Aged just 16 years old, Innes FitzGerald is already streaking ahead with her cross country running career.
But it is the teen’s trail-blazing attitude to the environment which is causing the biggest stir.
This week she refused her place to represent Great Britain in the World Cross Country Championships in Australia, because of the huge emissions released by flying to the other side of the world.
She said: “I would never be comfortable flying in the knowledge that people could be losing their livelihoods, homes and loved ones as a result”.
The student from Devon penned a letter to British Athletics, saying ‘the reality of the travel fills me with deep concern’ and that her decision not to compete was in ‘solidarity’ with those on the ‘frontline of climate breakdown’.
She said the decision was ‘not easy’ but she would feel worse for taking the flight – which on average takes 18 hours and 30 minutes from England to Australia.
This is not the first time Innes has taken a stand against flying.
Instead of traveling by air to the European Cross Country Championships in Turin on December, 11 2022, she opted for a 20-hour train journey from Exeter to Italy.
After the race she told Athletics Weekly: “Environmentally, I don’t really want to fly. Obviously it’s going to be an issue in the future but it’s so environmentally damaging that I can’t really justify it.”
Innes FitzGerald’s letter to British Athletics
Dear British Athletics,
To have the opportunity to compete for Great Britain in Australia is a privilege. However, it is with great regret that I must decline this opportunity.
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 was just nine when the COP21 Paris Climate agreement was signed. Now, eight years on, and global emissions have been steadily increasing, sending us on a path to climate catastrophe. Sir David King, former government chief scientific advisor, has said, ‘What we do, I believe, in the next three to four years will determine the future of humanity.’ The science is clear. Turning this around is only possible through transformational change from collective and personal action.
I would never be comfortable flying in the knowledge that people could be losing their livelihoods, homes and loved ones as a result. The least I can do is voice my solidarity with those suffering on the front line of climate breakdown.
Coming to a decision has not been easy, however little compares to the grief I would feel taking the flight.
Kind regards, Innes FitzGerald