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While Greta Thunberg hitches another top-dollar yacht ride to Europe, plebs will live with ‘flight shame’

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November 14, 2019

Swedish eco-activist Greta Thunberg has managed to find a ride across the Atlantic with a pair of sailing YouTubers. Once again, the activist will make her journey on a yacht far beyond the means of the ordinary working Joe.

After hitching a ride from Europe to New York aboard a €4 million racing yacht in August, Thunberg embarked on a whirlwind tour of climate change summits and street-level protests. However, when the UN’s COP25 climate summit in Chile was moved to Spain due to political unrest, the Swedish activist was left marooned in the US.

Avoiding combustion-powered planes and boats, Thunberg’s options were limited. However, she announced on Tuesday that she had been offered a seat on board the ‘La Vagabonde,’ an ultra-sleek catamaran owned by a couple of Australian YouTubers who make a living sailing around the world chasing the sun.

The boat is not quite as high tech as the €4 million ‘Malizia II’ that bore her outwards. Nevertheless it comes with a bevy of environmentally-conscious technologies alongside its backup diesel engine, like solar panels and a hydro-generator – to keep the trip as low-impact as possible.

Just like the ‘Malizia II’ though, it offers no practical solutions for Thunberg’s legion of devotees. The world envisioned by Thunberg is one completely free of fossil fuels, and her vision is shared by the most environmentally conscious lawmakers in the US. 104 members of Congress there have endorsed the ‘Green New Deal,’ a piece of environmental legislation that would abolish air travel.

The rich, to paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, “are different from you and me.” Though Thunberg may rail against the fossil fuel titans and the governments beholden to them, giving up hydrocarbons is simply not possible for the common man. The owners of ‘La Vagabonde’ are a pair of Australian vloggers who bought and kitted out a single-hulled yacht in 2014 at a cost of more than $130,000 AUD ($88,700).

Working for several years to afford the vessel, the pair then switched to documenting their journeys around the world, amassing more than a million subscribers on YouTube, and keeping the vacation going through ad sales and Patreon donations. Their latest vessel was given to them in a deal with yacht-builder Outremer, but has a list price of $757,000.

By contrast, a flight from Virginia to Madrid – the location of the COP 25 summit – can be taken for as little as $250. True, air travel emits massive amounts of carbon, but the most modern airliners are considerably more efficient than automobiles. Fully loaded, Airbus’ behemoth A380 produces 75g of CO2 per passenger per kilometer, while most cars produce 130g.

Gone too are the days of Concorde crossing the Atlantic in three hours. Nowadays, airlines prioritize fuel efficiency over speed, and manufacturers trumpet their new, low-emissions jets, mindful of future carbon levies.

Still, Thunberg’s devotees in Sweden have coined the term “flygskam” or “flight shame,” to vilify fuel-burners who still dare to cross the oceans in anything but a million-dollar racing yacht. Apparently, it’s working. The BBC reported in September that almost a quarter of Swedes have changed their flying behavior since the term entered the national vocabulary.

For those of us who can live with the guilt of taking the most time-efficient method of transport ever devised, Thunberg’s struggles are not relatable. For those who can’t, the answer is simple. Befriend a pair of famous yachting influencers (or stump up nearly a million dollars for a yacht of your own), take three weeks off work to make a journey that a plane can do in six hours, and enjoy the satisfaction of practicing the environmentalism you preach.

This article was posted: Thursday, November 14, 2019 at 7:05 am

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