How to Make Academia Less Hypocritical and More Ecological
Science and academia in general are not only a source of knowledge but also a guide to how reason can build a better society. Although most researchers do not intend to claim an ethics for humanity, they should nevertheless set an example of behavior for the rest of the population since they symbolize the wisdom of our epoch. However, at present we observe that science and technological progress, far from being a solution, are driving one of humanity’s major problems: an ecological crisis.
A recent article referring to Sweden declares that universities and colleges account for the greatest emissions of carbon dioxide from air travel among State employees. More than half of their 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO₂) released in 2017 originated from the Ministry of Education.
Ironically, climate scientists tend to fly a lot. For instance, a weekend-long annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, whose scientists study the impact global warming is having on the Earth, was responsible for an estimated emission of 30,000 tons of CO2. The Paris meeting on global warming solutions in 2015 (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 21st session of the Conference of the Parties and the 11th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol) produced around 300,000 tons of CO2 emissions. The panorama of hypocrisy is that we have “jet-setting academics” among the highest ratio contaminators, while they exert their moral authority to demand that people in less privileged groups of our society, such as coal miners, teamsters working on oil pipelines, and mining-dependent workers sacrifice their own economic well-being to fight climate change.
Researchers have different reasons for flying, but the main one is attending conferences celebrated at great distances from their workplace. Are these congresses, symposia, workshops, schools, and meetings so important for the development of science?
Nonetheless, one thing is clear: those who attend conferences and enjoy the benefits of prestige and networking reap higher rewards for their careers than those who do not. Hence, any measures taken regarding the problem should be taken globally for the entire scientific community because, as in all ecological solutions, sacrifices from well-intentioned minority will not save the planet, but in this case, it will harm careers of this minority.
No, for a science that aspires to be a worthy representative of wisdom and reason on Earth, there is only one solution that is acceptable for the present situation: the suppression of conferences. Not a mere slight reduction, but a total or almost total (> 95%) suppression of the number of these events. And this should be done not by appealing to the goodwill of scientists and academics, but by introducing rules/laws to govern the number of conferences. Governments, administrators, and politicians should think about it seriously, as beer-drinking with colleagues and feeding the narcissism of some researchers at conferences is an expensive luxury that we cannot afford in the times of a climate crisis.
The reality we are facing is a hard one, and it is not time to propose optimistic solutions that give false childish hopes to people about global warming while they keep their bourgeois lifestyles.
Martín López Corredoira (1970-), PhD in Physics, PhD in Philosophy. Staff researcher at Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Canary islands, Spain).
Beatriz Villarroel (1984-), PhD in astrophysics, international postdoc at the Nordic Institute of Theoretical Physics (Stockholm, Sweden) and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Spain)
via Watts Up With That?
May 14, 2019 at 12:11PM