I've got a friend who's currently travelling around the US visiting collaborators, attending conferences, giving talks, and building a giant carbon footprint. Considering our planet is on the verge of a climate apocalypse, a part of me is genuinely annoyed at him - there is no way the Earth can accommodate 8 billion people who lives like he does, which burdens the rest of us have to compensate for his lifestyle.

On the other hand, these things are kind of integral to the academic experience, and they are very helpful (necessary?) to getting a job/funding. In fact, other academics might very well expect you to do these things, e.g. Shinichi Mochizuki was criticized for not visiting other institutions to convince the world his proof of the abc conjecture is correct.

Is there a way to be an academic without also helping push our planet over the climate cliff?

  • Even if all your premises are all taken to hold, this does not seem like a predicament specific to academia (and hence likely to be closed).
    – Ben
    May 26, 2023 at 8:34
  • 1
    @Ben most non-academic jobs do not involve heavy travel.
    – Allure
    May 26, 2023 at 8:44
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    Have you heard of the "traveling salesman problem"? The traveling salesman was not an academic job :). In the end all of this depends on the transport infrastructure, like high speed electric railways.
    – Dr. Snoopy
    May 26, 2023 at 9:21
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    @AnderBiguri People who reduce their CO2 footprint realize that their actions on their own will not make a difference, but they hope that it will show others that it is possible, and encourage others to do the same. They often do vote and campaign like you say as well. If they were campaigning to reduce air travel while using air travel all the time themselves, people would not be convinced by them.
    – gib
    May 29, 2023 at 8:35
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    @AnderBiguri "If all academics stop traveling, will it have a measurable impact in global warming? almost surely no". Well, if all academic travel stopped tomorrow, it would certainly have an impact: not for the direct emissions, but for the media exposure and the other changes that it would inspire.
    – a3nm
    Sep 22, 2023 at 6:50


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