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  • Health
  • Environmental Justice
  • Climate Action
  • Economic Impact
  • Government Policy


  • Critical Thinking
  • Media Literacy
  • Social and Emotional Learning

Flying: The Ultimate Climate Injustice

Created by: Dan Castrigano
Date: Jun 25, 2021
Duration: 60 minutes
Grades: 6th, 7th, 8th
Subjects: Social Studies, Economics, Civics, History
Keywords: carbon, emissions, aviation, wealth, wealthy, rich, individuals, responsibility, poor, flying, airplanes

This lesson outlines who flies most frequently and the health and climate impacts of aviation.

Step 1 - Inquire: Students learn how aviation is detrimental to human health and well-being.

Step 2 - Investigate: Students learn how aviation causes climate change, how aviation is unjust, and how “clean flying” does not exist at scale yet.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students explore personal stories of people giving up flying and reflect on that decision.

Accompanying Teaching Materials

20 minutes

Use this google slides presentation for this lesson.

  • This paper pulls data from 70 different papers and pools it all in one place.

  • The paper can be tough to understand. It might be a stretch for some of the students, but collectively they can make some meaning from it.

  • The goal is for students to understand the detrimental effects of aviation noise.

25 minutes
  • Place students in groups of 3-4 and use the google slides presentation.

    • Have them explore the Stay Grounded website.

      • Students should read through the first three questions on that website:

        • What is the climate impact of aviation?

        • How bad is flying for your carbon footprint?

        • How unjust is flying?

      • These first three questions have two infographics each. Students will look at six infographics.

  • Students should write down noticings and wonderings with their group as they explore the data. 

  • Groups share out with the rest of the class.

15 minutes

Option 1

Option 2

Students explore the different resources above and write notes to the guided questions either in the google slide or their own notebooks. Teacher facilitates a discussion after they have had time to read and write on their own.
Teaching Tips


  • This is the story of airplanes and justice. Many of the statistics about wealth and flying will be new to the students. This lesson clearly shows that a small percentage of people fly and have an outsized impact on our planet.

Additional Prerequisites 

  • Remember that commercial aviation has only been widely available since about the 1950s. That’s about 70 years. Anatomically modern humans have been around for about 200,000 years.
  • Flying is inherently unjust because few people have the means to travel by plane. Rich people can fly. Poor people can not fly. And marginalized communities pay the climate consequences first and worst.

  • “The commons” pays for aviation - children’s learning, sleep disturbance, health impacts, and climate and ecological breakdown. All of these are consequences from aviation.


  • How to approach this subject largely depends on the socioeconomic status of the students. There may be some classrooms where all students have flown in an airplane. Other classrooms will have no students who have flown in an airplane. It is important to be careful with language during the end of the lesson. Be sensitive to the situations of each of your students.

  • There may be some pushback if teaching this lesson to students from affluent families. Many humans have come to see flying as something that is normal, desirable, and natural.

  • Be mindful of the “But what about the economy?” question.

  • Response #1 to the economy question: Introduce Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics model, which takes into account human and social safety nets and limits on our biosphere. Item #2 in Raworth’s “Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist” embeds our economy in our biosphere, with all energy coming from the sun.

  • Response #2 to the economy question: Share Energy Impact Partners’s climate tech index, “...which is designed to track the performance of public companies primarily involved in providing technology that supports global decarbonization.”

  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.1.6-8 Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of citizens, political parties, interest groups, and the media in a variety of governmental and nongovernmental contexts.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.6.6-8 Describe the roles of political, civil, and economic organizations in shaping people's lives.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.14.6-8 Compare historical and contemporary means of changing societies, and promoting the common good.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 4: Communicating and Critiquing Conclusions
      • D4.1.6-8 Construct arguments using claims and evidence from multiple sources, while acknowledging the strengths and limitations of the arguments.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 4: Taking Informed Action
      • D4.7.6-8 Assess their individual and collective capacities to take action to address local, regional, and global problems, taking into account a range of possible levers of power, strategies, and potential outcomes.


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