“Can we pretend that airplanes, in the night sky, are like shooting stars…”

I was at a workshop a few days ago on sustainable food systems. It was no more and no less than a bunch of interested and invested members of the community coming together to discuss food. A quite overlooked vital force of life, now available in cans, buckets, bags, dehydrated, deep fried and deep frozen form.

In a breakout group, someone questioned why we use airplanes to transport food and how it seems unsustainable. This same person, however, was supportive of human air travel. “Airplanes, they’re never going away” she stated, “I love flying, I love traveling”. My heart sank. First, because in a self-righteous, “eco-purest” fashion, I wanted to pretend that I don’t fly, that I will never fly again because of the massive emissions that are spewed out, and that it’s not necessary. I lost a little bit of hope, thinking that we have become so addicted and dependent on air travel – going to far off places – that our blindness to the damage it is doing will be our demise. When collecting bonus air-miles I recently questioned why I’m still collecting them if I hope to never need to fly again.

On my way home from the workshop, I faced the truth. Of course, I do want to fly again. I want to visit my family in Holland. I want to re-unite with my Sustainability colleagues in Brazil. I want to play mas in the Trinidad Carnival again. I want to attend my childhood best friend’s wedding in Mexico. True, these are all wants and can be dismissed, but what if I actually will need to fly. I am trying to run a business off of a bicycle. I have no idea if I can make this work.

It’s been 2 years since I landed back in Toronto after 2 years of a lot of flying, and I’m getting tired of my carbon diet. I miss the thrill of going to the airport, waiting at the gate and then watching clouds pass by for hours. It would be relatively easy, no one would hold it against me, or give me dirty looks. I want to just mindlessly fly fly fly without the self-inflicted guilt trip that I know better, that I know that this is not satisfying a real human need.

So far, I’ve been good. I chose Montreal over Vancouver for my Yoga Teacher Training course in July, so I will diligently take the train or bus. I have stayed put for 2 years in Ontario and 7 of those months I’ve been in the same region using my bike as my primary form of transportation. I recently handed over the family car to my brother, so my partner and I share one vehicle…a “new” 1984 Range Rover with dreams of a diesel engine running on recycled cooking oil. And my work is to share the language and understanding of sustainability with organizations and individuals.

I figure I’ll continue with my sustainable life until a true need emerges to get on a plane. So far, I’ve been able to find perhaps more happiness by staying in the same place than when I was making great friendships far away and leaving them. I even believe deep down in my heart that I will be even more happy when I am a true part of the community I choose to live in. A sad farewell to my dreams of living in India, Japan, New Zealand, Holland and the Caribbean. A welcome to rural Canadian life. And when the time comes to decide to fly or not, I’ll have to justify it to my toughest critic….me.


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