March 2019 Update

First, with Nives Dolšak and Aseem Prakash from the University of Washington, the #flyingless co-organizers Joe Nevins and Parke Wilde published an op-ed in The Hill this month.

To some extent, universities already recognize that they need to act on climate change. Following the initial University Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments more than a decade ago, there are now more than 600 university climate leadership commitments, of which 372 appear to promise some sort of “carbon neutrality” by 2050. The related university reports are full of admirable measures on recycling, food service, building codes and electricity efficiency. But these commitments neglect critical sources of university-related emissions such as aviation….

 

Some might say that academic travel has so little impact on climate change and the cost of curbing it is not worth the damage it might inflict on research. This is a self-serving position which undermines the moral commitment of academia to fight climate change. Every group that is asked to reduce carbon emissions probably believes that their activities are too important — either for their own survival or for humanity — to sacrifice at the altar of climate change. If people in Appalachia or the Navajo nation in Arizona, which face extreme poverty, are asked to sacrifice their livelihoods in the coal industry, what moral right do academics have to disavow their moral responsibility of responding to the climate crisis?

Second, from the inspiring and informative presentation by Dr. Kim Nicholas of Lund University at our February 2019 webinar, we have the full slides and video of selected highlights.

Third, we celebrate reaching 600 academic supporters for our #flyingless petition initiative. On our Twitter feed @flyingless, you can find links to dozens of new developments each week in aviation policy, personal experiences with ground travel, climate research, university sustainability, and #ClimateAction. Please continue to share this initiative widely.

Feb 7 2019 #flyingless webinar (with Dr. Kim Nicholas)

Agenda:

  • Welcome
  • Dr. Kim Nicholas, Ph.D., Lund University: “Innovations and progress in flying less.”
  • Network update: (a) inviting academic supporters for the #flyingless petition initiative, (b) brief reports on what you have been doing and how we can help publicize.
  • Closing

Notes: webinar will be recorded to allow future viewing. See flyingless.org for information about the petition initiative, a list of academic supporters, and frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Mechanics: We have found cross-continental conversation is easy and convenient, but with a couple quirks. WebEx login is enabled 15min in advance, allowing time to test audio. In our experience, best audio options are headphones/mic with good internet connection or convenient telephone call-in number (built in laptop speaker/mic sometimes less effective). To avoid echo, have only one mic open in a room, and place mic where it does not pick up too much audio from speakers. Use on-screen mute function when not speaking (and also pls be understanding if we might need to mute folks when not speaking). For any trouble-shooting, if your audio is not working, use the on-screen text chat function and another participant may be able to help.

Hosted by Parke E. Wilde

Feb 7, 2019.

Thursday 12:00 pm | 1 hour | (UTC-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)

Meeting number: 735 876 716

Password: 3TGhjR82

https://tufts.webex.com/tufts/j.php?MTID=m4585371fb4b8041ac170b99e5e86c75a

 

Join by video system

Dial 735876716@tufts.webex.com

You can also dial 173.243.2.68 and enter your meeting number.

 

Join by phone

+1-617-627-6767 US Toll

Access code: 735 876 716

 

A photo from our more informal social event Dec 30 with people in the U.S., UK, Finland, New Zealand, and Sweden (also including Kim Nicholas). video here

dec30nicholas

 

Join us for #FlightFree2019 Social Dec 30

Let’s have some fun. Please join us for a short global online social event December 30, 20:00-20:45 GMT (3pm-3:45pm eastern U.S.; 9pm-9:45pm in Western Europe; early morning in New Zealand).

Our plan is to catch up with some old online friends, meet some new friends, pour some wine or other beverages, and take turns proposing toasts to some of the heroes for the planet in 2019.

Theme. Building on the viral hashtags #flygfritt2019 and #FlightFree2019, we especially celebrate and encourage people who are making a new years resolution. The idea is to generate energy within our circle of committed friends at this social event Dec 30, planting the seed for bubbling conversations at our separate New Year’s Eve parties in the wider world the following night.

The webinar. With no planning required on your part, it is sufficient to follow the WebEx link below (may require approving a free software installation if it is your first time on the platform). Password is FlightFree2019. The agenda will be a series of toasts, brief words of greetings, and expressions of hope for 2019.

The wider conversation. At the same time, for multi-directional side conversations (like the chatter around the room at a cocktail party even while the MC is blabbering), let’s use hashtag #FlightFree2019 on Twitter. This may have the side effect of building momentum for New Years Eve social media the next day.

What if the party gets too big for the webinar? This may be a small gathering, where we all can talk at length. If it gets larger, I will try to note who has joined the webinar, and will do my best to serve as MC, calling on the next person for greetings and toasts in turn. It seems unnecessary to plan the agenda more formally than this. However, if it should happen that this invitation spreads, and sufficiently many people join the meeting to keep everybody from getting a chance to talk, use the chat function in WebEx and also the side Twitter conversation to offer additional comments. We can go back later and read all the threads.

Mechanical details. I will open the WebEx link 15 minutes early. If your link works and you are troubleshooting audio, use the chat window function and folks will help you. Please use the mute button whenever you are not speaking, to limit background noise. With apologies, I may also need as host to mute people if there are audio difficulties. If I do this, you can still use the raise your hand button and unmute yourself later. If possible, plan for internet access with high bandwidth. For audio, note multiple convenient WebEx options. In my experience, the best audio options are (1) telephone call-in number and (2) earphones/mic headset with good internet (but internal laptop mic has been less successful). If multiple people are in the same room, it is great if each has their own video link (because one-face-per-camera is best for seeing facial expression by webinar), but be sure to have only one audio link unmuted in each room (to avoid echo).

Broader initiatives. For personal resolutions, see Twitter #flygfritt2019 and #FlightFree2019. There is a link (in English) to record your new year’s resolution for 2019. A great site with inspiring examples of people walking the talk is noflyclimatesci.org. Following the principle that personal resolutions are insufficient on their own, and coordinated advocacy is essential, see also our initiative for institutional change in academic communities flyingless.org, including petition, FAQ, and list of academic supporters.

Personal touches. We are experimenting and learning to provide webinar formats with more of the personal warmth and nuance of in-person meetings. For example, at in-person meetings we share the same food and drink. One person has already shared to the Twitter thread a recipe for vegan holiday cookies. I myself was planning to toast with a red wine from Rioja in Spain (a beloved place that I cherish in reminiscence during these years of not flying), so feel free to join me in this if it appeals to you. Also, to give a sense of place (in contrast with traditional webinars that always have an indoors office background), I will take a couple photos outside that day for possible screen-sharing, and will briefly point the webcam outside the window of our suburban Massachusetts street, and you all may do likewise if you want (I recognize it is night time in Europe).

WebEx Links:

#FlightFree2019 Social

Hosted by Parke E. Wilde

Sunday Dec 30 2:45 pm | 2 hours | (UTC-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)

Meeting number: 736 621 736

Password: FlightFree2019

Agenda: Social event to share the word about #flyingless initiative (flyingless.org) and kick off conversations about #FlightFree2019 resolutions at New Years Eve parties around the world the next night.

https://tufts.webex.com/tufts/j.php?MTID=m1b6670442ab51cdf63fd676ccf05de87

 

Join by video system

Dial 736621736@tufts.webex.com

You can also dial 173.243.2.68 and enter your meeting number.

 

Join by phone

+1-617-627-6767 US Toll

Access code: 736 621 736

Learning new languages: “Skolstrejk for Klimatet”

This fall, we find our minds occupied with new terminology from Nordic countries.

On Twitter, where the translate function is quite impressive, we read in English and Finnish from @AarneClimate about the national initiative to adapt fossil fuels consumption, including through the remarkable work of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, and also about fly fishing as an ongoing metaphor for appreciating the simple delights of our own local communities.

From Sweden we follow the hashtags  (“I stay on the ground”), #flygskam (“flying shame”), and #flygfritt2019 (a fast-growing viral grassroots movement to not fly in 2019, recently covered by the BBC), as well as the memorable slogan (readable in English without translation) “Skolstrejk for Klimatet” from 15-year-old Greta Thunberg . Greta, a living rebuttal to the claim that one must fly by airplane to advocate effectively for climate action, writes in the Guardian this week, “The adults have failed us. And since most of them, including the press and the politicians, keep ignoring the situation, we must take action into our own hands, starting today.”

In Denmark, 650 academics (surely an astonishing fraction of the national academic workforce) have signed an open letter on university greenhouse gas emissions, including from flying, which we quote at length (eloquent in translation, and we can just imagine the original):

If we do not start a global transition to a greener society immediately the consequences will be catastrophic.

Though many researchers at Danish universities are highly active in the debate on climate change, there is at present no ambitious climate agenda across these establishments. With this letter, we strongly encourage the university management to immediately develop and implement a series of far-reaching policies to drastically reduce the universities’ carbon emissions.

The universities have a particularly heavy responsibility with regard to the implementation of an ambitious climate agenda, for three main reasons.

  • Firstly, researchers contribute to a particularly high degree of carbon emissions, especially by using air transport to travel to conferences. High emissions offer an equally large potential for reducing the researchers’ climate footprint.
  • Secondly, scientific authority is a key topic in the fight against climate skepticism. Researchers cannot expect to be taken seriously in the debate on climate change if they do not themselves implement the measures they propose. We have to put our own house in order first if we want others to listen.
  • Thirdly, the universities are ideally suited to lead the fight against climate change by developing and testing innovative, interdisciplinary and evidence-based measures for reducing carbon emissions. If new solutions are not developed at the universities, where else should they come from?

Like any other large company, the universities have an obligation to assume their share of social responsibility towards their employees and the environment.

At Lund University, where she teaches in Sweden, American scholar Kim Nicholas this fall received funding for a new research project on the rise of the social movement to stay on the ground. And, at Uppsala University in Sweden, the prominent British climate scientist and non-flyer Kevin Anderson continues his research and untamed public speaking (here is a video about his summer journey by bicycle).

One plank of our #flyingless platform is that our university communities should revisit their vision for international cultural exchange, seeking to accomplish more cross-cultural understanding with radically fewer flights, through longer and more meaningful international travels.

Really. Just think about it. What would be the point of a short academic or student visit by airplane to Scandinavia or Finland in search of cross-cultural insight, unless one is willing to truly open one’s heart to a contemporary Nordic concept such as #flygskam?

For more information about our #flyingless initiative, see the original petition textFAQ, and list of 535 academic supporters. Academics who wish to be listed may write us at academicflyingpetition@gmail.com.

 

Fall 2018 #flyingless update

Here is a brief status report on our #flyingless initiative:

  • AASHE webinar. We helped organize a webinar for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) titled “The Climate-Friendly Global Academic Conference with a Human Touch.” Here are links to the webinar description and YouTube video. The wonderful speakers were Ken Hiltner (UCSB), Melissa Tier (Swarthmore), Richard Parncutt (Uni Graz), and Tina Woolston (Tufts). The webinar offers an inspiring array of methods for organizing long-distance conferences while preserving much of what is essential and delightful about in-person connections.
  • Speaking tour Michigan (Oct 31-Nov 1) and Ithaca, NY (Nov 2). Co-organizer Parke Wilde this week is taking his second Amtrak speaking tour of the year, this time to Michigan and upstate New York. In these years of not flying, it is a precious thing to meet friends in person. Please come say hello!
    • Lecture/Discussion about the 2018 Farm Bill. 11am-noon, Wed Oct 31. Michigan State University, Food Science Building 206. Lansing, MI.
    • Cost-effectiveness of sugar sweetened beverage taxes from a stakeholder perpsective. 4pm-5pm, Wed Oct 31. Michigan State University, Anthony 1135. Lansing, MI.
    • Innovations in Global Low-Carbon Academic Conferencing with a Human Touch. 10:30am-11am, Thurs Nov 1. University of Michigan, CSRB 2424. Ann Arbor, MI.
    • Cost-effectiveness of sugar sweetened beverage taxes from a stakeholder perpsective. 1:30pm-2:30pm, Fri Nov 2. Cornell University University, Warren 401. Ithaca, NY.
  • Petition update. This initiative originally got organized in 2015 around a petition to universities and professional associations, asking them to set reasonable goals and measure progress toward flying less (and yet recognizing the need to meet the critical purpose of a university in our struggling world). The online petition site now has 1451 supporters. For purposes of communicating with university leaders, we keep a list more specifically of academics, now with 514 academic signers. Look through the list! If you would like to have your name added as an academic, write academicflyingpetition@gmail.com.
  • Other links. See the modest proposal from Michael Kraus in Medium, reflection by Leor Hackel and Gregg Sparkman in Slate, a pile of recent activity from Stay Grounded, a people’s rebellion from Monbiot in the Guardian, and a hundred more interesting links from our Twitter feed @flyingless. Keep in touch!

The Climate-Friendly Global Academic Conference with a Human Touch

September 12 @ 3:00 pm – 4:20 pm EDT

Cultural Anthropologists Are Helping to Build the Low-Carbon Path

By Joseph Nevins

An exciting, low-carbon academic conference will begin in a few days. Organized by the Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA), a section of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), the title (and theme) of the biennial meeting is Displacements. These include, according to the conference website, “episodes of profound political upheaval, intensified crises of migration and expulsion, the disturbing specter of climatic and environmental instability, countless virtual shadows cast over the here and now by ubiquitous media technologies.”

Scheduled to take place April 19-21, #Displace18 is the first time that the biennial meeting will be a virtual gathering. “Air travel is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and one of the chief ways that an academic livelihood contributes to carbon pollution,” the SCA explains. “We are exploring the virtual conference format with the ideal of carbon-neutral activity in mind.”

According to Jerome Whitington, a visiting professor of anthropology at New York University, the no-flying conference emerges not only out of climate change concerns, ones related to a marked increase in interest in ecological matters among cultural anthropologists over the last decade or so. It also grows out of a new generation of cultural anthropologists eager to experiment with alternative ways of interacting and disseminating knowledge and ideas like open source and new media formats.

Before it has even begun, #Displace18, a conference co-sponsored by the Society for Visual Anthropology, has already succeeded, it seems. As of this writing, there are 48 local nodes around the world where attendees and participants in the conference will gather “to watch portions of the conference together, and in many cases host their own workshops, dialogues, and local events.” The locations range from Addis Ababa, Bangalore, Cartagena, and Seattle to Copenhagen, Lima, Montreal, and Quetzaltenango. According to Whitington, the geographical diversity of participants constitutes a marked increase over previous, in-person SCA meetings. And with over 330 registrants thus far, the number of participants has also grown considerably.

Beyond the Displacements gathering, Whitington points to the need for the SCA to engage its members in serious, far-reaching discussions—ones that he is charged with helping to organize and facilitate in his role as the SCA’s “Climate Liaison.” While there have been no formal or published critiques within anthropology levied against the decision to hold a no-flying meeting, some have suggested that such efforts are misplaced, that they do not make much of a difference in the fight against climate change. There are also questions of how virtual conferencing will impact informal benefits that in-person meetings allow for—for example, by allowing scholars who come from historically marginalized communities, or scholars who are at small, geographically isolated institutions to connect with people who share their concerns, struggles, and experiences. It is for such reasons plus the hope that #Displace18 is only a first step, Whitington says, that the SCA needs to “get it right” in developing the appropriate, low-carbon tools. This requires extensive consultation and negotiation among anthropologists, as well as experimentation and flexibility.

A key goal is to engage to the AAA regarding its yearly meeting, one Jason Hickel, an anthropologist at Goldsmith, University of London, recently characterized as “an enormous carbon bomb.” The international annual conference involves several thousand people, each of whom, Hickel estimates, travels “about 3,000 miles round trip, emitting 900 kgs of CO2 per person in the process.” (The SCA is engaging in a rigorous carbon footprint analysis of Displacements.) This, he argues, is “nothing short of carbon colonialism, shot through with violent disparities of race, class, and geography.” It is also, he writes, contrary to the AAA’s own code of ethics, which states: “Anthropological researchers must do everything in their power to ensure that their research does not harm the safety of the people with whom they work.”

It is inspiring to see the members of the Society of Cultural Anthropology taking this code to heart, and helping to push the discipline of anthropology in a low-carbon, ecologically just direction.

Registration for the conference is open to all. The fee is $10. Go to:  https://displacements.jhu.edu/register/

Displacement Flyer