Meet the commercial airline pilot turned climate activist

The aviation trade gave Todd Smith the wings to jet off and see the world. What he noticed on his travels alarmed him, and impressed him to take motion

Together with his pilot uniform on, you may assume Todd Smith is about to fly someplace unique. However he has no plans to take to the skies. Two years in the past, Smith didn’t return to his profession for environmental causes, and the one motive he wears his uniform now could be when he’s discussing the local weather emergency at protests and talks. 

It wasn’t how he anticipated issues to prove. Impressed by watching the Purple Arrows twirl when he was a boy, Smith aspired to be a pilot. He spent greater than £100,000 on coaching earlier than taking the helm at planes for the likes of Wow Air and Thomas Cook dinner. 

However seeing the movie Cowspiracy (a 2014 documentary in regards to the environmental affect of animal agriculture) kickstarted a journey of eco-awareness. “I transitioned to veganism and have become extra conscious of the surroundings and the affect of client selections,” says Smith. 

After his medical licence to fly was quickly revoked in 2018 after he contracted Lyme illness, he backpacked throughout south-east Asia and South America. As he travelled
and witnessed first-hand the affect of local weather change and mass tourism, Smith felt a rising sense of unease. 

A yr later, his then-employer, Thomas Cook dinner, collapsed. With extra time on his fingers and Covid grounding the aviation trade, Smith took the prospect to rethink his profession. 

“I felt a rising sense of eco-anxiety,” he recollects. “Seeing the airline trade need to enhance its targets, which was in the other way to what mainstream science was recommending, I felt a way of betrayal. How might I prioritise my ardour for flying when we have to collectively tackle the biggest existential threat to humanity?” 


‘I felt a rising sense of tension seeing the airline trade enhance its targets,’ says Smith. Picture: Helena Dolby

As a substitute of returning to aviation, Smith poured his vitality into organising Safe Landing, an organisation for climate- involved aviation employees. Members embody those that are employed by airways and airports, in addition to engineers and manufacturing unit employees. 

The group makes 4 calls for of trade leaders: honesty in regards to the ‘whole environmental impact of flying’; that they be reasonable in regards to the limits of expertise to unravel the problem; transparency in regards to the laws required to cut back emissions; and that they’ve a plan that accounts for this and helps employees in the direction of sustainable long-term employment. 

Smith, who is predicated in Studying, England, additionally joined Extinction Rebel (XR), changing into a spokesperson for the worldwide direct-action group. “Extinction Rebel has been a lifeline for me in constructing a neighborhood with individuals who actually perceive the truth of the local weather state of affairs,” he says. 

Aviation is the fastest growing source of emissions

The quickest rising supply of emissions? That might be aviation, in line with the EU. Picture: William Hook

Smith describes his new stance as “not one thing that goes down properly with the general public, associates or household”, so he tries to clarify his motivations whereas remaining sympathetic to the place individuals are of their understanding of the local weather emergency. 

Actions corresponding to XR and the way in which the likes of Greta Thunberg have been capable of mobilise so many on local weather associated points make Smith really feel optimistic in regards to the future – if we act shortly. 

“It’s completely doable to have an financial system that values folks’s well being and wellbeing [as well as GDP] and acts on the local weather problem,” he says. “We have to reconnect as a neighborhood. All options are achievable if we work collectively on this as a collective; we regularly see the very best in humanity in a disaster.” 

This text is the primary in our ‘job swap’ sequence. Over the approaching weeks Optimistic Information will profile people who swapped high-carbon careers for environmentally minded jobs.

Predominant picture: Helena Dolby 

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