I committed to a year of “slow academic travel,” i.e. no flying, in 2019-2020. In that year, I traveled to conferences, fellowships, and archival libraries using electric or plug-in hybrid cars and trains. The more invested I became with the available climate science, the less I could ignore the cognitive dissonance at work in regular air travel, particularly when low-emissions transportation options exist.
The discomfort grew when I attempted to reconcile higher education’s chief ambition—to prepare future generations to lead lives of fullness and purpose—with its tacit endorsement of industries that will likely make our students’ lives far harder: companies that extract, insure, sell, or burn massive quantities of fossil fuels.
I am a theatre historian and performance studies scholar at University at Buffalo, SUNY. My research primarily focuses on nineteenth-century popular theatre in the United States and Great Britain; the intersections of theatre and medicine in the Victorian period; and guns and gun violence in U.S. performance. I am currently writing an essay on the environmental and scholarly benefits of “slow academic travel” based on my year of no-fly academia.