I arrived in Toronto during last summer’s record-breaking heatwave. When humidity was taken into account, temperatures were spiking in the mid-40s, and the air felt like a hot, wet towel pressed against your face. Emergency cooling centres were operating at peak capacity and public swimming pools were offering free entry. I was one of six thousand people gathering for the International Sociological Association’s quadrennial World Congress of Sociology – a major event for sociologists everywhere, and the second of three long-haul trips I took from New Zealand to northern hemisphere conferences in 2018. ...
Over the years, I’ve been to many conferences where the “prestige economies” of academia – those engines of white privilege, oiled by male networking practices, male bonding and ethno-sociability – govern everything from the line-up of speakers to the election of Fellows. I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way, but I’ve also noticed the absences: the indigenous scholars, the academics of colour, the female early career researchers with small children, the part-time faculty on the minimum wage, the untenured workers living precariously between short-term contracts in the academic “gig economy”.
Kidman is a sociologist. How much more pertinent these arguments are to environmental educators and environmental education researchers.
Her article was positive in parts. For example:
Nevertheless, several academic societies and associations are directly addressing the problem. In April of last year, the Society for Cultural Anthropology held its biennial conference, Displacements, as both a virtual and in-person event, running simultaneously in 46 countries. Panels were live-streamed through the conference website over a 60-hour period and online participants could access the proceedings from their homes and offices – or else join local “nodes” where they could watch presentations collectively.
The benefits weren’t merely environmental. Registrations were more than six times higher than for the previous year’s physical-only conference. Moreover, this expanded reach drew new audienceswho do not usually attend international meetings. In fact, it was these participants who drove some of the more exciting debates and conversations that I saw online.
But this is how she ended:
I think there is a day of reckoning coming for those of us in academia who, through wilful neglect rather than deliberate planning, are gambling away our futures, one air ticket at a time. The deathly silence about our addiction to air travel needs to be broken as the Anthropocene era of human-driven climate change manifests itself all around us. It is high time.
It surely is ...