Sunday, October 18, 2015

Calling on universities and professional associations to greatly reduce flying

For several years now, some academic friends and I have been reflecting on frequent flying in university communities during a time of climate change. This is not about any particular colleague's personal flying behavior, but instead about collective action to improve the climate profile of our academic communities.

We finally have gotten organized for action and are releasing a new petition campaign to encourage universities and professional associations to greatly reduce flying.

We realize that we cannot ask academics to change their own behavior in isolation, because so much depends on the professional world we live in, including expectations to attend meetings and conferences. So, we deliberately address the petition to universities and professional associations at the same time.

Please support this petition through this link at and see our petition project web page at

In addition, supporters who are academics should email us at to have their name added to our public List of Academic Signatories. We have a great list of more than 50 initial supporters, from diverse disciplines, in countries all around the world.

Please share this widely in person, by email, and through your social networks. Follow the Twitter handle @flyingless and hashtag #flyingless or add your name to the petition for news and updates.

I have drafted an extensive Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. For example, the questions include:

  • What is the global and U.S. environmental impact of flying? 
  • Is it sometimes important for academics to fly? 
  • Is my decision to fly irrelevant, because the plane would have flown anyway? 
  • Is it okay to fly if I purchase carbon offsets? 
  • Is reduced flying an individual-focused agenda that undermines more important policy change?

You may wonder why I tackle this topic in a blog about U.S. Food Policy. Questions of environmental sustainability arise all the time in food policy. A key dynamic in U.S. food policy is the deep suspicion and skepticism that many Americans working in agriculture and the food industry have toward university-based scientific experts who discuss environmental issues. In part, academics can address these issues just by stating the science clearly. Yet, we may enhance our moral authority to speak hard scientific truths about sustainable food production if we also apply the same fearless scrutiny to our own industry of higher education. That, in turn, requires us to speak frankly about flying.

The petition is modest and reasonable, not shrill. Please feel free to comment here.

No comments: