If God had wanted us to fly he would have given us wings

By Ruth Jarman, Information Officer

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

I received a real letter from a Green Christian member, Christopher Lowe, the other day, questioning the list of ‘everyday ways of living gently’ in my article How can I green my church? in the latest issue of Green Christian. I mention recycling and wildlife gardening, but not the much more important heating or lighting.

Christopher continues:

Nor have you mentioned travel, and in particular flying, a source of emissions that seems to me vastly ignored, despite (a) the huge volume of trips by air and number of passengers (recent figures confirm these statistics), and (b) the fact that for the individuals on board the flight will almost certainly be their biggest single contribution to greenhouse gases. This is in part due to the effect of greenhouse gases at altitude: do people know about this factor

Both Friends of the Earth and RSPB have drawn back from outright condemnation of flying. However, my contention is that we cannot aim for, let alone reach, zero emissions without convincing airtravelers of the large carbon footprint they accumulate as individuals from this activity.

Christopher’s letter reminded me of a brilliant talk and article by Julian Allwood, Professor of Engineering and the Environment at Cambridge University, at Ely Cathedral in September 2022 where, describing what needs to happen to reach net zero by 2050, he says:

We will phase out fossil aeroplanes and fossil ships and there aren’t any credible alternatives.

I can’t tell people not to fly. In my 30s I flew many miles for business and pleasure and I now have no loved ones living abroad. Plus I don’t like it. So it is no sacrifice for me. 

But we can be honest about what it looks like to live within the limits of this one beautiful world. In the world of abundant life it is only birds and bats that fly.

Could you pledge not to fly?




Author: Ruth Jarman | Date: 17 November, 2022 | Category: Action Climate Emergency | Comments: 4

Comments on "If God had wanted us to fly he would have given us wings"

Edward Gildea:

February 1, 2023

Sometimes it is very hard indeed not to fly. Inadequate rail systems, high prices and a taxation system that encourages pollution make it hugely challenging. So why not tax ourselves when we have to fly? Match the cost of the flight with a donation to Solar Aid, Practical Action or Renewable world. Solar powered lighting in African villages will save on the kerosene burned, allow children to do their homework in better light, save the family from breathing poisonous fumes and give a boost to local markets after dusk. Genuine benefits! At the same time we should massively tax private jet owners, frequent fliers and first class flyers!

Ruth Jarman:

December 3, 2022

How could I forget insects??! Thank you for remembering them.


December 2, 2022

"In the world of abundant life it is only birds and bats that fly". And insects. It is perhaps indicative of how special flying is that it has evolved independently just four times. (The fourth instance being pterodactyls and similar animals which are now extinct).


November 24, 2022

Timely post I wish Church Times articles posts videos were not behind a pay wall, 'tho. You made the point that it's easier for some of us to decide not to fly (been there done that, no relatives abroad ...)

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