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Flying Is One of the Worst Things You Can Do for the Environment -- So Why Do So Many Well-Intentioned Folks Do It?

Flying is the single most ecologically costly act of individual consumption. Can we kick the habit, or at least cut back?

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Obviously, social and environmental justice advocates are hardly among the principle forces bringing about the planet’s degradation. But what we do matters -- for better and for worse. As Monbiot points out, “well-meaning people are as capable of destroying the biosphere as the executives of Exxon.” So, if for no other reasons than the necessity of “walking the walk” and the demands of a biosphere under siege, we need to hold ourselves to a much higher standard in terms of how we conduct ourselves.

By challenging our own ecological privilege and working to find less environmentally destructive methods of connecting with others, we lessen our complicity in racism, imperialism, and other malignant “isms” that disproportionately harm peoples and places on the national and global margins. We also show others -- activists, friends, and family members who fly unhesitatingly -- that not only is another world possible, but also some of what needs to be done to bring about that world.

Joseph Nevins is an associate professor of geography at Vassar College. Among his books are Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid, and Operation Gatekeeper and Beyond: The War on 'Illegals' and the Remaking of the U.S. Mexico Boundary.

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