© Copyright – 2023 – Athletics Illustrated

British teenager, Innis FitzGerald, who qualified as a junior for the 2023 Bathurst World Cross Country Championships has turned down a spot due to the apparent impact on the climate in making the trip by plane.

“To have the opportunity to compete for Great Britain in Australia is a privilege. When I started running, the prospect of me competing in the World Cross Country Championships would have seemed merely a dream. However, the reality of the travel fills me with deep concern. I would never be comfortable flying in the knowledge that people could be losing their livelihoods, homes, and loved ones as a result.

Was she to fly in a British Airforce attack jet? Perhaps a General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper? Then, we would understand. No sense shooting innocent people in their homes and yards, whilst making their way to compete in the World Cross Country Championships.

All kidding aside, the youth may not be aware that in 2022 no fewer than 195,340 air transport movements happened at Heathrow Airport. On average, that would be 536 flights daily, to and from.

It is possible that the flight she would be scheduled to board would be in a Boeing or Airbus-made product. The Boeing 777-200LR with a massive range of 17,395km tops the list. The Airbus A340-500 with a range of 16,670km is next. In the 777-200LR, she would have been one of 312 passengers not including the flight crew. Their airline — perhaps British Airways — will not have its scheduled flight interrupted by a single teenage cross-country runner deciding not to board. Additionally, the seven-plus tons of fuel burned, per hour, will continue to be burnt with or without her.

FitzGerald previously turned down an opportunity to fly to Turin, Italy for the under-20 European Cross Country Championships. Instead, she used an overnight coach, trains, and folding bikes to reach the Italian city. She finished fourth due to fatigue related to travel.

London to Turin would be a nearly 15-hour drive in a diesel bus, which burns approximately 30L per 100kms. The environmental impact of the bus transporting approximately 55 people when at capacity is much less than a jet of course. TGV trains among others may use electricity, diesel, and gas. All modes of transportation require fuel. All vehicles, including a folding bicycle, require manufacturing, which is done so by burning fuel. Mining for medals to be used to build a bike frame, or plains, trains, and automobiles; the fuel burnt in this process is voluminous — perhaps immeasurable.

FitzGerald’s dedication to the environment is to be admired. However, Heathrow’s traffic pales in comparison to the overall global traffic transporting hundreds of thousands of people per day from big city to big city. Chicago, Mumbai, Beijing, Mexico City, Nairobi, Moscow, New York, Tokyo, Lima, Toronto, Sydney, and Rome to name a few.

One may wonder if the teen had thought about the war in Ukraine. The illegal attack on Ukraine from Russia would require fuel and environmental destruction that would compare to years at Heathrow Airport alone. There are battles being fought in the Middle East as well as in Ethiopia at this writing.

FitzGerald may not realize that former U.S. presidential candidate Al Gore, a very rich man, (Oscar: An Inconvenient Truth, 2006) owns several fuel-burning homes and flies often. Canadian David Suzuki, a noted environmentalist also owns several fuel-burning homes and flies to various vacations and workplaces throughout the world. David Attenborough, the noted voice of Planet Earth, screenwriter, scientist, and climate champion also flies to various points around the world to carry out his work.

Perhaps FitzGerald, whilst running around a rubber track, wearing a pair of rubber and plastic shoes and a kit made from oil products would like to share her environmental message with Australians in person? Opportunity lost.