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The expat impact on the climate....

(15 Posts)
IJumpedAboardAPirateShip Thu 16-Jan-20 15:39:07

We live on the west coast of the US and are from the U.K. we go home once a year and take a domestic flight maybe once a year too. For a couple of years for various work, family death and marriage reasons we did several transatlantic flights (though there have been many weddings we’ve missed to avoid the flights) so I can deny my family’s impact on the plant because we are expats is huge.

Not going home once a year is not an option for me. We’ve donated the number of trees it takes to offset the carbon emissions made by our 4 person annual round trip but it’s not really enough is it? Better to just not do it at all.

I’m seriously considering moving us all back home so we can put a stop to the flights. Does anyone else feel guilty about the climate impact of being an expat? It’s not like it’s a lovely holiday we’re taking, a lot of the time it’s stressful and expensive and means we can’t take a “proper” holiday But it is one of those cases where we do “have” to fly but easily rectifiable but just moving home....

IJumpedAboardAPirateShip Thu 16-Jan-20 15:39:41

*can’t deny!!

MangoFeverDream Thu 16-Jan-20 15:44:32

Not going home once a year is not an option for me. We’ve donated the number of trees it takes to offset the carbon emissions made by our 4 person annual round trip but it’s not really enough is it? Better to just not do it at all

Don’t worry about it. Your contribution is small in the scheme of things and seeing family is important.

SleepWarrior Thu 16-Jan-20 15:48:10

But if trips home are instead of a lovely holiday wouldn't you just end up spending your time/money on actual holidays once you moved back? Or would you limit yourself to more local holidays that don't involve flying?

It seems quite a drastic solution but I can't deny people do fly way too much. Do you have kids in school who would get uprooted?

BeepOpsiePie Thu 16-Jan-20 16:04:36

I live abroad but only a 1hr flight from the UK and I get the whole 'flight guilt' thing from time to time too, as we go back about 3 times a year. The only solution would be to move back or never visit, both of which are massive upheavals to your life and your family's life, all for what is a tiny drop in the ocean in the grand scheme of things.

My husband literally took 80 flights last year because his job demanded it (a situation he wasn't happy about) and this is really common practice in some industries. So if I decided to move back home for this reason, completely changing mine and my family's lives for decades to come, the impact would amount to nothing more than the impact of one businessman cutting down on his flights for a few months.

(BTW his employer sends their employees on training courses abroad all the time with almost everyone on the course having flown in from various European offices, this seems really irresponsible as I can't see why they can't just offer a number of smaller courses locally, do it virtually etc. Corporate travel has a lot to answer for!)

What I might do though is get the train back to the UK more in future as I'm only in Europe, so that's an option for us, just not very practical right now with two very young children.

But yes it's an interesting question. Looking at it from a philosophical/ethical point of view I do wonder if people should avoid migrating if it entails a large amount of carbon emissions. Does flying to see family count as more 'worthy' than flying to go on holiday? Is there an ethical hierarchy of reasons to fly? (e.g. emergency medical treatment/repatriation, visiting family, leisure, inessential business travel, etc) Should everyone else cut down on their holidays abroad while we get a free moral pass to continue flying as long as it's in the name of visiting family? I really don't know!

Sgtmajormummy Thu 16-Jan-20 16:08:47

Offset it by sponsoring a new forest etc. that’s what factories do.

IJumpedAboardAPirateShip Thu 16-Jan-20 16:17:35

@SleepWarrior yes we would travel within the U.K. and Europe by train for holidays if we moved home.

@Sgtmajormummy we already do this

IJumpedAboardAPirateShip Thu 16-Jan-20 16:22:06

@BeepOpsiePie yes I think it’s interesting too - whenever those threads pop up about flying and you get the exits brigade saying well I live abroad so I don’t have a choice...we do all ultimately have the choice don’t we? We CAN choose not to visit home or to change jobs or whatever it’s just that sometimes those choices aren’t great ones.

FWIW I want to go home anyway but my reasons are very much based around homesickness whereas we have a better quality of life here but the climate crisis does loom heavily in my consciousness. I have done my grieving over realising I won’t get to travel to places in the world I really wanted to see but can’t face not going home ever or much less frequently.

ItsJustTheOneSwanActually Fri 17-Jan-20 18:37:49

We've got no kids so I figure that offsets our flights - only every couple of years anyway

We generally holiday by car in the country we live

BritWifeinUSA Sat 18-Jan-20 04:54:24

We also have no children and I work from home full-time so that’s one less car on the road commuting every day. My husband is a house-husband. My husband is American and I can’t just “change jobs and go home”. He is ineligible for a UK visa (criminal record from many years ago) and even if we could move back to the UK we would be traveling back here regularly as all of his side of the family are here. Or they would be coming to see us, either way someone would be flying.

I do think there is some element of myth about climate change. I don’t think temperatures are rising in an unusual fashion. The planet constantly goes through phases of heating and cooling. Also, we have equipment and instruments now that measure far more accurately than before. Maybe temperatures were higher 200 years ago when the readings were only as good as the eyesight of the person with the thermometer.

Danetobe Sat 18-Jan-20 14:28:20

You sound like you're doing as much as you can to mitigate your CO2 impact. The only other options would be to not take the flights which would be pretty heart wrenching.

I believe the temperature from years ago is measured via chemical analysis of air bubbles in arctic ice and the form of the ice itself (the ratio of different oxygen isotopes indicates the temperature of the air when the water froze), among other techniques. Im fairly sure its not down to thermometer accuracy.

Danetobe Sat 18-Jan-20 14:30:17

*When the ice formed - not the water froze

IJumpedAboardAPirateShip Sat 18-Jan-20 15:11:34

@BritWifeinUSA ok in your situation yes moving home would result in the same situation you’re in now so that’s fair enough. Don’t agree with your climate change denial though, it’s not just about temperatures where you live rising - surely you DO a see the knock on effect of extreme weather conditions, the decimation of biodiversity on land and in the oceans too? You don’t need to be a scientist to see how quickly weather patterns have changed and become more extreme even in the last 5 years? I live in Southern California, the fires here get worse and worse every year

We do offset where we can - we have solar panels and an electric car (not sure we could do either at the moment if we moved home?) and I eat a plant based diet (but also because american cheese is shit and their attitude towards farm animals is appalling) but just one flight a year mitigates that....

Davros Sat 18-Jan-20 18:22:04

I have many expat/immigrant friends and the number of flights they take per family is obscene. It needs to taken into serious consideration when people decide where to live. We take one European flight per year x 3 if that. We are not doing it this year

MangoFeverDream Sun 19-Jan-20 19:21:52

the decimation of biodiversity on land and in the oceans too

This has little to do with climate change and more a function of poor land management and overpopulation.

Even if you’d stop climate change (you won’t but for arguments sake) you’d still have these kinds of problems!!

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