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.

 

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