'I'm giving up flying for good' says Transport student

Issue date: 06 October 2006

boat pic Concerns about the damaging impact fossil fuels are having on the planet have inspired University of the West of England transport planning student, Joshua Hart to pledge never to fly again. This is no hollow declaration - Joshua has arrived at UWE after completing a journey from his home in California, USA, by travelling over land and sea by streetcar, bus, bicycle, train and a German freighter ship.

The journey took 14 days and included four days on an Amtrak train to Montreal, nine days on board the freighter ship, MSC Malaga from Montreal to Antwerp and the final leg of the journey from Antwerp to London by Eurostar. Joshua broke the journey for a week in Montreal to work with 'Velogik' an organisation that teaches elementary aged children about climate change and bicycle repair.

Joshua talks about what he calls the liberation resulting from his decision. “The recent growth of low cost short haul air travel is a direct threat to the stability of our planet's atmosphere and I refuse to participate in it any longer. No one should be able to dictate how you get around- it's more important than ever that people think for themselves.”

“It is increasingly evident from many recent reports that the rapid build up of carbon in the atmosphere will have terrible environmental consequences with predictions of increases in drought, flooding, extinction of species, and extreme weather. When the worst hits, we may wish we had quit our fossil fuel habit earlier, but by then it will be too late. I'm just doing what I can do as an individual to make the Earth habitable for our children”

“But I don't belief that a pledge not to fly will have a limiting effect on my experience of travel. It wasn't too long ago that all long distance travel simply took a long time, and people just didn't do it that often. It was a special thing, and cultures were less homogeneous than they are now. With climate change occurring, and oil supplies dwindling, the indications are that we are returning to such a time soon, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.”

“The highlights of my journey included learning new blues chord combinations from a pair of Chicago musicians on the train, watching dolphins swim alongside the ship, getting to know the Filipino crew and experiencing the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean despite 5 metre swells and initial sea sickness.”

“On an airplane you travel from one generic airport located in ugly suburban sprawl to another airport located in even uglier suburban sprawl. The only exchange with the places and people in between are a fleeting glimpse from 30,000 feet, a roar in the sky heard from below, and the ugly legacy of an abruptly warming planet.”

Joshua has become active locally with the Stop Bristol Airport Expansion campaign (more details at www.stopbia.com). “Planning more flights and more road traffic while scientists are sounding the alarm about climate chaos is simply suicidal. How Bristol decides to proceed with this issue will have implications for the rest of the UK, and indeed the whole world, and I'm proud to be allied with the citizens of the South West who are fighting this ill-conceived plan.”

“Our fossil fuel dependent society is so short sighted – we need to think about how we travel and create cities where cycling and walking are the norm, where public transport is frequent, affordable, and convenient, and where cars are available but by no means dominant.”

“So my experiment is now complete. It is possible to travel from San Francisco to Bristol without flying and now I'm about to embark on a new adventure. One that will bring me into contact with some of the best minds in the world working on our biggest transport problems.”

Joshua started his MA at UWE's internationally renowned Centre for Transport and Society this September. Glenn Lyons, Director of the Centre said, “We all feel very inspired by Joshua's commitment to leaving a low carbon footprint. We may not all be able to follow his lead in behaviour but we should all be concerned about a globalising society that is becoming 'plane dependent' at a time when climate change is set to redefine the very economics of our modern world. Well done Josh – we look forward to exchanging views during your time studying with us.”

Joshua rides his bicycle from St. Andrews to Frenchay Campus every day, and maintains a blog at http://web.mac.com/joshuahart


Jpeg images available from the press office

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