Beyond flying – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Beyond Flying
Rethinking air travel in a globally connected world
By Chris Watson Edited by Chris Watson with Chris Brazier, Rob Hopkins, Saci Lloyd, John Stewart, Kevin Anderson, Kate Andrews, Tom Bennion, Susan Krumdieck, Ed Gillespie, Adam Weymouth, Lowanna Doye and Nic Seton
Published by Green Books, March 2014
208 pages, paperback, 198mm x 130mm
ISBN: 9780857842091
Price: £9.99

beyond_flyingFourteen authors from around the world share their stories about how they came to the conclusion that reducing their air travel was necessary to avoid playing their part in climate change, and how they changed values and attitudes to businesses and personal travel. These are the stories of how these remarkable people found easy and better ways of living and working in a globalized world with less air travel.

Friends of the Earth: rethinking travel
Foreword by Peter McManners


Part 1 Thinking beyond flying
1. To fly or not to fly? Chris Brazier
2. Deciding never to fly again Rob Hopkins
3. Young people and climate change Saci Lloyd
4. Waking up to the downsides of flying John Stewart
5. Slow and low – the way to go: a systems view of travel emissions Kevin Anderson

Part 2: Business beyond flying
6. A green travel experiment Chris Watson
7. Trains versus planes: building a low-carbon travel agency Kate Andrews
8. Going cold turkey: a law practice without any flights Tom Bennion
9. The no-flying conference: Signs of Change Susan Krumdieck
10. Slowlier than thou: why flight-free travel is about better, not less Ed Gillespie

Part 2: Savouring the journey
11. The human engine: bicycling to Beijing Chris Smith
12. Walking distance: Europe on foot Adam Weymouth
13. bike2oz: the world going through you instead of around you Lowanna Doye
14. A small matter of distance: trying not to fly to climate talks Nic Seton
15. Travel on a hot planet: exploring the global tourist industry overland Anirvan Chatterjee and Barnali Ghosh

How to fly less

So why fly less?

Flying has for so long been seen as an elite activity with the promise of status, luxury, leisure and freedom that we’ve blinded ourselves to the impact this First World activity has on climate change and on the damage it causes not only to the developing world but to us, too. We only have to look at the flooding this month in the UK, Argentina, Uruguay and elsewhere to see that.

Flying is never zero carbon. Despite aviation engineers making huge advances in efficiency, there is a limit to how much more they can do. Burning fuel in the sky is more than twice as bad as burning it at ground level.

Since the recession, 47% of UK businesses have reduced their flying and are committed to flying less and videoconferencing more. Why? Because of cost savings, greater staff productivity and lower CO2.

Fourteen individual travelers from across the world share their stories about keeping in touch in their business and personal lives while flying less.

From commercial, professional, academic, NGO, literature and science backgrounds, they have managed to find easier and better ways of living and working in a globalised world that readers can identify with. What is stopping the rest of us, then?

The book offers:

  • An inspiring catalog of reasons to fly less

  • 10 steps to reducing flying

  • Many examples of the delights of richer travel

  • An urgent plea for us all to change our ways

  • Ongoing royalties donated to Friends of the Earth


Chris Watson grew up in an airline family, flew light aircraft and was passionate about flying, but after reading extensively on climate science it became apparent that flying less is necessary. He is an architect, who regularly writes for journals and conferences.

Personally I am a no fly person; I don't drive either and neither do I own a car. As to flying: I do not fly well in the first place unless I can wear – and I do mean wear – my own personal parachute. No, no kidding!

It is almost insane that it is today cheaper to travel to the European mainland from the UK by plane than by train and the same is also true, in fact, as regards to rail travel in the UK itself. It is cheaper to go from London (Gatwick) to Birmingham by plane than it is by train. Does not make sense, does it.

The book, by means of essays by a wide variety of people who have chosen to give up flying or, at least, to seriously reduce it, makes a compelling case against the madness of our time which is this more or less tax payer subsidized air travel.

As flying, and aviation in general, as it includes air freight, is one of the greatest culprits as to pollution affecting the climate it is absolutely insane for the aviation industry to be blessed by tax breaks, tax relief on fuel and other things, and other concessions that are heaped upon it.

I would recommend this book to everyone to gain some insight as to how flying affects the Planet and how those less likely ever to fly are the ones who are going to feel – and are already feeling – the brunt of the result of our obsession with air travel.

Considering the adverse affect that flying has on the environment it is beyond my comprehension that not just politicians but especially members of “green” organizations jet off to climate conferences and such without almost a second thought, while preaching to or even at others to change their ways.

It would appear that they consider themselves exempt and important and it is a definite “do as we say not as we do” attitude. But we, in the environmental movement, and that includes them, must lead by example and the example is to use less polluting ways of doing things.

Rating: Definitely five out of five.

© 2014