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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. They have since held a second iteration: #Distribute.

The Covid-19 pandemic and consequent working from home, social distancing and closure of travel has also thrust online conferencing to the fore in 2020.

What is the plan for EASA’s NCN panels

Building these innovations into EASA’s successful existing conference format, EASA2020 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.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic our approach has now changed for 2020. The whole conference will be virtual, and so all panels will be NCN! However the platform we are using means that virtual panels can adopt synchronous, asynchronous or mixed formats - so there isn't an obligation to pre-record presentations or post these in advance - although this remains an option. Please see links to information about formats and pre-recording methods on the conference homepage.

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