Long way round. Academics travel a lot. Whether for fieldwork or conferences, we’re often encouraged to do it. Often internationally, invariably by aeroplane. But while globetrotting might make us feel important, a recent study suggests there’s no connection between academic air-miles and career advancement. With the obvious realities of the climate crisis, and with air travel being the single quickest way an average person can contribute to climate change, some academics are trying to stay on the ground whenever possible. Within a broader campaign to encourage people to go “flight-free,” there’s a community of academics challenging the reliance on flying that’s typically sat uneasily at the heart of their careers. I’m a member of that community. I pledged not to fly in 2019 and 2020, and then won a fellowship to study Chinese attitudes to sustainability which required me to go to China for fieldwork. Suddenly, the consequences of my pledge became very real. Life on the rails When I told my managers that I intended to get to China by train, I was met with a mixture of responses. Some thought I was mad, some admired my principles, some thought I was an awkward bugger. Maybe they were […]


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