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Reducing EASA’s carbon footprint

The Challenge

Academic conferences have a significant environmental impact. Air travel is by far the largest contributor to the carbon footprint of an individual academic (Achten et al 2013). Scholarly associations wishing to minimise their environmental impact need to challenge the normativity of ‘academic aeromobility’ and reduce conference-related air travel (Glover et al 2017). There is growing evidence of innovative low-carbon conferencing practice that EASA can draw upon, including decentralised conferences (Casset et al 2018) and the ‘Nearly Carbon-Neutral’ vision that inspired #Displace2018 (Pandian 2018).

Are there precedents for new forms of Conference participation?

Active conference participation is now increasingly possible using web communication technologies (Skype, Zoom, Webex etc). There is growing evidence of innovative low-carbon conferencing practice that EASA can draw upon, including decentralised conferences (Casset et al 2018) and the ‘Nearly Carbon-Neutral’ vision that inspired #Displace2018. The 2018 Society for Cultural Anthropology #Displacements conference involved a ‘virtual and distributed’ event linking participants at local conference nodes (Pandian 2018). Casset et al (2018, 66), discussing the success of such approaches within environmental sciences, praises this ‘multiple site-paradigm’. The SCA model was partly inspired by the Nearly Carbon- Neutral (NCN) white paper by the Environmental Humanities Initiative at UCSB.

What is the plan for EASA’s NCN panels

Building these innovations into EASA’s successful existing conference format, EASA 2020 will include a stream of ‘Nearly Carbon Neutral (NCN)’ panels.This dedicated stream of virtual panels will allow EASA conference administrators to develop a bespoke approach to panel design, preparation, technical support and audience engagement. Convenors and presenters would pay a minimal virtual registration fee, prepare and upload their presentations in advance, and then log-in online for question and answer sessions. Online discussion threads would allow presentations to be discussed before, during and after the conference. Those conference delegates who have paid the standard registration and attendance fees would be able to attend live streamings of these panels at dedicated NCN rooms at Lisbon (or just log in to Zoom and join in from a Lisbon city bar, the gardens or the beach).

The aim is to progressively reduce the EASA biennial carbon footprint, and to widen participation to include participation by a potentially global audience of scholars for whom standard EASA membership and registration fees are prohibitive. If successful, this trial could be extended in future events.

What will NCN presenters have to do?

Presenters would prepare and record visual presentations using their webcam, following a simple set of guidance notes, and will be encouraged to experiment and innovate. Preparation time will be greater than for an equivalent paper presented in a face-to-face format.

Panel convenors and presenters would be expected to schedule a rehearsal to practice the use of the Zoom Webinar software. This would allow for screen sharing, conversation between panelists and (any) discussant, and questions over chat/mic from other participants, both in the room and watching online. Panel content and timing would be advertised in the conference brochure as normal, but Zoom will facilitate pre-conference discussion threads for the week before the conference.

References

Achten, W. M. J., J. Almeida and B. Muys (2013). "Carbon footprint of science: More than flying." Ecological Indicators 34: 352-355.

Caset, F., K. Boussauw and T. Storme (2018). "Meet & fly: Sustainable transport academics and the elephant in the room." Jnl of Transport Geog 70: 64-67.

Glover, A. Strengers, Y & Lewis, T (2017) The unsustainability of academic aeromobility in Australian universities, Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy, 13:1, 1-12, DOI: 10.1080/15487733.2017.1388620

Pandian, Anand (2018) Reflections on #Displace18. Posted November 9th https://culanth.org/about/about-the-society/announcements/reflections-on-displace18