A Boeing 747 Air France landing at Juliana International Airport in Simpson Bay

© Ludovic Aubert / Eyevine

The Financial Times chose Flygskam as its “2019 word of the year”. This Swedish word can be translated as “flight shame”. This is a new sentiment that has been growing in Sweden in step with the success of Greta Thunberg, the teenage activist who opened the world’s eyes to the urgency of the current environmental crisis. Her fellow citizens seem to have taken the issue to heart, as they seriously question certain aspects of our typical Western lifestyle focussed on perpetually increasing personal well-being. Since 2018, Sweden has seen a steady decline in domestic and international flights, with a parallel rise in train use, a decidedly “greener” method of transport.
Faced with the imperative of changing our behaviour to move toward sustainability, there is an apparently insoluble dilemma: one that contrasts the need to give up certain luxuries in the name of protecting human health and the environment, with the affirmation of our individual freedoms. These include the freedom to travel, which has reached unimaginable possibilities in recent decades.
However, anyone who defends the freedom of movement, claiming the right to travel thousands of kilometres for a weekend getaway, for example, should ask themselves whether this would truly be a deprivation, or if a more frugal lifestyle, even without reducing our general standard of living, might provide an opportunity to devote ourselves to experiences that focus less on quantity and more on quality?

Sofia Belardinelli