Navin Ramankutty

Professor, University of British Columbia - Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver, Canada
Navin Ramankutty

I started limiting my academic travel when my first daughter was born in 2009. My wife was just starting tenure track, while I was more established, and I felt that it was burden on her whenever I travelled, and in any case, it was her turn to travel to build her career. Moreover, I hated the hassle of airline travel, especially going through security and immigration.

Travel, in general, has always stressed me. And of course, I knew that airline emissions were my biggest footprint. So, around 2009, I pledged to myself to limit my work-related travel to three trips per year until my kids were older (we had a 2nd child in 2012) and my wife was tenured. But I grew to love it. Until that point, I had travelled a lot, and I used to get loads of invitations to travel. But slowly I started turning down invitations, and the invitations became fewer.

I suspect that I have somewhat developed a reputation in my field for being someone who won’t come to meetings. Two years ago I said no to so many meetings that I ended up with just one academic trip that entire year. Now my kids are older and my wife is tenured, but I am sticking to my pledge because I love the new lifestyle. It means I am less stressed. I spend more time with my family. I spend more time with my students and colleagues. I am able to more effectively contribute to my department. And while I do sometimes miss the “high” that comes from travelling and networking, I realize there are trade-offs.

I am a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Change and Food Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. I was trained originally as an engineer, but my interests have shifted since to climate science, global ecosystem science, and land change science. Today my research uses global data and models to explore solutions for sustainably feeding humanity.