 2030.
Climate Change Shame Has Swedes Abandoning Planes and Taking Trains
By Hanna Hoikkala and Niklas Magnusson,
Apr 14, 2019
Take Is airline passenger behaviour in Sweden, where the numbers have been dropping, an outlier, or a sign of things to come? What is certainly true is this is a signal to airlines to get their efforts to reduce their carbon footprints in high gear.
In the country that gave the world teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, shame connected with traveling on airplanes that guzzle fossil fuels may now be having a real impact on travel patterns.
Swedavia AB, which operates 10 Swedish airports including the ones outside Stockholm and Gothenburg, has seen year-on-year passenger numbers drop for seven consecutive months. Last year, Sweden had its weakest overall growth in passenger numbers in a decade.
At the same time, passenger numbers at state train operator SJ jumped to a record 32 million last year due to “the big interest in climate-smart travel.”
The phenomenon, known as “flying shame,” is putting pressure on airlines to up efforts to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
SAS AB’s Scandinavian Airlines is taking a series of measures, including replacing older airplane models with more fuel-efficient ones, and seeking to use more biofuel.
The carrier that’s partly owned by the Swedish and Danish governments is also switching heavy seating for lighter and asking customers to pre-book food. Those steps will reduce the weight of its planes and thereby cut fuel consumption. In addition, it seeks to offset the emissions from flights made by its Eurobonus club members by investing in energy projects that generate a compensation equivalent to the amount of CO2 emitted.
In the past decade, SAS has overhauled one of Europe’s least-efficient aircraft fleets. It phased out fuel-thirsty McDonnell Douglas MD-80 planes and placed orders for Airbus SE’s latest A320neo-series narrow-body as well as the twin-aisle A350-900, which is due to join the fleet this year.
For SAS Chief Executive Officer Rickard Gustafson, the matter is existential. Unless society — and airlines — address climate change, the world as we know it may cease to exist. But as airlines are an integral part of the globalized world we live in, he doesn’t believe the answer is to stop flying. Instead, airlines must take measures to cut pollution and become more sustainable until the day comes when there are engines that don’t rely on fossil fuels.
“Airlines, like other infrastructure, are needed in order for us to have the societies we want, with growth, transparency, openness, clarity and tolerance,” he said in an interview at SAS’s headquarters in Stockholm. “It’s important that people can continue to meet and that the world can continue to travel. But we can’t continue to just travel without adjusting to a sustainable way.”
The issue is rising on the agenda of airlines as customers become more and more climate conscious, particularly in Sweden.
ASHAMED TO FLY
Flying shame, where people feel ashamed to use any mode of transport that uses fossil fuel, is on the rise in Sweden. According to a survey by the World Wildlife Fund, 23 percent of Swedes have abstained from traveling by air in the past year to reduce their climate impact, up 6 percentage points from a year earlier. Some 18 percent have chosen to travel by train rather than air.
A separate recent survey by Swedish Radio showed that the climate is the most important political topic for young people today. That development coincides with Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg’s movement, where thousands of pupils across the world regularly hold protests to try to force political leaders to take action on the environment. Thunberg travels by train whenever she appears at events in Europe.
In addition to “flygskam” (flying shame), Swedes have adapted to new words describing the shift, including “tagskryt” (train bragging) and “smygflyga,” or fly in secret.
Even Swedavia, the airport operator, seems to be feeling the pressure. In its past two monthly reports on passenger numbers, it included comments on how it is working to become more sustainable. That includes increasing the use of biofuel at its airports and making sure that all Swedavia airports produce zero fossil CO2 emissions from their own operations by 2020.
According to Swedavia, the climate debate is one reason behind its falling passenger numbers, along with factors such as concerns about the Swedish stock and housing markets, a weak Swedish krona, and geopolitical uncertainties. The impact is evident especially on domestic travel, which dropped 3 percent last year.
[Then it goes on with unrealistic stuff on biofuels….]
For SAS, one of the key measures is to use more biofuel, which unlike fossil fuel has been produced through current biological processes rather than geological processes. Such fuel is considered carbon neutral, as the CO2 absorbed by the plants used to produce it is equal to the gas that’s released when the fuel is burned.
But there is a problem — there just isn’t enough biofuel around. To help solve the supply issue, SAS has teamed up with refinery Preem to increase production of biofuel in Sweden as it seeks to use biofuel corresponding to all its domestic fuel consumption by 2030. That’s part of a broader plan to cut total carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2030 compared to the base year 2005. There is also a cost involved, as biofuel is more expensive than fossil fuel.
Given that passengers appear to becoming more and more climate conscious, airlines may have no choice but to make that switch. They could even become a selling point.
“The journey toward a fossil-free footprint will be long, but I’m a technology optimist,” Gustafson said. “One day a scientist will figure out how to replace the current jet engine, and I think those planes will become available to all of us in, say, 20 years’ time.”
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
This article was written by Hanna Hoikkala and Niklas Magnusson from Bloomberg
The concept of “flying shame” is growing in Sweden – shame if you fly too much – due to the CO2 emissions
Many Northern Europeans have “flying shame” because of the climate: they stay on the ground while traveling. Rail travel is becoming increasingly popular. Some people in Sweden are cutting down on flying, and believe the carbon emissions are a matter of shame. The word for it is “flugsham” or “flygskam” and this is becoming a common concept, akin to ‘flying less” in English. A celebrity athlete is well know for only travelling to sporting events if he can get there by train. The Swedes are among the frequent flyers. They fly 7 times more than average global citizens. While Sweden’s total CO2 emissions have fallen by 24% since 1990, air traffic grew by 61% in that time. A prominent writer in a popular newspaper denounced the “idiotic lifestyle” of frequent flying as the “most expensive suicide in world history”. Researchers and artists responded: “Flying is no longer an alternative for them”. People realise that we cannot go on with expanding aviation. A Facebook page on travelling by long-distance rail, rather than flying, had 30,000 followers in a few months. As well as the hashtag #flyingless there is the Swedish counterpart in #jagstannarpåmarken: “I’ll stay on the ground”.