THE ELEPHANT IN THE PLANE
A discussion with Project Blue's founder, Savannah Walker, on air travel and offsetting emissions
It can be hard to navigate through this world. Our planet’s problems seem to outweigh all the good that we do, and these problems we face are not only environmental. The fight for human rights, conflicts of religion, war, corruption, and deprivation of education, equality and safety. These problems all existed in various forms when our grandparents were growing up. What’s changed, however, is how often these are communicated to us via social media, tv, the paper and everything else in between. It can be draining and confronting to keep up with and, no matter how desensitised we get, it can still be terrifying.
I am a member of various Facebook groups filled with exceptionally passionate people. These people talk daily about the consequences our actions are having on each other, and the blue and green backyards we call home. Their passion and commitment for doing ‘right’ is one thing these people all have in common, but differences lie in what we all believe the right thing actually is.
For me there is no denying it – our Earth is experiencing an unprecedented change in climate. Two days before winter hit us in New Zealand I was at the beach wearing shorts, a t shirt and sandals. I got into the water wearing a 1mm spring suit, just two days out from winter. It was an extremely warm Autumn, one that concerned me.
There are multiple drivers and causes of climate change such as intensified agriculture, deforestation, mass consumerism, and overfishing. The one that annoys me most is the continued burning of fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels, especially when it comes to air travel, is a hard topic for me to talk about. This is because I see value in experiencing new places and becoming connected within our increasingly globalised world. Traveling opens our eyes to new things, helps us learn who we are and what we want to be doing with our life. It connects friends and families together, and brings sets of new languages and adventures. It can educate us, challenge us and change our perspectives of the world around us, maybe even enough to flick a switch. I also understand the contribution this very travel has to the environmental problems we face, as I know we will be harming the very thing that gives us life while doing it.
Project Blue started due to my travels around Cambodia. Seeing kids playing in plastic filled streams and cows munching on piles of trash flicked that switch within me, a switch I may have never known existed if I had not set foot in that country. However, through me travelling to Cambodia, I contributed to the biggest problem our planet is facing. The burning of fossil fuels is a huge contributor to our changing climate. It’s my catch 22 and the reason it annoys me the most – because I am a huge beneficiary of the oil and gas industry, and we all are. 99% of the things we all consume have been made with or from, oil and gas. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the phones, the accessories. Our cars, our houses, our work, even us scrolling the internet is currently reliant on oil and gas. Project Blue’s film is no different.
Seven of us travelling to and from Hawaii is going to emit a large amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. We are also flying to different islands within Hawaii, and using fossil fuels for our rental cars and boat excursions. If not the most important thing I have learnt from starting Project Blue is that producing a film is extremely taxing on the planet, even a small budget film like this with the best intentions. I can’t even begin to imagine what impact Is made from a high cost film production spanning multiple different countries with hundreds of people within the crew.
I often wonder if it would be better to just stay at home and not do anything rather than contribute to the problem of our climate crisis. However, I’m a huge believer that those who have privilege have a responsibility to use it for something good. If those who can make a difference don’t bother, then why should anyone else?
I turned to a group I have been part of for seven months now (Extinction Rebellion NZ) and asked the below question on air travel:
It sparked a fair bit of interest, with people all around NZ weighing in on the matter.
Some said they are participating in a “No Fly” year. Others said we should eliminate it for work purposes, others for leisure.
I personally like the meditation comment the most. I’ve been trying to meditate for months but I cannot sit still, and someone is always running into my room saying I haven’t done the dishes or something…. Lol mum
Many discussions on travelling to visit family, limiting travelling or not travelling at all. Even travelling by boat, buy unfortunately that wouldn’t work for us. We simply can’t take that much time off work and since we are funding overseas travel ourselves, every day is costly. So I clarified a little:
No one has an answer to how we should be living. You can’t do everything perfectly, 100% of the time. One of the biggest reasons people don’t act is because they believe their small act won’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things, but if everyone worked on that same theory, then everything would continue to get worse.
I won’t sit here and tell you to not fly, I also won’t sit here and tell you that should fly, because everyone needs to make their own decisions about what they want to do and how they want to contribute to a better world.
I can only tell you the impact I want to have on the world, with the hope you think about the impact you want to have too. I will continue to get as many companies as possible to switch from the damaging plastics that are suffocating our world. I will limit my consumption, offset my emissions, eat less meat, and educate others on why we need to do more to protect our home. I’ll also take one for the team and continue with the public speaking – I hate it but I’ll do it #fortheblue.
There are some small steps we are taking to reduce the impacts of our trip to Hawaii:
- Using as little as possible
- Limiting meat and plastic consumption
- Hiring one rental car rather than two (It’ll be a squished ride for seven people, but we will make it work)
- Being conscious of the impact we are having on our future.
- We will also be offsetting our carbon emissions upon return home by planting kelp forests & mangroves in the Auckland region.
Let’s get it.