Off to a flying start?

After living in London for many years, I recently moved to Cardiff to begin my PhD, leading me to re-examine my travel habits and think about choices such as how will I get to the office every morning and how often should we use the car? In particular, one prominent aspect of academic life, the requirement to participate within both national and international conferences, has raised what is for me the most important travel question of them all – is there any role for flying within both my personal and academic travels?

The idea of flying has meant distinctly different things to me at different points in my life. When I was young, flying was an exciting experience, representing a chance to explore, to see the world and most importantly for my overworked mum, to take a well deserved break from the stresses and strains of working life! While our destinations were never the most exotic, I remember the way in which everyone we knew was interested in where we were going and what we were going to experience and by many we were considered lucky to have this opportunity.

Since then flying has become increasingly cheap and accessible, with foreign getaways often less expensive than holidaying within the UK! However, whilst interning at Friends of the Earth I became increasingly aware of the high carbon footprint of this now everyday travel option. Following an amazing trip to Canada to study the impact of climate change on wildlife, I therefore resolved to refrain from flying indefinitely in an attempt to reduce my own impact on the environment and for the last four years I have opted instead for train travel and UK breaks. While I have no particular regrets, it is interesting to reflect on how while our travel choices were once a common topic of conversation among friends and family, my later choice to remove flying from my life has been met with little interest, if not active avoidance of discussion surrounding the reasons for which I made this choice.

In this way, my new role has brought me back to an old dilemma. As I move through my PhD and into academia, the requirement to attend conferences will become increasingly common and international in nature. What was once an easy choice will, therefore, increasingly become a balancing act, with each decision requiring the weighing up of the academic value and excitement of international conferences against the luxury of following my own desire to reduce my personal carbon footprint.

Catherine Cherry

Canada Airlines jet in flight

the requirement to participate within both national and international conferences, has raised what is for me the most important travel question of them all – is there any role for flying within both my personal and academic travels? “