Some academics--the "Gang of 56"--have unveiled a 13-page manifesto decrying not just the immense negative global impact air transportation has upon the biosphere, in general, but also their fellow academics who use air transportation to attend professional conferences. It seems that all too many are jetting to and from those conferences not to deliver brilliant conference papers, collect novel data, form life-long collaborations, influence public policies, develop action plans to address humanitarian emergencies, and change the world for the better. No, they're taking junkets! The problem is that all of this unnecessary air travel is making it impossible to meet global greenhouse gas targets. Therefore, the Gang of 56 argues, it's essential that the transportation behavior of their frequent-flyer, under-performing colleagues be changed.
How? The Gang of 56 has launched a petition campaign that urges their colleagues and institutions of higher education as well as disciplinary associations to minimize the need for air transportation. The project website at flyingless.org includes the petition text, background material, and a link to the petition.
Here's how the Gang seeks to achieve its objectives:
- Universities, colleges, and academic groups would include flight time to measure the negative environmental impact of their activities."High" negative impact activities would require "high" positive impact contributions for an academic to participate.
- Organizers and conveners of national and international meetings would increase virtual participation. "High" negative impact activities that yield "low" positive impact contributions (READ: just attending sessions) would be absolutely Verboten.
- Professional groups would reduce the number of national meetings. Instead, they would host regional meetings. Since participants would use have to use rail or bus for transportation, the impact upon the biosphere wouldn't matter all that much.
That's all fine and good, pretty typical and to be expected of these ideological zealots. Just another diktat that will do absolutely ZERO to improve the biosphere.
Yes, for all of their sermonizing in classrooms and at professional conferences about global warming, climate change, or whatever it's called today, many of the Academy's high priests and priestesses enjoy making their contribution. Not to the profession, but increasing their carbon emissions footprint.
The rationale? It's a very necessary part of conducting academic business. Thus, those high priests and priestesses are dispensed from the very diktats they expect everyone else to follow!
Interestingly, the Gang of 56 cited a blog post of economist Matthew Kahn who addressed a proposal by the bioethicist--who is the President of the American Academy of Religion--Laurie Zoloth, who has suggested that its officers cancel its conference for one year. Kahn wrote:
For everyone who would have attended her field's annual conference roughly 90% will fly in and flying is carbon intensive but the airplane still would have flown the same route even if the attendees were not on the flight.
Additionally, potential conference attendees may have carbon emissions were they to stay home. Kahn continued:
So, I actually would conjecture that the aggregate carbon footprint of holding the conference is lower than if the same people stay home. Again, I'm valuing the carbon footprint from flying at zero because the same planes would have flown even without the conference. I realize that this point can be debated.
Why? More fitful and pristine office biospheres for a few days or perhaps even a week.
Let the discussion begin...
To read the manifesto, click on the following link: