Green Officer Sander is in his second BA architecture and reflects on the future of flying during his 21-hour trip on a study tour to Stockholm.
For the annual study trip, as part of our design studio, this time we were expected in Stockholm, Sweden. A very unexpected but also tremendously beautiful destination with a very different kind of architecture and culture in general. Whereas we usually expect a slightly less distant or rather Mediterranean destination for this type of trip, this year we got to get ready for the North. Our guides think it is important that we are as free as possible in our choices regarding this trip; overnight stays, excursions and thus transportation have to be largely arranged by ourselves. For me, this is great, since I do sometimes have different ideas and views on how I want to approach the trip.
In recent years I have been trying to make a better commitment to the environment. For example, I have been a vegetarian for two years and am now a part-time vegan. In terms of travel, I now usually opt for the most sustainable option as well. So in the case of long-distance travel, in this case Stockholm, I also chose to travel by train. When I say this to people I often get indignant looks; questions and comments such as: "Are you afraid to fly?" or "It only costs 30 euros." or "The plane flies anyway, whether you're on it or not." For me it is a matter of principle; there is something wrong with air transportation; flights are incredibly cheap, this while it is the most polluting means of transportation.
People are not encouraged to choose a (more expensive) train trip, empty planes take off in order for airlines to keep their landing rights. But steps are already being taken here; Interrail and other agencies are making inroads, campaigns on sustainable travel are appearing, ... This generation is becoming more aware of the consequences of our actions and those of the generations before us.
When my fellow architecture students left Monday for their three-hour flight, I had been on the train for sixteen hours. When you hear that song, it does startle you, but the experience of it is something else entirely. You drive through the landscapes of, in my case, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. You see incredibly beautiful images. I fell asleep on the border between Denmark and Sweden where the rain and pitch-black sky made me forget the world outside this train for a moment, just before we entered the giant Øresundsbron bridge, and woke up at sunrise in the snow-covered landscape of Sweden, had a coffee in the train's bar and continued preparing for my trip. You don't see trapped like on an airplane. I just tackled my train trip like any other day. Caught up on my schoolwork, did some drawing, met nice people and went to bed on time.
You won't hear me say that vegetarianism, insulation or LED lights are useless. On the contrary, these are all sensible steps to reduce the risk of climate change. But there is an uncomfortable truth we must acknowledge: flying is killing the planet. The growth of the airline industry is wiping out progress in many other sectors.
Even as governments make flying less attractive, and alternatives better and cheaper, we must do our part by actually flying less often, or quitting. Right now, not just when tickets become more expensive.
Stockholm 27/03 - 31/03
Trip 26/03 - 01/04 (Luik - Cologne - Hamburg - Flensburg - Fredericia - Copenhagen - Malmö - Stockholm)
Uren in trein: 21 uur