The future of Sustainable Sailing in a COVID-19 world

COVID-19 has changed the world beyond recognition in just a few short months. So what does it mean for Sustainable Sailing in general and how does it affect our personal Sustainable Sailing Goals?

The COVID-19 just like the other global crises we face (particularly thinking of the Climate Emergency and the injustices causing the BLM movement) are tied up with inequality and injustice.

Do you remember this widely reported study from March 2020? Shining a light on international energy inequality

Among all the countries and income classes in the study, the top 10% consume roughly 20 times more energy than the bottom 10%.

Additionally, as income increases, people spend more of their money on energy-intensive goods, such as package holidays or cars, leading to high energy inequality. Indeed, the researchers found that 187 times more vehicle fuel energy is used by the top 10% consumers relative to the bottom 10%.

I’m going to assert that COVID-19 was spread fast and wide by the wealthy travelling (eg skiing holidays in Italy) and finding ways to buy themselves around restrictions on travel. Yet the highest costs have been experienced by those in poverty and in marginalised groups suffering injustice.

We see the same with the Climate Emergency. It is the wealthy who are consuming disproportionate amounts of resources with far higher carbon footprints. It is the poor who suffer the greatest impacts as they live in more vulnerable locations is lower quality buildings with no spare resources.

We see something similar in the injustices that have lead to the Black Lives Matter movement. The impact of systematic institutional racism has destroyed lives and brought whole communities, even nations down. Multiple intersecting privileges have been used by White people use to hold onto and build wealth and power. So one result is that Black Lives are more affected by the Climate Emergency while also having had a smaller impact on the Climate.

If we are to have any chance of a Sustainable Future as a world then

  • we are going to have to build better out of COVID-19
  • we are going to need to make rapid, drastic changes to respond to the Climate Emergency
  • we are going to need to address the Justice and Equality issues of BLM (and other big issues of Justice such a MeToo and LGBTQIA+ rights) or face massive civil unrest that will derail the other responses

Sustainable Sailing in general

It seems to me that providing we interpret our Sustainable Sailing goals in non-selfish ways, so that they matter for others as well as ourselves then

Sustainable: Environmentally; Financially; Mentally; Physically

is going to be helpful in all these crisis.

Sustainable Sailing and COVID-19: Slow, isolated travel has the least chance of carrying COVID-19 to destinations. Travelling on the most self-sufficient (ie sustainable) yachts reduces dependency and risk.

Sustainable Sailing and the Climate Emergency: An older yacht, refitted to use zero fossil fuels, is an incredibly low impact way of living. Sadly the trend to larger, more luxurious yachts sold with elements of greenwash is increasingly detrimental in their impacts. Claims about how low the impact is will always need to be evaluation carefully as there are so many variables. Comments about the need for luxury need to be challenged as the unequal, unsustainable, wasteful things that they are with the constant need to reflect on what actually brings fulfilment and happiness.

Sustainable Sailing and issues of equality and justice eg BLM: Sailing in the UK is clearly not inclusive. The low cost and non traditional nature of Sustainable Sailing allow for a different culture to emerge. One that is welcoming and equal. I find this incredibly beautiful picture and words from Kika of Sailing Uma on Instagram inspirational in this area.

Our personal Sustainable Sailing Goals

COVID-19, especially when combined with the deceit that is BREXIT potentially has a huge impact on our long term plans. Until there is an effective COVID-19 vaccine and a large % of the 7.7 billion population have been vaccinated travel around the world is going to be subject to risks, delays and setbacks. Once BREXIT is done our freedom of movement is drastically reduced and with the huge double hit on the economy and pension funds of COVID-19 and BREXIT so is our financial future. We might be restricted to UK sailing grounds (and hopefully after the inevitable break-up of the UK we will still be able to visit Scotland and Ireland). We might need to look for ways to supplement our pensions.

Sustainable Sailing started as a response to the Climate Emergency. That is still entirely valid although given the lack of action by government it may become more of a lifeboat exercise as a way of keeping ourselves safe in what will be an increasingly affected world.

Sustainable Sailing and issues of Justice is less direct and less obvious. Can we make any difference through attempting to live as anti-racists? Through the ways we treat others? At present it seems rather weak and disconnected from this issue.

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