April 2021

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Embracing Econferences: a step toward limiting the negative effects of conference culture

Guest blog by Chelsea Miya, Oliver Rossier, and Geoffrey Rockwell, University of Alberta

One of the largest gatherings of scholars in the country will be moving online this year. Thousands of Congress 2021 attendees will not be flying or driving across Canada to the University of Alberta. Instead, they’ll be gathering virtually.

Our reliance on in-person gatherings has been dramatically challenged in the past year, as academics (along with much of the world) were forced to isolate.

While there have been major hurdles while transitioning to online, there have undoubtedly been benefits. One of those has been the environmental impact.

Flying is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. A sustainability audit at University California Santa Barbara in 2014 found that about one third of the campus’s CO2 footprint (55,000,000 lbs.) came from flying to conferences, talks, and meetings (Hiltner); and a 2018...

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