Thu, Apr 11, 2019 - Page 7 News List

‘Flight shame’ has Swedes choosing trains over jets


Saddled with long dark winters at home, Swedes have for decades been frequent fliers seeking out sunnier climes, but a growing number are changing their ways because of air travel’s effects on the climate.

Flygskam, or flight shame, has become a buzz word referring to feeling guilt over the environmental effects of flying, contributing to a trend that has more and more Swedes, mainly young, opting to travel by train to ease their conscience.

Spearheading the movement for trains-over-planes is Sweden’s own Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate school striker who refuses to fly, traveling by rail to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and the climate summit in Katowice, Poland.

A growing number of public figures have vowed to #stayontheground, including skiing commentator Bjorn Ferry, who last year said he would only travel to competitions by train.

Two hundred and fifty people working in the film industry signed an article in the country’s biggest daily Dagens Nyheter calling for Swedish film producers to limit shoots abroad.

An anonymous Swedish Instagram account created in December last year has been shaming social media profiles and influencers for promoting trips to far-flung destinations, racking up more than 60,000 followers.

“I’m certainly affected by my surroundings and [flight shame] has affected how I view flying,” Viktoria Hellstrom, a 27-year-old political science student in Stockholm, told reporters.

Last summer, she took the train to Italy, even though the friends she was meeting there went by plane, as that would have been her second flight within a few weeks.

“The only way I could justify going there was if I took the train,” she said.

The Scandinavian country’s location far north — it is 4,000km from the northernmost town of Kiruna to France’s Cote d’Azur — as well as its robust standard of living, the popularity of charter trips and the rise of low-cost airlines have all contributed to making Swedes big fliers.

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg last year found that Swedes’ per capita emissions from flying between 1990 and 2017 were five times the global average.

Emissions from Swedes’ international air travel have soared 61 percent since 1990, their study said.

Their concerns rely on solid data: The Swedish Meteorological Institute last week said that the average annual temperature was rising twice as fast in the country as the global average.

Last month, the World Wide Fund for Nature published a survey indicating that nearly one in five Swedes had chosen to travel by rail rather than by air to minimize their environmental impact.

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