Should we give up flying? A Climate Strike Action and the flights of a lifetime

Last week I was asked to join a panel of experts and an audience looking at the simple question.  Should we choose to fly? 

Organised by Zero Waste London, I immediately accepted.  Should we choose to fly?  If so when?  What can we do about our flights? 

These are rapidly changing times, with a rapid shift in culture and mindset.  Our overburden on nature needs to be tackled. 

I welcomed the chance to dive into this debate.  After all, we have been highlighting the carbon footprint from flying for decades, and C-Level’s Balance My Flight Carbon Calculator has never seen so much action as the last few months.  An unprecedented number of individuals are searching online for carbon offsetting solutions to the impact of their flights.

Should I Stop Flying to Mitigate the Impact on the Planet?

Right on time we are also into the week of Global Climate Strikes, starting last Friday 20th September. I have been in talks with colleagues and clients on collective and personal actions for the strikes.

In the end, like so much, it comes down to personal choice, personal impact. 

And I was crystal clear what I needed more than anything was too get away from the phone and the laptop and get some time alone in nature.  Doing nothing at all to create carbon and having some time to reflect on my own lifestyle and carbon impact.

With that intention set, like clockwork I then got an invitation to join a small group that was forming to focus for 7 weeks on a particular practice from ancient Mexico called Recapitulation.  Its a technique I am familiar with and was used by the Toltecs of central Mexico some 1000 years ago.

It was handed down, alongside other treasured insights, through an underground lineage of wise men and women.  And culminating in modern times with Toltec practitioners like Don Juan, Castenada, and Don Miguel Ruiz (author of the modern sensation The Four Agreements which hit the New York Times Best Seller List). 

The group is to meet once a week for 2 hours, to explore central pillars of Toltec knowledge. The perfect timing of a second invitation in Global Climate Week.

A Personal Action on Climate Emerges

And so, these three events, the should we choose to fly panel, the global climate strike and toltec recapitulation all moved me to a personal action for the Global Climate Strikes on the 20th and 27th September. I chose to enter the forest and sit alone, and engage in recapitulating, a deep remembering to release from past events.  The focus was simple.  I wanted to recall every trip I have ever taken in my life that involved flying. Every flight. My intention was three fold:

1. Remembering all the trips from the first to the last that involved buying a plane ticket.  And making a simple written list of these…

2. Refreshing my experience of the Toltec practice of recapitulation, by using it on the list of trips made.

3. Ending the Global Climate Strike week with a list to punch into the Balance My Flight C-Level Flight Calculator, and thus a grand total flight carbon footprint.

This can be easier in the modern age where we can dive into the photo galleries on our smart phones and instantly recall places we have been.  But I have chosen to sit quietly away from the tech and simply recall from the first flight I took, my relationships with planes.

The Value of Recapitulation

The process of recapitulation goes deep and I will try to account for it briefly here. It’s an energetic technique that needs a quiet place away from distraction, a list to work through, and then an energetic revisit to the place / person / situation being recalled, where breath work then enables us to break free from the ongoing commitment of energy we have to make to these old things.  In essence, memories, especially those that carry strong emotions, take energy to be maintained.

If we can release this, we have much more energy available in the present.  Energy we can use to take new action! Action that serves all life.

The practice itself needs the list of experiences, the focus and attention to revisit them, and breath work to release them. 

So it happens like this. Take the first on the list.  Get into the deepest recall you can.  Find the tastes, smells, colours to make the recall as vivid and present as you can.  Then exhale as you slowly turn your head to the left.  Inhale as you slowly turn your head to the right and while doing this breath in the energy of the scene you are focussed on from your list (in my case something I have found from a trip involving flying that holds a strong energy). Then slowly exhale to the left again and this time breath out the energy of the scene, the emotional attachment that is not your own.  Repeat until you feel you have released yourself from others energy.

I would normally advise spending 15 to 30 minutes in a session on this.  Doing it over several days or even weeks.  But since this exercise for me is very focussed on two days of Climate Strikes, and is mainly about my own impact on the world through flying, I am doing longer sessions.

Daren Howarth_C-Level_Recapitulation Listing Flights

Daren Howarth, C-Level, Flights of a Lifetime Listing

Where Have I Flown to & Why? What Does my Total Flight Carbon Footprint Look Like?

So Friday, and the first Global Climate Strike saw me taking step 1.

Making the list of flights I have taken in my life.

It’s a slow process, but by the end the list is finished. 

I have taken 92 one way flights.  From a first flight to East Africa in 1999, as a teenager, stepping into a life changing year as a teacher in a remote bush school.  I have hitch hiked 2 flights (yes, it was possible to sit in an airport and talk to pilots flying light aircraft to pick people up from remote places – they would bet glad of some company as long as we cleared off prompt on arrival in the middle of now where!) and the last flight I took was to scout out a possible reforestation project.

Of the 92 single flights, 40% where made on projects focussed on action on carbon or action on forests.  Often both.

There is no Quicker Way to Reduce Your Emissions Than by Not Flying

My flights have been justified at the time by being for work. 

Climate Change impact studies in Ghana, working as a rain-forest ecologist in Borneo.  Justified at the time for being for family.  A partner’s parents and family being in Cape Town.  Justified for being for long trips.  Always aiming for a month here and a month there to get a deeper experience…but the simple truth of this exercise is that the total carbon footprint from all these flights will be significant.  More than I thought.   

So there it is.  My Flight Carbon Footprint and now I can punch in the numbers and take carbon balanced flights right back to the start.  I want to know how this compares.  In the age of ‘I am going to book some flights tonight, Ryan Air has a sale on’ is what I have done over 40 years something for Flygskam?

The Value of Carbon Offsets

And now I am ready for Steps 2 and 3 on friday 27th September. I can take the journey through recapitulation to revisit this list of trips and experiences.  I will come out of this next step with more daily energy.  And I will be ready to turn to crunch the numbers on the C-Level Flight Carbon Calculator, I will apply C-Level’s rationale #burntitbalanceit.  I will ‘offset’ all of it.

My lifetime of flying (double accounting in some cases for flights taken for C-Level business, but the process will be complete).  So I am more informed and ready for tomorrow nights main question – where we all go from here?  And by what means?

Daren Howarth, C-Level, September 2019