Apparently I’m an environmental scourge…

I’ve had a rather strange, name-calling email from someone due to the site’s Cheap Flights Guide and FlightChecker, which successfully show people how to get the cheapest flights.

While I believe environmental concerns are important, so is protecting the pounds in peoples’ pockets. And the clue to this site’s priorties lies at the top of every page: “Money Saving Expert”. That means our key concern is showing people how to do what they want to do for less.

The ‘Complaint’

While not the first to send such an email is certainly the most vituperative. Before I explain my viewpoint on this I thought you’d like to read the unedited email and make your own mind up. It’s worth noting this was titled “formal complaint”, whatever that means.


    “Dear Martin Lewis,

    I want to bring to your attention the fact that by advertising cheap flights, you are encouraging people to get on a plane. By doing so you are generating a considerable amount of carbon emissions. I would expect in the hundreds of thousands of tonnes.

    Global warming is responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and affects 300 million people. (Source)

    Indirectly, and probably without even thinking about it, you are responsible for some of these deaths and the deaths that will occur in the future which are likely to be in the billions.

    If we do not stabilize global temperatures at 2 degrees and reduce emissions by 90% in the developed world by 2030, mankind ‘s population may decrease from 9 billion people in 2050 to 1 billion in 2100 according to scientist James Lovelock. If you want to find out more about the current situation and expectations about the future, I would very much like you to read my two articles on the topic on:

    http://www.ecochanges.co.uk/educational/education/interaction.html
    http://www.ecochanges.co.uk/educational/education/global_warming.html

    I have added you to my “prick list or the imbeciles who are encouraging global warming” on my blog: http://environmentalthinker.blogspot.com/2009/07/prick-list-or-imbeciles-who-are.html – but I am more than happy to take you off if you stop recommending £1 flights to people.

    I like your work and I think it’s great to try to save people money but I really think you need to take an ethical position on just how far you are willing to go to save people money.

    Regards,

    Alexander Deidier”

My Response

Mr Deidier isn’t the first person over the years to bring this up, and some of it, I think, is valid (the prick bit I won’t go into!), so for that reason I’ve left his links.

However, as I have said many times before (and I’m quoting the carbon offsetting and cheap flights guides here)…

“It’s my hope that using the Cheap Flights guide, people will fly more cheaply, but not necessarily more often. If you’ve saved serious cash (or even just a little), then it’s worth considering carbon offsetting your flight”

And this is the key; we all have a choice of how often we fly, but if people are going to fly my job – and this site’s – is about showing them how to do it as cheaply as possible.

We live in a world of choice, a world where we are constantly educated both at school and through the media about the environment. We know how good or how bad flying is, and it’s something I genuinely think people are aware of when they decide to fly, though some (i’m not one) don’t believe it (see Is Global Warming Happening? poll results)

Why should flying be the preserve of the rich?

However, I think it’s incumbent on us all to remember that the growth of cheap flights has been one of the wonderful democratisations of our society, it has opened up travelling and a wider worldview to millions of people who previously wouldn’t have seen much further than the end of their street.

While by the sound of it this particular environmental warrior has an absolutionist view of flying, i.e. nobody should do it – that’s not a viewpoint that I can accept. I think flying is a wonderful thing, it’s meant a narrowing of world, and a bridging of some of the divide that separates us.

While that doesn’t mean I think we should be profligate with our air travel, it does mean to castigate it as an all-encompassing evil is wrong. As with all things, the key is balance.

It’s for this reason I think we need to think carefully whether we delineate who should or should not fly based purely on price. I don’t object to some form of taxation which can then be used to automatically help replenish the environment, yet if we put air tickets at penal rates deliberately to dis-incentivise flying, we are doing a disservice to many.

If society decides it wants to regulate the amount that people fly, then it should do just that, allow people a quota, not simply revert to having air travel be the preserve of the rich.

So I’m sorry Mr Deidier, you’re going to have to continue calling me names, and don’t worry from the tone of your email, I know its for effect not offense.

Yet regardless, I still hope people who use this site will do so responsibly, and we do incorporate notions of carbon offsetting and more importantly not over-flying into the guides. Yet to try and deny access to tools and information that help people pay less when they do fly goes against goes against what I stand for – each to their own remit.

Comment and Discuss

Addendum PS. While its only a small change, this did make me think and if you go to the flightchecker you will see a new note in the white space at the bottom.