Activism in Times of Climate Change

by Svenja Quitsch (December 2015)

Photo by Julien B. (cc) via Flickr

Photo by Julien B. (cc) via Flickr

After our team member Mascha already shared her thoughts on peace activists flying all over the world, today it is Svenja who considers the pros and cons of this means of transportation.


While I’m writing these lines, an Airbus A320 takes me higher and higher into the sky. I’m flying halfway across Europe to attend a meeting that arguably makes this world a tiny bit better. Or so we hope.

Yep, the irony isn’t lost on me. Fleeting images cross my mind of banners at peace protests reading “fighting for peace is like f****ing for virginity”. Is that what I have done? Flying around the world in carbon-fueled airplanes to protect our future from climate change, i.e. the very consequences of such behavior. Didn’t I just lose all credibility? Any leverage I might have had to demand a more sustainable lifestyle of others evaporated in the jet stream of this aircraft? The truth is: I honestly don’t know! Others will be the judge of that.

What I do know is that I’m simply not capable of a completely carbon-neutral lifestyle: I sometimes use plastic bags in super-markets, don’t always buy fair-trade, organic cotton clothes and the water-footprint of my coffee-consumption could very well start the next water war (not sure how water can leave a footprint?). But does that excuse me from all and any responsibility to behave sustainably in other aspects of my life? I don’t think so.

Climate change will inevitably change the way resources are distributed. Yet, what happens when the status quo is upset? Most likely, there will be conflict. Maybe there’re communities out there that are so inherently peaceful, so far-sighted and considered, that they adapt to the changes before they become disruptive to their society. Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe those in power want to stay there, maybe the haves are unwilling to share their wealth with the have-nots. It is the latter scenario that I have in mind when I claim that promoting sustainability equals building peace. And it is this understanding that makes me hold myself accountable for the way I lead my life. My choice of lifestyle, of consumption, and yes, also my means of transportation. They are part of the global effort to combat climate change, a pixel in the bigger picture of our common future.

Touchdown in Barcelona. I’m here. I don’t even know exactly how much CO2 the engines spit into the atmosphere but I do know that it was a high price to pay. Yet, it’s not me who’s paying. It’s the next generation, and the one after that, and the one after that… Such is the magnitude of my decision to be here.