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Flight shaming over climate change has some Swedes opting to travel by rail


'I'm certainly affected by my surroundings and [flight shame] has affected how I view flying'

Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

There's a new buzzword in Sweden that's causing a growing number of Swedes to opt out of air travel, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Flygskam," which means "flight shame" in English, has helped push a trend that has many young Swedes choosing trains over planes citing guilt over climate effects caused by jets.

Those who've joined the #stayontheground effort to save the planet include TV personalities such as skiing commentator Björn Ferry, along with film industry workers who've called for producers to limit projects abroad.

Air travel has reportedly soared by 61 percent among Swedes over the past three decades with the increase in low-cost airlines, according to researchers at the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg.

Last year, the scientists' study found per capita emissions among Swedes were five times the global average between 1990 to 2017.

What do travelers say?

Viktoria Hellstrom told AFP that the movement has affected how she travels.

"I'm certainly affected by my surroundings and [flight shame] has affected how I view flying," Hellstrom, a political science student in Stockholm, told AFP.

Last summer, the 27-year-old Hellstrom traveled by rail to meet her friends in Italy who had flown to their destination.

"The only way I could justify going there was if I took the train," she said, adding that it would have been her second flight in only a few weeks.

The trend appears to be most common among women and younger travelers, according to the World Wildlife Foundation, AFP reported.

The conservation website's survey last month showed that about 20 percent of Swedes had chosen train travel over air travel to minimize their impact on the environment.

Has train travel increased?

Government-owned railway service SJ reported a 21 percent spike among business travelers over the winter.

What other factors could play a role in Sweden's travel trend?

Some experts believe that while some Swedes might be motivated to take take a train because of flight shaming, there are a number of other factors that could also play a role in the decision.

Swedish psychologist Frida Hylander told AFP that last year's massive wildfires may have sparked environmental concerns among some.

Last May, the regional airline NextJet went bankrupt and canceled its operations meaning there were fewer domestic routes for Swedes.

And a year ago, a new flight tax was also introduced.

"You should exercise caution when pointing to one single factor," Hylander told AFP.

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