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Aviation, Consumption And The Climate Change Debate: ‘Are You Going To Tell Me Off For Flying?’

S. Randles, S. Mander
Published 2009 · Computer Science, Economics

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‘Are you going to tell me off for flying?’ This question was asked three times by a lady in South Manchester, England, when we asked her to participate in our qualitative in-home study on flying. She asked it once when we approached her in the street to ask if we may interview her. She asked again when we phoned to confirm the time and address of the interview, and she asked it a third time while serving tea and biscuits at the beginning of the interview. Needless to say we had given absolutely no indication that the interview would pass ‘judgment’ on her flying activities. The lady had undertaken six return trips by air for leisure in the previous year, and in the final section of the interview commented ‘I will have a conscience, but I won't not fly to Miami…’. As this one example shows, the frequent flying/environmental impact question is currently a hot topic. It brings forth a cocktail of rich unprompted discussion and a mixed bag of responses, it has become emotionally charged and polemic. Accounts and justifications concerning frequent flying range from surprise that a taken-for-granted everyday activity which until very recently had been considered a culturally desirable thing to do, has suddenly become frowned upon; to a sense of almost guilty pleasure, apology and, at its extremes, defiance. What the significance and explanation for this might be in sociological terms is the focus of this paper. The answers are important, in particular for policy stakeholders seeking to curb consumption behaviours as one of a portfolio of emissions reduction strategies. It is to the policy audience that this paper primarily speaks. It also provides a quite different – out of the box – insight and contribution to the aviation and emissions debate, which complements the more ‘supply side’ technology and research and development focused papers which dominate the aviation and emissions-reduction literature currently.
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