These faculty, staff, and students have stopped flying, or fly less. Each speaks strictly on her or his own behalf.
I guess the main challenge for all of us is time. Alternatives to flying simply take longer in many cases. I live in Sweden, a country with an excellent train network and with great connections to other European countries. Still taking the train from my home, Lund, to Berlin takes me about 8 hours. A flight from nearby Copenhagen Airport takes 45 minutes. But that is just half the story. I have to work with an administration and a travel system which is entirely catered towards flying. At my university’s travel agency I often have to explicitly demand alternatives to flying, even if cheap and convenient alternatives are available. One example is the trip to Oslo. There is a direct bus from Lund to Oslo which takes about 8 hours but the default option is the airplane.
I appreciate long train rides because they give me a feeling for the distance I cover on a trip. It is also often a way to travel with way fewer interruptions compared to flying where one has to go through numerous security checks and whatnot before boarding the plane. To my that is significantly less stressful.
Henner Busch wrote his PhD thesis on urban climate governance. He has also done quite a bit of work on community energy projects. Currently he’s working on certification schemes for bioenergy.
This April, after I installed solar panels, I realized that transport was now about 80% of my carbon footprint. We heat with wood from our land in a super-efficient wood stove; we eat mostly local food; we are getting a plug in electric car to take advantage of our solar panels–but 2 flights to Europe and 4 domestic trips each year for seminars and conferences overwhelmed all our smaller changes. I’ve cut my flights by 75%, and I’ve turned down all but one conference trip, and one seminar each year (that’s the plan, anyway). My colleagues, who are mostly climate historians as well, are doing much the same.
Nancy Langston’s most recent book is Sustaining Lake Superior (Yale UP 2017), which examines climate history in the Lake Superior basin. She is now examining the decline in woodland caribou in the boreal forest, comparing the effects of climate change, habitat loss, and predators. Her CV is posted at nancylangston.net.
You already know enough. So do I. It is not knowledge we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and to draw conclusions. –Sven Lindqvist (“Exterminate all the brutes”: One man’s odyssey into the heart of darkness and the origins of European genocide. New York: The New Press, 1997: 2)
After learning of aviation’s considerable contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change (largely from the writings of George Monbiot), it took me a few years before I was able to kick the flying habit. I was too enamored with the types of long-distance conference-going and lecture-giving that only flying allows for, and the benefits that they afforded (e.g., visits with friends, trips to places that I enjoyed or had never experienced, a sense of self-importance tied to my airborne mobility) to give it up immediately. In the face of intensifying climate change, the disconnect between what I knew was right and the way I lived–and its implications for climate change and environmental justice–became too palpable for me to continue my jet-setting ways.
The last time I stepped on a plane was in 2007. Since that time, my appreciation for slowing down–not least in terms of how often and the means by which I travel–has only grown. While the decision to forego flying has changed how (and where to a certain extent) I do my research, it has also opened up new areas of interest, forcing (or allowing) me to see more than I previously did the value of engaging what’s nearby. It has also productively pushed me to find new ways of connecting with people and places who are physically distant from where I live and work. Perhaps most importantly, it has facilitated my spending more time with family and friends, and areas close to home.
Joseph Nevins is a geographer at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. His research interests include socioterritorial boundaries and mobility, violence and inequality, and political ecology. Along with Suren Moodliar and Eleni Macrakis, he is currently working on A People’s Guide to Greater Boston (scheduled to be published in 2019 by the University of California Press).
“When in a hole, stop digging”. It is obvious that avoiding catastrophic climate change will require a herculean effort by the world community. We need to accept this simple truth and get to work. The first step is to stop wasting fossil fuel on unnecessary activities, such as flying. Given advances in ICT, many flights can be avoided.
Henrik does research in advanced numerical modeling with a focus on industrial applications, such as wind turbines, electrical arcs, and chemical processes. Emphasis on renewable energy.
On account of the associated carbon emissions, I haven’t flown long-haul for work purposes since 2006; I haven’t flown long-haul for personal reasons since 1989. I haven’t flown short-haul for about 5 years, and have no intention of doing so unless absolutely unavoidable.
In my work, I am Director of the Cube Project, in which I design and build eco-friendly microhomes (www.cubeproject.org.uk). I would find it disingenuous to fly around the world to tell people about this and other projects.
Any international travel (in mainland Europe) is accomplished by hybrid car with four passengers, or by train (especially night trains).
Mike page is an engineer turned cognitive psychologist. His principle research has been in human memory, though he has a developing interest in the psychology of pro-environmental behavior change. He directs the Cube Project, in which he designs and builds net-zero-carbon microhomes, as demonstrations of important techniques and technologies.
For most people in academia, as individuals, flying less is the single biggest change we can make to protect the environment from climate change. For academic communities, collectively, a dramatic reduction in flying is the single highest-priority contribution we can make to help put our world on a path to sustainable consumption during a time of climate change.
There is a road forward toward both environmental sustainability and joyful prosperity. Through the #flyingless initiative, Joe Nevins, a team of other academics, and I have compiled a wealth of information and resources for university communities. On a more personal level, my family and I have been conducting our own experiment in living richly with a low-carbon profile.
Here is my personal testimonial. I stopped flying in August, 2014. In my academic work as an economist who studies food policy at Tufts University, in Boston, the career adjustments have worked out well. I take trains for my frequent business travel to DC and for more occasional university and conference presentations in cities as far away as Ohio and Atlanta. Because I travel more seldom, I can take a little more time for professional and personal visits at the destination. I have a system for efficient work on the train, so the time opportunity cost of most travel is now less by train than by air. I accept more conference and university engagements in Boston, and fewer elsewhere. For some long-distance invitations, I propose one of my graduate students, which has sometimes even helped the panel organizers enhance diversity by age and gender. As just one tool in the toolset, not as a full alternative to flying, I give some presentations by webinar, and I organize working meetings by WebEx several times a week. For one of my grant-funded projects (RIDGE, an initiative for research on U.S. nutrition assistance programs), I’ve reduced the flying requirement for the whole team. Emotionally, I am highly motivated to accept the small losses from not flying, when they do occur, because it is meaningful to be living out my principles. It helps me stay upbeat and focused on days when the news is troubling.
In sum, my testimony to you is that we really can dramatically reduce our flying while still achieving what we hope to achieve in our work and lifestyle as scholars.
Parke Wilde (PhD, Cornell) is a food economist at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. His research addresses food security and hunger measurement, the economics of food assistance programs, and federal dietary guidance policy. He is one of the organizers of the #flyingless initiative, keeps a food policy blog at usfoodpolicy.com, and is currently revising his 2013 book from Routledge/Earthscan, titled Food Policy in the United States: An Introduction.