To all my friends who live all around the world I know how lucky I have been to travel and to be able to meet you, and for me to say this probably comes across as hypocritical or pious, for which I apologise. But we have all got to stop travelling so much. We need to look after and love where we ARE. Life is not a journey, it is happening right now and we are destroying it.
I live under what should be an emergency flight path in Brussels, piste 01. This flight path should only be used when there is a very strong north wind, and certainly not at night. Instead, when there is even a guff of north wind this flight path is used all day and all night over a highly populated residential area, and they have plans to increase the use of it, despite court orders to the contrary. In October this year there was a near collision of two planes on the runway due to the overuse of this flight path. The planes fly so low that the noise stops conversation, and you can practically see the pilot. When one plane goes out of view you can hear the rumble of the next plane. It feels like we are under bombardment, and 430am after being woken by a giant cargo plane is not a good time to have me and thousands of other people even vaguely contemplating how much drones cost.
Please think about whether you need to fly the next time you are planning a holiday and try to cut down on the number of flights you take. Think about the people you are flying over going quietly insane, and the air pollution clogging up yours and their lungs. Hell, think about why you need a holiday away from where you live in the first place. What is it you don’t like about where you are? Why don’t you want to be where you are? I know why I don’t- because there is a 747 barre ling over my head filled almost entirely with people who are coming to Brussels to deliver a presentation that they could have done virtually, or coming home from a holiday where they spent half their time on their smartphone and zero time talking to a local person except to order a drink.
Ironically I want to jump on a plane to escape. But I’m not going to. I took one return flight last year, and one and half this year. Next year I’m planning to take none. I want to fight for where I live and make it better, but not just by being an annoying NIMBY complainer who will then freely shit all over someone elses backyard.
The one positive thing I am taking from the planes rumbling overhead is that they quite literally WAKE ME UP to the consequences of my actions. There is no hiding with the luxury of distance between my consumption and the negative consequences of that consumption. I know what happens when I get in a plane, and it’s not pretty.
There is a lot in the media about how we now live in a post-truth world, and Donald Trump, king of changing his version of the truth has been elected president of the United States so it can’t not be true (can it?!?). And I think a big part of the reason we have this post-truth world is that even within ourselves we have to lie and obliterate the truth in order to function ‘normally’ (i.e. not combust with rage or fall into a spiral of depression and anxiety). Every single bloody time I buy something I have to lie to myself. Pretend I don’t know that 5 euros for a T-shirt means a woman in Bangladesh is getting kicked to death for joining a union to fight for better working rights. Pretend I don’t know how much animal cruelty there is involved in my breakfast. Pretend I don’t know that to produce my smartphone there are factories in China with suicide nets. Pretend that in the countries where they make all the useless consumer goods we think we need that the air pollution isn’t so thick children can’t play outside. Pretend that when the rubbish man takes my rubbish away it magically disappears. Pretend the beggar on the street is a drug addict who deserves to be there. Pretend climate change and pollution don’t exist and take a flight every month. Pretend that once I’ve redone the house, achieved a toned abdomen and can speak french that I will have time to help other people. Pretend, pretend, pretend and lie, lie, lie. We get the politicians we create. The only good thing you can say for Trump is that maybe with the glaring obviousness of his colossal lies he will raise the awareness of our own and get us to change our behaviour, just like the aeroplane noise above me has obliterated my desire to fly.