Anirvan Chatterjee is a San Francisco Bay Area entrepreneur and climate activist. He and his wife spent 2009-2010 attempting to travel around the world without flying, while documenting the work of climate action movements in a dozen countries.
Climate change has a human face. Last year, we met dozens of Vietnamese teens trying to deal with the fact that up to half the nation’s rice paddies might be underwater by the turn of the century. We connected with Bangladeshi landless peasant organizers, trying to explain to members why the seasons are getting more unpredictable. And as we turn on the news, American victims of accelerating extreme weather events stare us in the face.
Aviation is responsible for 5% of the total human impact on the climate, but climate activists don’t spend anywhere near 5% of their time thinking about the aviation system—ignoring the issue just like Americans have always ignored the needs of airport neighbors. We can do better. British aviation/climate movements have learned how to bring together neighbors, environmentalists, and fiscal conservatives to take on the expansion of dirty aviation, turning it into a winnable national political issue. We can get there too. It might take ten or twenty years, but I believe we can meaningfully reduce both the demand for and impacts of the aviation industry, through strategic thinking, broad coalitions, and a diversity of tactics.
Some of the reduction will come through demanding efficiency upgrades. Some of the reduction will come from setting a hard cap on permissible emissions, forcing the industry to take true costs into account. Some of the reduction will come from helping organizations cut carbon footprints by reducing air travel. Some of the reduction will come from investing in alternatives like high speed rail. And some of the reduction will come from disruptive sources; a world with free ubiquitous videoconferencing might do to aviation what email did to letters.
This is why I want to see the aviation justice movement grow and thrive, but there are so many more reasons. I’ve never lived under a flightpath and had my neighbors come down with mystery illnesses. I’ve never had my child groped by the TSA, or been put on an opaque no-fly list. I’ve never lived in a nation predicted to go underwater due to climate change. Aviation justice can pull us together, and be our shared path toward a more just and sustainable future.