Should academics fly at all?

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 29, 2023

Earlier this week, I was at a meeting to discuss the question whether my university should cut its ties with the fossil industry, or else impose additional conditions on working with partners from fossil industries. There was quite some agreement that the university should think hard about spelling out and endorsing a moral framework, and based on those values and moral principles work out what (if any) forms of collaboration would remain legitimate in the future. This led our vice-chancellor to ask the question what else such moral framework would imply for university staff. “Should we perhaps completely stop flying?”, he asked.

And then there is, once again, a very depressing IPCC report and we must radically change our modes of production and consumption if we want to leave our children (and our older selves) a planet that will remain safe for the human species. And it’s not just about the future, but about the present: urgent action is needed to lower the number of the deadly climate-related events that we have seen over the last years, from increases in wildfires to deadly floodings – that led poor people, who have made almost zero contribution to this problem, lose their livelihoods, and many simply died. So to me it seems obvious that what we change in response to climate change is a very urgent moral question.

Hence the question: Do academics fly too much? Should we simply stop flying at all?
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