Why I won’t fly to America

Larch Maxey: can’t fly, won’t fly
An off-grid academic has become a media hero in Britain after he refused to fly to an environmental conference in the United States.

Larch Maxey, Doctor of Sustainability at Swansea University lives in a self built chalet, and does everything he can to keep his carbon footprint low.  He had been offered the all expenses paid trip to attend the Smithsonian Festival in Washington last week to present a paper on global warming.

“If I had flown, it’s more than my share of carbon emissions for a couple of years,” said Dr Maxey. Instead he presented his paper, ‘The Future in Our Hands: Low Impact Development and Sustainability Transitions,’ by video link.

His story was reported by the BBC and other media outlets which often run reports highlighting the inconsistency of environmental campaigners who jet round the world to save the planet.

Although he denied suggestions of ‘finger pointing,’ Dr Maxey described the practice of campaigners travelling thousands of miles to environmental conferences as “the irony of our times.”

Dr Maxey is an example of the purist strain of off-grid thinking which encourages people to take individual responsibility for their energy use. Not only does he not fly, he  lives off-grid in a wooden chalet on Gower, near Swansea and keeps his cell phone switched off most of the time.

He said he has been avoiding flying for around 15 years and he turns down those conferences he could not reach by rail, bus or boat. “It’s really empowering to be able to make the choice. I would encourage everyone to think about their carbon emissions. We have to do everything we can as soon as we can and everyone has to play their part.”

In addition to his academic work Maxey is a director of Lammas Low Impact Initiatives Ltd, which is attempting to build a pioneering eco-village in Pembrokeshire Wales.

He lives independently of mains electricity and sewage in a self built house.  The Lammas proposal is for a new settlement of 9 eco-smallholdings, a campsite and a community hub building. It will be sited on 76 acres of mixed pasture and woodland next to the village of Glandwr.

The scheme combines traditional smallholdings with the latest innovations in environmental design, green technology and permaculture. Construction is planned to start in the autumn of 2009.

According to Lammas, the settlement will involve a mixture of building styles including straw bale, earth sheltered, timber frame and cob. The dwellings will blend into the landscape and the eco village will be completely independent of all mains services.

Water will be sourced from the site using a combination of an existing spring for drinking water and rainwater harvesting from rooftops. All electricity will be produced on site using renewables. All organic waste will be composted on site using a combination of compost toilets, wormeries and compost heaps. Fuel, in the form of coppiced willow and elephant grass, will be grown on site.

Construction is planned to start in the autumn.

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