Changing the culture of university communities (a #flyingless update)

Here are three recent links emphasizing #flyingless themes in a constructive way.

  1. The March 28 event at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden has now been posted online, and it’s wonderful. We appreciated the shout-out from Kim Nicholas for our initiative. Kevin Anderson illustrates in his own calm manner the hybrid radical realism that he espouses. Nowhere else in my academic life do I see PowerPoint slides with titles like, “Narrow thinking led to our shameful littany of scams.”
  2. Our own Joe Nevins, from Vassar College, has a new essay in truthout, emphasizing the combination of systemic and lifestyle changes. He warns against “a ‘soft denialism’ shared by many associated with the broad left and the climate movement in the United States and the West: a failure to scrutinize lifestyle and everyday consumption.” At the same time, he emphasizes the need for systemic change focused on environmental justice. He writes, “collective action and individual action are necessarily linked in the effort to make structural change. Like any project of far-reaching change, the effort to radically cut carbon dioxide emissions, and environmental degradation broadly, is a multi-front endeavor.”
  3. Registration is now open for the Global Arts and Psychology Seminar (GAPS) on April 28-29. Here are links for registration for the Boston hub, which will be 9:30am to 2pm on April 28 at Tufts University, and for the global event. As the keynote speaker for the Boston Hub, Emily Morgan, Ph.D., a researcher at Tufts, will discuss “Modeling Melodic Expectation.” In format, as a small-scale pilot, this event offers one step toward addressing a challenge Kevin Anderson raised in the Swedish event in #1 above, reflecting on the need for experimenting with new methods of long-distance or virtual academic connection that preserve the essential warmth and human connection of in-person conferencing. Join us at the hub nearest you!

Innovative multi-hub Global Arts and Psychology Seminar (GAPS), April 28-29, at universities around the globe

Graz, Austria, one of five hubs.

The Global Arts and Psychology Seminar (GAPS), on April 28-29, will bring together graduate students and scholars around the globe, especially in music and psychology. There will be integrated keynote talks, breakout sessions, and workshops, at universities in 5 hubs:

  • Graz, Austria
  • La Plata, Argentina
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Sheffield, UK
  • Boston, USA

The seminar offers a novel mix of in-person and virtual conferencing. It is a pilot run for a possible major professional conference in summer 2018.

The request for papers invites graduate students to submit brief abstracts. The deadline for abstract submission is Apr 7. Existing or previously presented papers are welcome.

The lead organizer and innovator is long-time #flyingless supporter Richard Parncutt, a professor of systematic musicology at Uni Graz, Austria. “The purpose of the new conference format is to go global,” Parncutt says, “opening up to colleagues in as many countries and regions as possible, regardless of financial means.” He suggests the conference can halve CO2 emissions per participant by eliminating most of the flying. For practical reasons, the project is starting with a relatively small number of hubs, but the “cloudcast” approach means that the number is practically unlimited: each hub transmits its local presentations live to the cloud and all other hubs can choose which presentations to include in their virtual program, either live or with a time delay.

I’m personally delighted that my university, Tufts University, will host the “Boston” hub — the actual location is the university’s Medford/Somerville campus. For this hub, the schedule is entirely on Apr 28. Tufts has a long record of great work in music and psychology, including by former provost Jamshed Bharucha and current internationally known music psychology professor Aniruddh Patel. As the organizer for the Talloires Declaration, Tufts also has been a leader in encouraging university communities to develop more environmentally sustainable operations during a time of climate change.

This event offers a distinctive combination of in-person presence at each hub and global reach across the hubs. We will be connected virtually, but the coffee in the morning, the handshakes with new colleagues, perhaps the glass of wine at the end of the day, and the sense of an exciting event in the conference rooms themselves, learning about important new research in music and psychology, will all be real. I hope to see you there!

Tufts University, Medford/Somerville Campus — the “Boston” hub.

New work from #flyingless academic supporters

Members of our list of #flyingless academic supporters have been busy!

  1. This coming Tuesday, March 28, KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden is hosting an event that poses the striking question, “Should scientists stop flying?” The subtitle is “decoupling knowledge from carbon in an age of climate change.” It includes Kimberly Nicholas (Associate Professor of Sustainability Science, Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies) and Kevin Anderson (Zennström Professor in Climate Change Leadership, Uppsala University, and Deputy Director of Tyndall Centre, UK). Of course, the event will be livestreamed.
  2. It’s time to wake up to the devastating impact flying has on the environment,” writes Roger Tyers (Environmental Sociologist, University of Southampton), in a recent article in the Conversation. “Aircraft are becoming more fuel-efficient, but not quickly enough to offset the huge demand in growth.”
  3. Supporters James Higham, Francis Markham, and colleagues also have a recent article in the Conversation, “Life in a post-flying Australia, and why it might actually be ok.” They offer counterpoints to nine commonly heard objections to this claim.
  4. Rupert Read offers an article in Medium with the title, “Climate change is a white swan.” He writes: “There’s nothing unexpected about the coming catastrophe: it is approaching us ‘smoothly’. And yet we’re doing so little to stop it. What gives?”

If you are an academic, and would like to be added to our list of #flyingless supporters, or if you already are a supporter and would like to share your recent writing, please email

Organizing webinar meeting Oct 27 links #flyingless activities at universities around the globe

As the keynote speaker for the #flyingless initiative’s organizing webinar, held on Oct 27, Dr. Ruth Wood summarized several activities of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the UK relevant for academic communities that are taking steps to reduce flying.

Wood is an author of the Tyndall Centre’s 2015 working paper, “Towards a Culture of Low-Carbon Research for the 21st Century.” In connection with its research program, the Centre has developed a travel strategy, including a code of conduct for researchers. An accompanying online travel tracker tool provides a mechanism for recording progress toward institutional goals.

“To be credible and maintain our integrity,” Wood said, “we should limit our emissions, from travel and from flying.”

In its second half, our organizing webinar also provided an opportunity for approximately 18 participants to meet each other, ask questions, share resources, and catch up on activities and efforts at universities around the world.

We discussed:

  1. Ways of increasing our growing list of academic supporters. Current supporters are encouraged to reach out directly to at least 2 new colleagues.
  2. Efforts to enhance the visibility of aviation in “Scope 3” emissions reported by universities using a framework coordinated by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).
  3. Improving the climate impact particular major annual conferences, such as the American Geophysical Union or the American Academy of Religion (which is contemplating a proposal to do something different from the usual conference in 2021).
  4. Increased social media activity through the Twitter hashtag #flyingless and handle @flyingless.
  5. News coverage in major media.
  6. Building bridges with related movements (runway opponents, fossil fuels divestment, environmental justice, simple living).
  7. And more!


Second inspiring nearly carbon-neutral UCSB conference on “The World in 2050”

by Parke Wilde

We are loving the second inspiring nearly carbon-neutral UCSB conference on “The World in 2050: Creating/Imagining Just Climate Futures.

Joe Nevins and I had prepared videos and participated in discussions for the first breakout session of UCSB’s first conference in this series, last spring, which addressed aviation issues.

In the new conference, which runs from now until Nov 14, a highlight of the first few videos I watched is a keynote talk by Margaret Klein Salamon of the Climate Mobilization (see video below). Her words connect closely with our motivation for this #flyingless initiative to reduce flying in academic communities. She says that people still “live their lives as though everything was normal…. The academy has failed to protect us…. None of our systems are working out as they should…. Each of us is responsible…. What can I do? How can I use my time on earth?”

Another keynote talk is by Bill McKibben. I look forward to watching more of these presentations in the next several weeks.

Beyond the content, the mechanics of these conferences remind us that — while it will be some minor annoyance to sharply reduce our flying — the life of the scholar will survive just fine even if, as we hope, our university communities wake up to the moral requirement of the current climate circumstance.

If this issue interests you, please don’t forget to join our organizing webinar, tomorrow, Oct 27, 2pm (Eastern US), with keynote by Ruth Wood of the Tyndall Centre.

Flyingless Meeting/Webinar Thurs Oct 27

One year after beginning this exciting initiative (see for summary and link to FAQ), we have more than 400 academic supporters!

Please join us for a meeting/webinar to discuss reduced flying in academia, as a stepping stone toward dramatic culture change more broadly: Thursday Oct 27 2pm Eastern US (7pm London).

This is a great time for a conversation and reflection on activities and goals for the coming year.
Agenda for the 1-hour meeting:
1. Keynote by Ruth Wood of Tyndall Centre. We are so excited about this.
2. Update from Chris Watson, editor of the wonderful book Beyond Flying.
3. A 30 minute organizing/brainstorming/prioritizing discussion for the coming year, which I will chair.
Here is the WebEx information:
Flyingless meeting (with Ruth Wood keynote)Thursday, October 27, 20162:00 pm  |  Eastern Daylight Time (New York, GMT-04:00)  |  1 hr
Meeting password: JtMMP924
Meeting number (access code): 738 023 244
Join from a video system or applicationDial
Join by phone
Link to Actual Webinar (Most Important):
When it’s time, join the meeting.

Principles for honest reporting on the new aviation agreement

The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Assembly met in early October to agree on measures to curb emissions from international aviation, a sector that had been left out of the Paris Agreement a year earlier.

From the perspective of our campaign to change the culture of flying in academia, I have to see the agreement as inadequate. The agreement is voluntary, relies too much on offsets in place of actual emission reductions, and gives too little attention to restraining aviation demand. The case against the agreement is summarized in the video below from FERN, an environmental organization, and in the vigorous Guardian column this week from George Monbiot.

Some environmental organizations are more optimistic about the agreement (see World Wildlife Fund Oct 10).

While readers may share one view or the other, I feel we should all agree on some principles of honest reporting about this agreement. Nobody should say that the ICAO agreement agrees to “limit aviation emissions to 2020 levels.” That is the misleading but commonly heard shorthand for what the agreement says. The agreement actually relies mostly on carbon offsets from sectors other than aviation, such as planting trees or capturing carbon. This has several implications for honest reporting:

  1. Even if the agreement worked as written, which is doubtful, the aviation sector should get credit for only a small part of the climate improvement that could result (for example, it is fair to give the aviation sector credit for the comparatively small anticipated future improvements due to increased fuel efficiency). Most of the credit goes to the sectors that actually provided the offsets and captured the carbon.
  2. Some major environmental NGOs seek to occupy a middle ground, supporting offsets but only if they are “good offsets” — meaning that care has been taken to avoid problems such as “double-counting” (for example, avoiding counting the same tree plantings in both the aviation agreement and national targets). But honest reporting requires admitting that, even if all available “good offsets” were assigned to aviation — an astonishing proposition in itself — there still would not be quite enough good offsets to meet the requirements of the agreement.
  3. Even the slightly more careful shorthand phrase that the agreement limits “net” emissions to 2020 levels is not sufficiently accurate, unless the context makes clear that the “net” emissions reduction is mostly from offsets. Pretending that lay readers will know what one means by the word “net”, without explaining about the offsets, is little better than crossing one’s fingers while telling a fib.

With honest reporting, even the environmental NGOs that are somewhat inclined to favor the agreement should be endlessly emphasizing that it is merely a first step. Any language describing this agreement as a major solution to aviation emissions serves to undermine public understanding of the need for a major culture change toward reduced demand for aviation.