CIES 2020 Miami (March 22-26, 2020)


Academic Conferences during Climate Crisis: Agora on Carbon Free and More Equal Conferencing

This featured panel brings together CIES community to re-examine how we conceive and value academic conferences, and to rethink – and recreate – academic engagements during climate emergency that requires immediate action. A single round-trip flight from Philadelphia to Paris emits the equivalent of about 1.7 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2e) per passenger, which is a significant fraction of the total yearly emissions for an average resident of the US (16.5 tons) and Canada (14.7) or Europe (7 tons and less). Moreover, these emissions have no near-term technological fix, since jet fuel is difficult to replace with renewable energy sources. To avoid flying to conferences, this event calls on participants to explore the possibilities of new forms of academic engagements without harming the climate.

These engagements must take as their central problems the following two issues:  first, the climate and human relations to the non-human world; and, second, the operation of persisting geopolitical hierarchies of Global North/South and East/ West academic centers and peripheries. In the context of climate emergency, how can we redraw the existing academic lines and distinctions by speaking back to wider structures of power, political economy, and privilege that structure academic knowledge production in general and academic conferences in particular? What alternative forms of academic exchange could address the problems posed by traditional formats and what new sets of drawbacks should we be aware of? For example, some groups of academics already have taken a lead by developing policy on reducing the frequency of their travel, or not flying at all (e.g. Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Lund University Centre for Sustainable Studies and Université de Neuchâtel). Others have successfully experimented with carbon free conferences (e.g., FERAL conference, Displacements and Degrowth of Aviation).

During this session, we aim to interrogate ways in which an experimental modality of carbon zero conferencing could help us to both question the prevailing academic (infra)structures, epistemologies, valuation systems, and communications patterns, while enabling us to envision and engage in academic work differently.

After a series of short presentations – and provocations – expanding our views on the theme by invited speakers and questions raised by each presenter, we will continue with a World Café session to discuss carbon zero conferencing as alternative academic engagement in line with the questions. We hope to contribute to further development of carbon free conferencing both for the CIES community and beyond.

Nicholas Holm is a Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at Massey University, New Zealand, where he teaches courses in popular culture, advertising and communication theory to both traditional and online students. His research primarily explores the political role of popular culture and entertainment media. He is a co-organizer of FERAL conference, one of the first carbon free conferences.

Sy Taffel is a senior lecturer in media studies and co-director of the Political Ecology Research Centre at Massey University, Aotearoa-New Zealand. He has published work on political ecologies of digital media, media and materiality, hacktivism, digital automation, and pervasive/locative media. He is the author of Digital Media Ecologies (Bloomsbury 2019). He is a co-organizer of FERAL conference, one of the first carbon free conferences.

Judith Mair is Discipline Leader of the Tourism Discipline Group at the UQ Business School, University of Queensland, Australia.  Her research interests include the impacts of tourism and events on community and society, and consumer behaviour in tourism and events. She is the author of ‘Conferences and Conventions: A Research Perspective’; ‘Events and Sustainability’; and ‘Festival Encounters’ and the editor of ‘The Routledge Handbook of Festivals’, all published by Routledge, as well as over 40 academic papers in internationally recognised journals.

Zsuzsa Millei (co-chair) is a Professor at the Faculty of Education and Culture, Tampere University, Finland. She is interested in child politics, including nationalism and ideologies and children as political actors. Her current projects are: ‘Nationalism and Childhood’; and ‘(Post)Socialist Childhoods and Schooling’ through collective biography and from a de-colonial perspective.

Robyn Read (co-chair) is an independent researcher and knowledge mobilization (KMb) consultant. She has served as an instructor at the University of Western Ontario, Queen’s University, and at the University of Toronto.  She has published on KMb at the World Bank, the knowledge networks underpinning the Education for All Global Monitoring Reports, and on private actors in education finance with a focus on impact investors and private foundations. She is the author of CIES Knowledge Mobilization assessment report.