I’ll be leading a Roundtable discussion on Wednesday 8 January 2014 on the environmental ethics of traveling for environmental research. If you would like to prepare for the discussion by reading, I’ve found a few things that you might be interested in. If you know of any other good readings on the topic, please suggest in the comments section below!
Criticisms of air travel for environmental research
- An article by Rupert Read on the morality of flying to environmental conferences. If you only have time to read a couple of things before the discussion on Wednesday, this should be one: (find in NCEAS Lounge folder Roundtable/20130108/ as described here.
- A nice summary by Dominic Roser of some criticisms of air travel to conferences. If you only have time to read a couple of things before the discussion on Wednesday, this should be one: http://greenfutureethics.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/criticizing-conference-flights/
- A 1974 essay by Daniel Kozlovsky on the paradox of “using the destructive process to destroy the results of the destructive process” that advocates “thinking and living as simply and nondestructively” as possible: (find in NCEAS Lounge folder Roundtable/20130108/ as described here.
Quantifying the environmental impact of air travel
- ‘Why do we fly? Ecologists’ sins of emission’, which appeared in Frontiers in 2009 and is authored by some of our own. Reports results of survey (n=13) of research ecologists focused on carbon footprints and reasons for travel. Proposes ‘well-justified’ and ‘poorly-justified’ reasons for travel and suggests institutional solutions that could minimize poorly-justified travel: (find in NCEAS Lounge folder Roundtable/20130108/ as described here.
- Focused on ‘love miles’ rather than ‘research miles’, but the parallels are inescapable. Definitely check out the graphic illustrating the carbon emissions associated with various activities: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2010/04/flying-airplane-carbon-footprint
- A look at the levels of carbon emissions associated with air travel, and how the US and Europe are making (or resisting) efforts to offset emissions associated with air transport. Another good graphic illustrating how flights relate to other activities in terms of emissions: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/sunday-review/the-biggest-carbon-sin-air-travel.html?_r=0
Possible justifications of travel for environmental research
- Roser (and commenters) also summarize some arguments offered as justification of research travel: http://greenfutureethics.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/justifying-the-emissions-for-flights-to-environmental-conferences/
Roser and co-author Hohl discuss the merits of the fairness and effectiveness arguments in more academic fashion here: http://analyse-und-kritik.net/2011-2/AK_Hohl_Roser_2011.pdf
Possible technical or market solutions?
- An extract from George Monbiot’s 2007 book Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning in which he concludes that there is no technical fix to the impact of air travel on the environment: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2006/sep/21/travelsenvironmentalimpact.ethicalliving
- Is buying carbon offsets the answer? A variety of views: http://www.nrdc.org/thisgreenlife/0606.asp?utm_source=tw&utm_medium=tweet&utm_campaign=GreenTip
Deeper background reading on environmental ethics
- The ‘Environmental Ethics’ entry from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is an excellent primer: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-environmental/