Flying Less, Videoconferencing More (guest post by Colin Marshall)


In the following guest post*, Colin Marshall, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Washington, proposes a modest step philosophy departments can take to become more environmentally friendly.


Pete Mauney, time-lapse photograph of planes at night

Flying Less, Videoconferencing More
by Colin Marshall

Philosophers know that we should drastically reduce our contributions to climate change, and that our frequent flying isn’t helping. Shifting away from in-person job interviews at the Eastern APA was a great first step, but it shouldn’t be our last one.

So here’s a thought, which probably isn’t original to me: could departments and conferences commit to having at least 15% of their talks via videoconferencing? 

Of course, it’s often much better to have a speaker there in person, just as there were real benefits to APA interviews over Skype interviews. Informally hanging out with other philosophers can be one of the highlights of the job, and networking can make a huge difference in one’s career.

But there are some other real benefits to having more remote talks. For one, it saves money and time. For another, and more importantly, it increases the number of people who can participate as speakers, since quite a few philosophers cannot travel for personal reasons and/or find some of the social aspects of in-person talks debilitating. I’m not the only one who feels intense social anxiety at APAs.

Right now, it seems there’s some stigma against remote participation—I think many people wouldn’t see doing a talk using videoconferencing as a ‘real’ colloquium. But if enough departments and conferences jumped in, that stigma could go away. And if we made this sort of shift, it would make it easier for other academics (and our students) to do so as well. So there’s the potential for a non-trivial impact here.

I mean this as an invitation for discussion, and I hope that any departments or organization already doing things along these lines can take this as a chance to share. (There’s also the topic of what to do as individuals, such as buying carbon offsets, but it seems worth focusing on the institutional level as well.)


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Jose
Jose
1 year ago

“Philosophers know that we should drastically reduce our contributions to climate change, and that our frequent flying isn’t helping.”

If “we” refers to human beings, then I suppose we do know this. Human beings, as a group, need to find a way to decrease their CO2 emissions.

But if “we” refers to professional philosophers, then I, at least, don’t know that we ought to drastically reduce our emissions because I don’t believe it. I suspect many others are the same. Isn’t it obvious, that if climate change is to be successfully mitigated, it will need to be done at the level of states–offering penalties or incentives to corporations and maybe individuals–and not at the level of individuals, or small groups of individuals like philosophy departments or even the philosophy profession, making great personal sacrifices on their own while the world carries on as usual? Even if the profession perfectly implemented the proposed plan, it would make virtually no difference to the severity of climate change. We would be making huge sacrifices for virtually no benefit.

So we can talk about whether it’s worth implementing such a plan for financial cost reasons or to help the debilitatingly shy (neither consideration strikes me as all that weighty), but I’d suggest that climate change considerations are more or less insignificant. And this is so even if, like me, you think that climate change is a big deal and that we, human beings, need to drastically reduce our emissions.Report

Colin Marshall
Reply to  Jose
1 year ago

Thanks for this, Jose. I admit I was deliberately trading on the quantificational ambiguity of ‘we’ in the first sentence.

But thanks for the opportunity to clarify the argument. I agree with you that the real emission-cuts need to come at the level of corporations and governments. And I agree that if philosophers were the only ones who cut their travel, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. However, if we do it, that makes it much easier for other academic and non-academic groups to do the same (not least because many of our undergraduate students watch what we do), and in the long-run, that can make a significant difference.

One other point to follow up on: some of the people I had in mind in talking of inclusiveness are, as you say, ‘debilitatingly shy.’ But many others have disabilities or family commitments. I’ve run our colloquium series here at UW for the past few years, and there have been a number of instances when people have declined our invitation to talk because of such reasons. In retrospect, it seems obvious to me that we should have responded by offering to set up a remote talk, instead of just saying, “sorry you can’t make it!” Report

FDH
FDH
Reply to  Jose
1 year ago

What exactly is the “huge [personal!] sacrifice” involved in a small net reduction in long-distance philosophy conference travel?

I acknowledge that this question will come off as rhetorical; partially, it is. To be clear, I entirely agree with the central thrust of this comment, i.e., that effective action to fight climate change is going to have to involve mass mobilization. This was, I believe, the contention of a recent UN report on the subject. So, yes, philosophers traveling less is a drop in the bucket. But I have to disagree with the further insistence that this would be a great sacrifice for a minuscule reward. The average conferencing academic (philosopher) surely flies more than the average American, let alone the average human being. (I haven’t dug up data on this; if someone wants to correct me, I will be duly chastened.) The idea that the ability to travel thousands of miles in a matter of hours is now so integral to the human experience that giving it up constitutes a great sacrifice honestly strikes me as absurd. (Again, the proposal is not even for an elimination but only for a modest reduction in an environmentally harmful practice.) I think the situation is more aptly described as a minuscule sacrifice for a minuscule reward. I think this changes the outcome of the moral calculus. And even if it doesn’t, I hope philosophers of all people can reflect a little on the phenomenon of luxury becoming felt necessity.Report

Jj
Jj
Reply to  FDH
1 year ago

Well, for many of us, conferences with live feedback, discussions and socializing with people in our subfields are a huge part of what makes the job interesting and worthwhile, what reignites our own motivation for research and writing. It is sacrificing what many, though not all, find the most rewarding aspect of the work. Report

FDH
FDH
Reply to  Jj
1 year ago

I don’t want to get involved in a lengthy back and forth, but I do want to clarify one thing. I agree that conferences can be rewarding for the reasons you suggest. I also agree that videoconferencing does not afford the same opportunities for these activities. But, again, the original proposal did not suggest, nor did I suggest, giving this up entirely (or even to a great degree!).

As an aside, the difficulty we seem to have (myself included sometimes) in imagining a rewarding professional life in the absence of unrestricted air travel seems significant to me. I suspect that this kind of lifestyle creep is a contributor to the climate problem. Again, I’m not exempting myself here; I recognize the phenomenon playing out in many other areas of my life.Report

Colin Marshall
Reply to  Jj
1 year ago

Jj – yes, I feel that way myself. I always get a huge motivational boost every time I push through social anxiety and make it to a conference, and I definitely wouldn’t want that part of the job to go away.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  FDH
1 year ago

We don’t (I hope!) support academic conference travel because it’s a rewarding perk that makes people enjoy their jobs more (if that was the reason, I’d be a lot more sanguine about restricting it). We support conference travel because we think it substantially furthers the development and dissemination of academic research. So the starting point of this conversation should be the trade off between that good and the good of reducing carbon footprint. Personal luxury isn’t the point.Report

jj
jj
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

I am not sure who the “We” in your post refers to. I don’t know many people who think that their primary reason for attending conferences is the fact that it “substantially furthers the development and dissemination of academic research.” Perhaps in computer science, where the conferences replaced much of publishing that is true. In philosophy – maybe it does that. But I doubt many people are motivated by such things other than in moments of justifying it in some official statements. But I did not say it’s personal luxury (although it is arguable that philosophy is societal luxury). It’s one of the things that makes the job worthwhile to me… (and if you insist it’s perks – well, OK – I like perks that balance largely disinterested students, feeling of futility in publishing things nobody reads).Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  jj
1 year ago

Perhaps my point would be clearer if I turn it around: why does someone *invite* me to a conference (or to give a colloquium, etc)? Presumably because in their judgement my being there and giving a talk will contribute to it being an academically useful occasion.Report

jj
jj
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

Or because they want to know as you are important in their field. Or because you are their friend. Or because you are among the kinds of names that will give the conference (and so them) visibility. Or because you are among the top people whether or not you give good talks. Or because… I am sure most readers can supply many of their own becauses…Report

jj
jj
Reply to  jj
1 year ago

First sentence – because they want to get to know youReport

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

OK, we just have very different levels of cynicism about how academic research operates, and we’re not going to resolve that difference in a blog conversation. Happy to agree that conditional on your cynical picture being correct, academics should fly less (and indeed should probably look for something less pointless to do with their lives).Report

FDH
FDH
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

I implied that I think the amount of air travel for conferences we do in the profession is a luxury and I stand by that. I did not say that it was a personal luxury (I inserted the word “personal” in my paraphrase of Jose’s original comment, since he mentioned “great personal sacrifice”). I think it is a professional luxury. I agree with Jj’s comment here: I don’t personally know many philosophers whose primary motivation in flying to conferences is the disinterested advancement of the discipline. Some people I know conference because they find it socially and professionally enriching.* I don’t begrudge them this and I would not want to see in-person conferences made possible by air travel eliminated. This is consistent with the view that we can collectively stand to do a bit less of it. Philosophy has thrived in places and times with zero air travel. It can thrive here, today with a-little-bit-less-than-the-current-amount of air travel.

*I also know many people, especially grad students and junior faculty, who conference solely because they feel the networking they do there is necessary to advance their career, and would never go to another conference if they could get away with it. These folks should not feel guilty for doing so. But I take that one motivation for reducing the net amount of long-distance conferencing might be to help ease that pressure, by making videoconferencing and other networking practices into more viable alternatives.Report

jj
jj
Reply to  FDH
1 year ago

I have many thoughts on these issues. Two more: 1) philosophy happens a lot in conversation (whether or not we like it). THere is a big part of philosophy that is rhetoric (whether or not we like it). And so conferences are rather natural venue for this. 2) In philosophy – people read people they know (and of their generation) much more than people they do not know. So if you do not like going to conferences, that’s fine, but there will always be a bit of price you pay for that. I am not saying this is how it should be, but how it is.

Another issue – we are often alone in our departments or universities in our subfileds. Specialization has led, in US, to a situation that we often have no one to talk to in the department. In some ways, universities then do not function for us as our research centers (as they do in, say Oxford, where ther eare ton of people). So we need to connect accross distances.

I don’t disagree about reducing impact, though I don’t think philosophers travelling or not makes much difference. I think if states enacted stric enviromental laws for polluters that actually matter, we could keep travelling just fine. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  jj
1 year ago

Now I’m confused. This sounds pretty sensible and I mostly agree with it, but a lot of it (especially the thing about conferences functioning as research centers) is exactly what I had in mind about the point of conferences being furthering research and research dissemination. So possibly we’re at cross purposes?Report

JJ
JJ
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

I think we have a different view about how human beings operate – what motivates them and why (I think it has much more to do with basic human drives for recognition, pride, fame, fun, or sexual attractivity). You think my view is cynical because, presumably, you think there is something slightly “immoral” with the things I suggested (or because you just don’t like it). I do not think that it is cynical in a bit actually. In any case, the point is that people are motivated by any number of reasons to go to conferences and they get invited by any number of reasons of which some but not much (in my view) have to do with “furthering research and its dissemination” if that is taken to mean some sort of objective “state of the research” on a given subject. Now If you mean – disseminating “my” research and furthering “my” research, I take it that is true. BUt that is not quire the same thing. Report

Arthur Obst
Arthur Obst
Reply to  Jose
1 year ago

“Even if the profession perfectly implemented the proposed plan, it would make virtually no difference to the severity of climate change.”

A version of this thought has been used to dismiss the existence of individual moral obligations to reduce one’s carbon footprint in the ethical literature, and was met with quite significant empirical and philosophical push-back. In fact, the broad consensus is that this “problem of inconsequentialism”– my individual carbon emissions make no difference– is unsuccessful in undermining moral obligations to use less carbon.

And that was true when we were truly talking about the behaviors of individuals. When we discuss a modest reduction in our carbon emissions as a profession, that should be thought of as a form of collective action and as such inconsequentialist arguments would have significantly less grip.

I think it is appropriate, however, to highlight the potential downsides of reducing air travel to conferences, as I don’t think anybody is arguing that we should reduce flying to conferences if it came at a genuinely severe cost. Rather, the suggestion is that there is good moral reason to strive as a discipline to emit less carbon, and so insofar as we can do that at no or minimal cost we should seriously consider doing so.Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Arthur Obst
1 year ago

The bigger problem here is that air travel is sold in a relatively free market. There are a lot of people who consider traveling and make their decision at least partially based on the availability of a seat, or the price of one more trip. When one individual cuts back on their consumption of air travel, or even when one sub-industry (like philosophy conferences) collectively cuts back on its consumption, that opens up a lot of seats for others and reduces prices a bit, encouraging others to take more trips.

If each demander of air travel had a fixed demand, then each individual cutting back would lead to an approximately equivalent marginal reduction of supply on the part of airlines matching demand. But since most demanders are flexible, there’s a lot of elasticity that makes the total travel much more constant than you might expect.

If you just impose a flat tax on all air travel, or a flat price for all carbon emissions, then that fee will push the system to an equilibrium where total consumption is lower. But if some individuals on the market just try to reduce their consumption, the equilibrium dynamics will tend to result in others nearly making up for their decreased consumption.Report

recentGrad
recentGrad
1 year ago

I think going local will be another good step. To be sure, that would often mean inviting people from less prestigious departments. But I think that’s a plus. Way too many invitations go to faculty at top-ranked departments (I’m looking at you fancy person who only invites their fancy friends to have fancy dinners in fancy restaurants).

Just a random example: When was the last time that Princeton invited someone from one of the many public universities and colleges in New Jersey (well, other than Rutgers NB)? And how often do they invite people from Berkeley, UCLA, or somewhere far away like that?

Going local will help with reducing the environmental impact. Extra advantages:
(1) prestige-obsession in academia is both stupid and immoral.
(2) There are different and interesting philosophical ideas that people in less prestigious institutions have which are going unnoticed because of (1).
(3) In the long run, it will help with the job market, making jobs at less prestigious places more desirable, because many recent grad student (including myself) having been affected by (1).

IReport

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  recentGrad
1 year ago

Well, sure: *if* Princeton is just deluded about whether there is really high variability of research quality among institutions, so that it could get just as high a quality of research engagement by restricting to N.J. institutions, *then* Princeton might as well make most of its invites local. But it might as well do that just to save money: no need to appeal to environmental factors.Report

recentGrad
recentGrad
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

But how could Princeton be deluded about that? What unimaginable possibilities! Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  recentGrad
1 year ago

I’m inclined to agree; it sounds pretty implausible that they’re wrong about high variability, given the data. I’m indulging your conditional: *if* you think any given N.J. university has the same levels of faculty research quality as UCLA, *then* Princeton should go local even without caring about climate change.Report

Colin Marshall
Reply to  recentGrad
1 year ago

Thanks for this, recentGrad. I’m with you on the value of going local. In running UW’s colloquium series the past few years, I’ve tried to have a good portion of our speakers be from the area. At the same time, ‘going local’ is more of a sacrifice for some places than others. For US schools in the mid-Atlantic region, it’s barely a sacrifice at all. For us in Seattle, it’s a significant restriction – and there are other place where it would makes things much more difficult. This is another advantage of normalizing remote talks in the profession. Lots of philosophy departments are hard to travel to but are, I’m guessing, reluctant to invite speakers remotely because there isn’t much of a precedent for this sort of thing.Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Colin Marshall
1 year ago

I think the real academic value of invited talks and conferences is that it puts people in conversation with others who are geographically remote from them. If you want to do this effectively while minimizing the total amount of air travel involved, it seems to me that the right model is to host most conferences in places with large local audiences, and then fly in individual speakers from more isolated locations. Other things equal, it’s much better for a speaker from Nebraska to fly to give a talk in New Jersey (that can be attended by people from dozens of different graduate programs and departments nearby) than for a speaker from New Jersey to fly to Nebraska to give a talk to a dozen or two total people, or for a speaker from New Jersey, and several dozen audience members from other locations, to all fly to a conference in Nebraska.

Since takeoff and landing are major fixed emissions costs in air travel, it also makes a big difference to host conferences at locations with major national (and international) hub airports, rather than places where most people would take a connecting flight.

Yes, these proposals would reinforce various social hierarchies that are problematic in various ways. But if reducing air travel emissions is important, we should pursue it even at some cost to social equity. (Similarly, if social equity is important, then we should pursue it even at some cost to the global atmosphere.)Report

Alan White
Alan White
Reply to  recentGrad
1 year ago

To chime in with a remark that intends to be a little less inflammatory than recentGrad’s but in its same spirit: over the last couple decades the nature of the job market has been such as to force scores of really talented people from all sorts of programs–including lots of Leiterific R1s–to take jobs in the hinterlands, where it’s usually the case that teaching loads have a deleterious effect on research production. I know that because I’ve served on many hiring committees at my much less-than-Leiterific institution and hired candidates from places like USC and Toronto who turned out to be terrific teachers and who sacrificed their research productivity for a TT 4/4. (Although one from USC still published all over the place, including Mind.) And many years ago I was invited to talk at UW–Madison in part because, although I’m a nobody local in the UW System, some people appreciated the fact that I managed to publish here and there and gave me a shot between the talks of Richard Swinburne and Jaegwon Kim. Did I make a splash? No–but I was given a voice, and that meant much to me. And it encouraged me enough to keep publishing too. And I got to meet Eliot Sober, Carolina Sartorio, and Juan Comesana, who were good and courteous enough to actually attend my paltry talk. Report

Ken Friedman
1 year ago

It seems to me that this is quite sensible for some kinds of talks and presentations. It’s likely that we can’t or won’t cut Face-to-Face conferences entirely. For some single-session presentations and seminars, though, it seems to me that presenting over FaceTime or Skype works well. When a two-hour presentation requires an airplane trip and at least one night in a hotel, perhaps two, this offers environmental benefits while reducing costs and making life easier.Report

Colin Marshall
Reply to  Ken Friedman
1 year ago

Thanks, Ken! I completely agree that we can’t cut face-to-face conferences entirely. For most philosophers, it’s well worth traveling to engage with other philosophers in person (for others, though, traveling is extremely difficult). That’s why I threw out 15% as a minimum goal. That would still leave the vast majority of colloquium and conference talks in the traditional format.Report

Christina Hendricks
1 year ago

I have been participating in conferences like this for a number of years now. They have been on topics in teaching and learning, or educational technology (perhaps unsurprisingly, for the latter). A number of conferences I’ve participated in live stream (and record for later viewing) the keynotes, and questions are taken from remote participants either via social media or via web tools like Mentimeter or Sli.do (free if you just have a few questions people participate in).

I have participated in sessions as a facilitator/speaker while not being onsite, through video conferencing. In some conferences I have facilitated a group of people participating in a workshop online while another group participates in the same workshop at the same time onsite. This requires a few facilitators to make it work, and we have often used the “breakout room” capability of videoconferencing software like Zoom to have the online people be able to talk in small groups and then come back to the large group. Zoom is free for uses of up to about 45 minutes I think. Some universities host it, or other versions of videoconferencing software, but of course not all do so.

I have also participated in entire conferences held online, with a local group meetup who participates together so you get a kind of a social/conversation connection. Or one can just participate on one’s own.

One thing that doesn’t happen with remote participation easily is meeting people informally between sessions (for some this is a downside, for others not). I am also part of a volunteer organization called Virtually Connecting that arranges informal meetups with people who are onsite and people who are online, through Google Hangouts: https://virtuallyconnecting.org. We arrange times where people onsite will meet in a room and, and we also get people who are interested in remote participation in the conversation to sign up ahead of time. Then we chat about the conference or things related to the conference for about 30 minutes. Mostly we do teaching and learning and edtech conferences because that’s what many of us attend in person (you need to have at least one person onsite to do this). But there’s no reason why a similar thing couldn’t be done for philosophy, or other scholarly conferences.Report

Colin Marshall
Reply to  Christina Hendricks
1 year ago

Thanks so much for this, Christina! I was hoping the discussion would provide an opportunity for people to hear about exactly this sort of thing.
Virtually Connecting sounds like a great way to allow provide some of the informal benefits of in-person attendance. I’ll definitely keep that in mind for future conferences I’m involved in.Report

Fiona
Fiona
Reply to  Colin Marshall
1 year ago

Yes. This is brilliant! Thank you for sharing. Report

Cat Saint-Croix
Cat Saint-Croix
1 year ago

Given how inexpensive they are for the kinds of conferences philosophers are usually organizing, it might be good to consider purchasing carbon offsets for conferences you do host locally. From what I’ve been able to research so far, it looks like this would be negligible for a single speaker. From LAX to MSP, for example, United’s program through Conservation International states that offsets would amount to $3.58 round trip (https://united.conservation.org).

I know there are some issues surrounding the efficacy of carbon offset programs (and, if anyone wants to share particulars, awesome!), but it’s perhaps a good thing to do regardless.

Report

Colin Marshall
Reply to  Cat Saint-Croix
1 year ago

Thanks for emphasizing this point, Cat. I agree that this is a good thing for individuals to do. There are some complications with it (for one light discussion, see https://www.nrdc.org/stories/should-you-buy-carbon-offsets), which is why I think institutional change is also needed, but we can do both. Report

Andrew Sepielli
Andrew Sepielli
1 year ago

100% agree. If nothing else, it’s easier to change others’ behaviour when you yourself walk the walk. Great post.Report

Colin Marshall
Reply to  Andrew Sepielli
1 year ago

Thanks so much, Andrew! If enough people are interested, I might get in touch with you about setting up some sort of agreement that departments and organizations could sign on to.Report

Andrew Sepielli
Andrew Sepielli
Reply to  Colin Marshall
1 year ago

Colin, please do.Report

Piton
Piton
1 year ago

Colin, great idea all around.

Here’s another: more departments should offer vegan food at departmental events and, where available, host dinners at vegan/veg friendly restaurants.

Report

Colin Marshall
Reply to  Piton
1 year ago

I definitely agree. Having vegan options really doesn’t take much planning.Report

Fiona
Fiona
Reply to  Colin Marshall
1 year ago

I saw a recent proposal to have vegetarian/ vegan food as the default (with options for those who require meat). I tend to order all vegetarian or vegan food when I am running conferences anyway after too many experiences of going hungry because then all the vegetarian food was eaten by people who hadn’t asked for it. Report

Alison
Alison
1 year ago

The British Philosophical Association guidelines seem worth mentioning here – https://www.bpa.ac.uk/uploads/2019/BPA%20environment%20travel%20guidelines.pdf
Report

K
K
1 year ago

I’m definitely on board with the main point of the post: reducing the stigma would be good. The benefits seem numerous, the costs seem few, and it doesn’t seem like it would take much to reduce the stigma.

That being said, I am with Jose in not buying the environmental argument. In fact, I resent that I keep hearing it. Maybe philosophy isn’t the most important enterprise imaginable, and maybe it doesn’t have to be done face-to-face. But I think what we do is on the whole really important, and we shouldn’t be pinching environmental pennies about it to feel good while consultants fly hundreds of thousands of miles a day.Report

Colin
Colin
Reply to  K
1 year ago

Thanks, K. I’m happy if we get more inclusiveness and reduce the stigma.

On the environmental argument: please see my clarifications in response to Jose’s post above. I’d also want to second Andrew Sepielli’s point: one of our main impact is with our students (some of whom become consultants), and we’ll be more effective at communicating the importance of reducing emissions if we as a profession show signs of doing so.

I also think that increasing inclusiveness will be better for the profession. Just from my own (limited) experience – being able to bring in a broader range of people using technology can improve the conversation.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
1 year ago

On videoconferencing: I think it’s about technology as much as stigma. I have *occasionally* been in meetings where the video linkup has been done professionally and with high-grade equipment, and where it’s been pretty much as if the person is actually there. But most of the time, the AV setup is nothing like that good, and it’s much harder to get something out of it. I think if universities invested a bit more in tech here it would make a big difference to how readily departments did remote seminars.Report

Colin
Colin
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

Yes – this seems right. Thanks, David. I find it baffling that universities don’t do better on that front. UW now has two very fancy, multi-million-dollar computer science buildings, and yet it took about a year for the faulty AV cable in our seminar room to get fixed.Report

Eric Winsberg
Eric Winsberg
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

I agree with this. But the cost of the tech in the long run would be tiny compared to the savings on travel expenses if people really started to feel like the tech was working well.Report

Lynn Chiu
1 year ago

Hi everyone! The Philosophers for Sustainability activism group is currently developing sustainability guidelines for philosophical conferences. We’ve already had a few rounds of discussions and our first product will be used by the APA to be incorporated into their Good Practices Guidelines. It includes suggestions for e-conferencing, catering, etc. We have a small group task force (one of many) working on this issue right now and have collected a long list of references and resources, including guidelines used by other conferences.

We would love to discuss with you further!

Here’s our website: http://www.philosophersforsustainability.com
Our Twitter: https://twitter.com/Phil4Sustain
Our email: [email protected]

I am the social media manager Lynn Chiu. The founders of the group are Rebecca Millsop (University of Rhode Island) and Eugene Chislenko (Temple University). Another huge Philosophers for Future movement is currently led by Martin Kusch (University of Vienna). It is a petition with about 582 signatures already: https://www.petitions.net/philosophers_for_future As part of their movement, many are Vienna are already organizing lecture series on sustainability, developing sustainability across the curriculum courses, and creating initiatives to help the profession. In addition, the KLI Institute will be making explicit efforts to direct research to the philosophy and science of sustainability studies (in addition to their work on theoretical, conceptual evolutionary biology). Lots going on! We’d love to help spread the news of all the substantial efforts, including #hybridconferences and #lessfly pledges. Leadership happens when your actions inspire the people around you to act. Report

MAR
MAR
1 year ago

Great and timely post, much agreed and very grateful for this. Report

sahpa
sahpa
1 year ago

It occurs to me that videoconferencing might turn out to be at cross-purposes with combating the so-called ‘prestige bias’. Videoconferencing would reduce the time costs of giving talks tremendously for the guest, freeing her up to give many, many more (videoconference) talks. It seems like the big names will dramatically increase the number of talks they give, and I don’t think host institutions will increase the number of talks they host all that much because the people in the department are already busy enough as it is that attending talks regularly is something of a burden. If that’s all right, then what will happen is that big names will crowd out everyone else to an even greater extent than before.Report

Colin
Colin
Reply to  sahpa
1 year ago

This is a good worry, Sahpa. Thanks for raising it.

I find it hard to predict what would happen. I was actually imagining the reverse would happen – people would prefer to have big names there in person, and so videoconferencing would be more directed at less-big-names. One of my colleagues at UW liked this idea exactly because it would let us invite speakers who would draw smaller crowds. It’s hard to justify spending ~$600 on a young scholar whose work only five people are interested in. But setting up a remote talk with them in the conference room would be easy.

Either way, this seems like an important consideration.Report

Ellen clarke
Ellen clarke
1 year ago

Let’s not forget, it is not only shy people who find it hard to travel. People who have young children – and especially women who are breastfeeding children – can find it very difficult to attend events away from home. In fact anyone with caring responsibilities is at a disadvantage in a profession where regular travel is an aid to career progression.
I’d worry though, if conferences moved to a model where 15% of talks are virtual, that the disadvantage would be perpetuated, because the carers would give virtual talks, while the rest gave ‘real’ talks. Perhaps the thing to aim for is to have 15% of conferences being *entirely* virtual.Report

Colin
Colin
Reply to  Ellen clarke
1 year ago

Both good points, Ellen. Having 15% of conferences entirely virtual is a nice idea.

Here’s one way I can imagine implementing the 15% for colloquia. Speakers are invited outright, and then informed of our 15% aim. If they’re not able to make it in person, the remote option is there for them. But nobody would receive an initial invitation limited to remote participation.

Then there’s Sahpa’s prediction above, that big names would end up doing more talks via the remote option. If there’s some trend in that direction, then remote talks wouldn’t be regarded as less than ‘real’.Report

Colin
Colin
Reply to  Joel Pust
1 year ago

Thanks so much for this, Joel! Very helpful.Report

Sikander
Sikander
1 year ago

I agree with this proposal. Though philosophers aren’t a huge portion of the flight market (the biggest is business people who fly more than 100 times per year, including for brief meetings that could be done via video conference), we nevertheless do contribute and ought to reduce our contribution as much as possible. Having more video conferences is a good way to start, IMO.

Slightly off-topic, but I also think the norm of disposable cups, utensils, etc. at conferences needs to permanently end. It should be all reusables. It’s not an insurmountable challenge and something that people could do if they had the will for it.Report