The lockdown has illustrated that we don’t need to sacrifice academic interaction to save the planet

I like flying and I like academic conferences. I like the invigorating change of scenery; the excitement of face-to-face intellectual exchanges; the professional opportunities; the cultural experiences; the sheer magic of sitting comfortably in a chair at 30,000 feet.

At the last count, I have participated in 22 academic conferences. Only seven did not require me to fly. Of the other 15, six were short-haul and nine were long-haul. And, if I’m honest, I would like to continue to fly. But academic flying is unsustainable. A single long-haul flight emits, per passenger, roughly a tenth of all the annual carbon dioxide generated by an average person in a country such as the UK. And that is only one of the ways that flying contributes to climate change.

Until we have figured out a viable way to fly sustainably, we must come to terms with this reality. If we’re serious about saving the environment and bringing about some measure of social justice, we simply have to change our ways.

It is here that the global pandemic comes in, with its lesson that virtual conferences can work perfectly well. It is a lesson that we must all learn – including the globe-trotting, masters-of-the-universe types.

Read more : Adnan Ajšić : Times Higher Education : 25 July 2020