I Have Been Invited to Dozens of International Climate Conferences as a Guest Speaker over the past 10 years. But I have never been able to accept that kind and generous invitations because I don't fly anymore, not since 1983. Here's my story:
Candidly and to the dismay of my international friends and colleagues, I haven’t flown since 1983. There is only one primary reason. I had a really bad flight out of Anchorage, Alaska on the way into Nome on the coast in 1981 as the jet encountered severe turbulence and those few minutes spooked me but I continued to fly for work and vacations. Then in 1983, I found myself aboard a small 20-passenger DC-3 pop plane flying on a clear day from Fort Yukon to Fairbanks, just 30 minutes away. But half-way there, sitting by the window over the left wing, I noticed sparks coming out of the left engine and then fire, flames. More than spooked, totally freaked out but silently, mulling if over, as the flames grew bigger and bigger outside the window. I called the stewardess over to my seat and pointed out the flames! She immediately went up to the cabin and told the pilot, who immediately "feathered" the left engine -- shut it down -- but the flames continued to burn around the engine and I felt we were all goners for sure. I was 34, on my way back from a writers conference in Alaska, where I had lived and worked since 1979, and I had a book that was set to be published the next year. I remember saying to myself, "I'm too young do die, this is my first book, I want to live to see it published."
To make a longs story short, I lived. The pilot was a Vietnam War vet who had flown planes in the way and knew how to deal with emergency situations. Using the right engine as our power source, he kept the plane steady and airborne for 20 minutes as we made out way to a rural gravel runway in small Eskimo village. We landed on a wing and a prayer, as the local newspaper put it the next day in a headline, and when we came to stop we call applauded and got off happy to be alive, and I got down on the gravel and kissed the ground.
But that was not the end. I developed PTSD from the memories of the surreal ordeal and I could never bring myself to fly again. I'm not a white knuckle flyer; I'm a deep non-flyer, with severe aerophobia and an even more severe fear of flying phobia.
Over the years, I realized that my disdain for flying is a potential carbon savings, too. But that's NOT why I don't fly, even though I work as an international climate activist of the literary kind promoting since 2011 a new literary genre term that's been dubbed ''cli-fi.'' Yeah, I'm the Cli-Fi Guy. I don't fly.
I want to close with a couple of points.Many climate scientistsand concerned citizens likeGreta Thunbergare choosing to modify their travel routines. I am not one of them. I simply don't fly for personal, psychological, phobic reasons buried deep inside my brain. And I'm okay with it all. I'm lucky to be alive, I've been living on borrowed time since 1983 and I am grateful to be alive beyond words. I continue on with my cli-fi promotional work with this small handicap and life is wonderful, I embrace each day with inner peace and love.