Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

An open letter to my liberal friends

I have friends all over the political spectrum. Some of my friends have other of my friends on blocklists. I’ve seen the most antagonistic yelling between people I know on twitter many a time. I recently sat and chatted to an older friend who said stuff that would make my more liberal friends spontaneously combust (they meant well…attitudes change over the generations). When I was young (teenage) i was VERY left wing. Now…I describe myself as a liberal capitalist environmentalist. I feel I can criticize and support positions from all over the spectrum. I don’t feel a need to pick a ‘team’.

So… Theres something I often feel like yelling at my more liberal, left-wing, right-on socially conscious buddies, but I never do it to their face because…I’m actually a fairly agreeable non-conflict person most of the time in real life. So here goes..


Now for the nuance…

If you read my blog you will know I’m a pretty passionate environmentalist, a big fan of electric cars and solar power (and wind power). I invest in a lot of green tech, and I try to be as green as I can in the way I live. This is not without its struggles. On the one hand..I am not a vegetarian…on the other hand, I have no kids, and I drive an electric car. I added it all up once and I’m definitely carbon negative. I’m offset up to my eyeballs, so I shouldn’t feel bad about my own impact on the environment. I recycle, I have LED lightbulbs everywhere, yada yada.

The thing is, a lot of my liberal buddies who also recycle, who also have LED lightbulbs, who also think renewable energy is a good idea, and also say they care passionately about the problem of climate change turn into absolute hypocrites the nanosecond there is an excuse to jump in a plane. Not only do they all fly places without giving it a second thought, they seem actively CONFUSED when you point out that regular plane trips are pretty much the most environmentally catastrophic thing you can do. To put it bluntly, you can wear vegan shoes, only ever eat avocados, and contribute $5 a month to greenpeace all you like, but if you make unnecessary plane trips you undo that good work about a billion times over.

Some stats: (source: and others)

  • A return flight, economy class, from London to San Francisco: 1.38 tonnes of CO2
  • 10,000 miles in a 1.5 liter car: 2.61 tonnes of CO2
  • Eating a cheeseburger every day for a year: 1.58 tonnes of CO2
  • Using aircon all year round:  1.44 tonnes of CO2.

Now obviously you may use more aircon, or less aircon, and you may eat lots, or very few cheeseburger, and you maybe drive a bit less or a bit more, but what people seem to forget is that every time you do a transatlantic flight, that’s the equivalent of 365 cheeseburgers. Your vegan car seats and fondness for avocado go straight out the window if you take just a single transatlantic trip. Instinctively, people are aware that flying is ‘bad for the environment’, but the true scale of it is never acknowledged. The next time you book a flight, realize that climate-change wise, what you are doing is effectively whacking the aircon to max, or stuffing down daily burgers for a whole year.

Now..I’m not exactly untouchable here, as I fly across the Atlantic myself, although I try very hard to absolutely minimize it. I have gone to GDC each year for the last few years, and gone on holiday in south America (and soon will go on holiday to Canada). I do fly a LOT less than most people in my position. I’d never fly domestically in the UK (hey..we have cars and trains!) or France, Germany, Belgium etc. We can drive anywhere in Europe. If I go to GDC I will not fly to any other trade show. I’ve never been to PAX or DICE or to Gamescom. I go to EGX, Rezzed and the PC Gamer weekender sometimes (all drivable). Thats more than enough.

And where possible, if  I can combine one of those biz trips with a holiday, I’ll try and ‘get the most’ from my flight. When I went to Detroit to visit a car factory, it was on the way home from GDC, for example. (with a pit stop in new york to see a friend).

So I’m not saying *do not fly* as much as I’m saying ‘for fucks sake, only fly when there is no other option’ along with ‘think about the consequences a bit more’. I’m lucky enough to be in the position that I could fly to the Caribbean once or twice a year for a weeks chilling out. I LOVE the Caribbean, and the ONLY reason I dont do it is because of CO2 emissions. Those two schools we built/are building in Cameroon? I’ll never see them. never. I can’t justify the flight. I understand why people who dont believe in climate change fly everywhere. What I dont understand is why people who claim to understand it, be concerned about it, and keen to do something to prevent it, think that they can ignore it when they want to jump on a plane.

You really cant.






9 thoughts on An open letter to my liberal friends

  1. Check water usage in any production. All business work at expense of environment.Otherwise it’s always at loss.Loss of nature and health is profitable and that’s the culture now.

  2. If you think planes are bad, you really don’t want to know how terrible those goods shipped to you are. Cargo ships burn bunker fuel once they’re in open water, and barring maybe coal, there is nothing worse for the environment to burn. Capitalism does not work for the environment, because while it may be cheaper to produce the item somewhere far away, it’s god awful for the environment. Unless of course governments decided to start forcing companies to pay for their externalities, but I’m going to guess we’ll have Fusion, flying pigs, and vacations to mars long before a government actually did that.

  3. Since the plane will fly whether you are in or not, it doesn’t really matter. Unless nobody want to fly anymore so the line is canceled.

    1. Thats not true. Planes fly because customers create demand. Flying an empty plane is incredibly uneconomic. Plus even an empty seat means less weight and fuel.

  4. …and this is why carbon credits/carbon tax help.
    It makes the hidden carbon cost visible in the price.

    People are great at qualitative thinking (x is ‘better for the environment’ than y), but quantitative not so much except when it comes to money.
    I do really wonder how much actual benefit the recent media campaign against plastic straws would create. Even if all plastic straws disappeared overnight I’m pretty sure it’ll make a negligible impact on overall plastic waste/oil consumption. By far the majority of marine waste is made up of fishing-related material, so a small improvement there would vastly outweigh a massive change in straw use.

    1. Well said. The obsession with straws is silly when in reality so much plastic waste comes from packaging of other goods, and waste at a factory level that the end consumer never sees. Carbon credits and offsets for flights are GREAT…but they are set laughably low, and even then, are not really pushed.

      At the very least carbon offsets should be added *by default* at the checkout for any flight purchase (by law), and force the passenger to at least acknowledge the fact (by unclicking) that they are wilfully trying to ignore the environmental impact.

  5. You can get to Gamescom by Train – I do it like that most of the time. Eurostar to Brussels – walk over the platform, get an ICE Train to Koln. Very civilised. The website makes European train travel ridiculously easy now.

Comments are currently closed.