Household Sustainability
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Household Sustainability

Challenges and Dilemmas in Everyday Life

Chris Gibson, Carol Farbotko, Nicholas Gill, Lesley Head and Gordon Waitt

The authors engage critically, and constructively, with the proposition that households are a key scale of action on climate change. They confront dilemmas of practice and circumstance, and cultural norms of lifestyle and consumerism that are linked to troublesome environmental problems – and question whether they can be easily unsettled. The work also illuminates the informal and often unheralded work by households – frequently the poorest – in reducing their environmental burden. This important book is critical to understanding both the barriers to household sustainability and the ‘unsung’ sustainability work carried out by householders.
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Chapter 11: Flying

Challenges and Dilemmas in Everyday Life

Chris Gibson, Carol Farbotko, Nicholas Gill, Lesley Head and Gordon Waitt


Personal and business travel has exploded in recent decades, underpinned by accessible and cheap air travel. The development of rapid and affordable air transport is also inextricably linked to the structure of the global economy. The global aviation industry has fostered aeromobility – a ‘complex set of social representations, imaginations and practices as much as the outcome of tech- nological advances’, in which travel is ‘associated with all number of bodily pleasures and excitements – as well as anxieties’ (Adey et al. 2007, 776) (see also Chapter 10). These anxieties may well include the fear of losing such mobility if the debates, conflict, and rationalizations surrounding air travel and climate change are anything to go by. Travellers fear the loss of freedom and the return of constrained worlds, governments fear loss of economic activity, and the industry fears loss of its raison d’être and continued profits. Long the focus of battles with residents over airport development and expansion, the aviation industry is now squarely in the sights of those who argue for signifi- cant changes to current lifestyles to cope with climate change. In part this is an issue for an affluent and largely Western elite who account for a dispropor- tionate proportion of carbon emissions from air travel (Gossling et al. 2009; Wilkerson et al. 2010). Through its global economic role, the fate of the avia- tion industry will also affect many, beyond affluent travellers. Aviation growth has been facilitated by developments such as the introduc- tion of wide-bodied jumbo jets in the 1970s. The scale of the industry can be seen in some basic figures: in 2006 the global commercial aircraft fleet flew 31.26 million flights, burned 188.20 million metric tonnes of fuel, and covered 38.68 billion kilometres (Wilkerson et al. 2010). Since the 1970s world air travel has grown at an average annual rate of 5 per cent, approximately twice the annual growth in global gross domestic product.

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