Refusing to fly has lost me my job as a climate researcher. It’s a price worth paying
(The Guardian, 12 Oct 2023) My company in Germany has demanded my swift return from climate-change fieldwork near Papua New Guinea. I can’t do it.
Two weeks ago, my employer presented me with a stark ultimatum: return to my offices in Kiel, Germany, within five days, or lose my job. I am a climate researcher and since March 2023, I have been completing vital fieldwork into the social impact of climate change almost 15,000 miles away by overland routes, on the island of Bougainville off the coast of Papua New Guinea.
My fieldwork had been mired in unforeseeable problems, from natural disasters to security threats, and my employer was, unsurprisingly, unhappy that my return had been delayed by many weeks. The urgency of their request to return meant I would have to jump on a plane if I was to meet the deadline; but for me, this was not an option. I have been practising conscientious objection to flying for more than 10 years. My employer has supported me on a “slow trip” in the past. I do not boycott flying altogether, but I will only catch a plane when no other alternative exists.
This weekend, I will set sail on a cargo ship to return to Germany, travelling to East New Britain in Papua New Guinea. From there, I will cover the remaining distance to Europe by cargo ship, ferry, train and coach.