Tourists have been spooked by the realization that one passenger’s share of the exhaust from a single flight can cancel out a year’s worth of Earth-friendly efforts. And so they are digging out their parents’ yellowing Europe-by-rail guidebooks and trading tips on the most convenient night train to Vienna.Apparently it's going to be the next do-it-yourself acquisition from Sweden.
Swedish leaders this month announced they would inject new cash into the national rail company. They plan to build up a new fleet of trains after years of cutbacks when cheap plane tickets were luring people into the skies.In some ways, flygskam looks like yet another First World problem.
The newly coined concept of flygskam, or “flight shame,” has turned some Swedes bashful about their globe-trotting. A guerrilla campaign used Instagram to tally the planet-busting travels of top Swedish celebrities. Next door in Norway, meanwhile, the prime minister felt the need to assure citizens that they need not apologize for flying to see family in the high north.
Leave it to northern Europeans to come up with a neologism to describe a complicated emotional state. As a concept, flygskam originated in Sweden, and refers both to the guilt that individuals may feel when using a means of transportation estimated to contribute between 2 and 3% of total atmospheric carbon and to the shaming they may face should they persist in flying. It was articulated by opera singer Malena Ernmann, who gave up flying in 2016 (and who just happens to be [kid viro Greta] Thunberg’s mother), drawing the attention of other celebrities and the broader public to the cause. The summer of 2018, which brought record high temperatures to Sweden, and with them, devastating wildfires, drove the point home. “It had not been like this ever before,” says Marco Andersson, head of sales for Snålltåget, the Swedish rail company that runs the Malmo-Berlin line. “I think a lot of people started thinking, ‘Oh, I need to change my behavior, maybe I shouldn’t go on vacation to Thailand anymore.’”At the margin, that might lead to some changes in behavior, yes. Now "going green" airline style also involves more abuses of passengers and crew.
Airlines say they are taking steps to be greener. SAS, the largest airline in Scandinavia, is ending in-flight duty-free sales and asking passengers to pre-book meals so planes can be lighter and more fuel-efficient. Pilots have been urged to taxi on the ground with only one engine switched on.Not that the food choices were that great in the first place, and I've never understood duty-free, it's mostly stuff I can get along without, but still, etiolated service is etiolated service.
That airlines have offered a no-frills service to go along with those low fares (he who sells a product at a lower price knows what it's worth) and done nothing about government officials treating passengers poorly (that is, unless the passengers hold both an Admirals' Club membership and a nachalstvo-level privilege card with the security screeners) and that, at the margin, might be pushing people to the trains, where they have trains to use. Consider, for instance, how Chicago's Metra now runs six to nine car formations at weekends, where they used to run two or three cars. The expressways don't express, and the parking rates are high, and people substitute, even though the train service is much like it was thirty years ago.
But there's something off-putting about some of these newly minted train riders.
[Johan] Hilm, 31, a [Swedish] health-care consultant who was on his way to hike across Austria for eight days, said he tried to live an environmentally responsible life. “I don’t drive a car. I eat mostly vegetarian. I live in an apartment, not a big house.”Or consider a report filed by Los Angeles Times columnist Patt [c.q.] Morrison that begins, "The Via Rail train journey across Canada was not about my do-before-dying list but about the Earth’s, about seeing the natural wonders before they’re swallowed up, burned up or chewed up by climate change or humans." Read on for the dining car review.
As a vegetarian, though, I was hoping for a bit more imagination or perhaps just an understanding of the difference between vegetarian and vegan. The recurring vegan hash got a little wearisome, although I understand that it could be expensive preparing separate vegetarian and vegan dishes. As a protein fallback, there were always warm nuts in the bar, part of a daylong panoply of food and drink.I'm not sure what's harder, keeping up your virtue-signalling appearances, or attempting to be friends with such a person. That's sad, because she makes a good point or two. Consider "Canada is the second-biggest country in the world, after Russia, and some Canadians aboard were using the train as a speedy bus to commute from Manitoba to Alberta, the Canadian version of what coastal Americans call flyover states." Yes, that's the prairie province version of the Empire Builder, which will take you to what the media elite consider the middle of nowhere, and that is an overpurposed train to a resident of Minot or Shelby or any of the other places well off the interstates. These days, though, the one West Coast train across the prairie provinces exists for the benefit of the tourists.
One staff member told me this was the train’s first westbound trip on a new schedule that took us through the Rockies in daylight. It sounded nutty that a train trip that featured the Rockies on virtually every piece of promotional material I saw would take passengers through the main attraction in the dark, so if this was new, it was about time.Well, no, if it's crossing the Rockies by day, it's calling at Winnipeg or Calgary or Thunder Bay at hours more suitable for military operations to begin. But providing a second train on a complementary schedule, and connecting trains, possibly using Budd Cars, for Edmonton or Winnipeg to Grand Forks or Great Falls to the Great Northern main line is something neither Amtrak nor VIA Rail seem inclined to do, nor do the provincial or state authorities seem to want to do.
But when the European countries are considering placing environmental taxes on aviation fuel (U.S. carriers pay a fuel tax, their European counterparts do not) and using some of that tax money to support substitute services, including their trains, perhaps we'll see improved trains. It's gratifying, at least, to see government agencies thinking of their transportation assets as, well, assets.