Updated travel petition

The Travel Petition has one element for each of four target audiences: (1) universities and research institutions, (2) academic associations, (3) funders, and (4) individual members of academic communities (including students, staff, and faculty).

In a time of climate emergency, universities and research communities can sharply reduce flying while preserving the good we do in the world. Details are provided in our new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) tab. Internationally, the Time to Explane initiative has a helpful toolkit and organizing resources for your own institution.

For your entertainment, and for easy social media sharing, our new video resources include the humorous anthropological adventures of Sir Professor Doctor Geoffrey Mosquito among the scientists. Also, from our own continuing experiment in a non-flying academic life, we offer the mock travel/tourism show, Lifestyles of the NOT Jet Set. Please distribute widely.

New book by Kimberly Nicholas on being human in a time of climate breakdown

Review of Kimberly Nicholas, Under the Sky We Make: How to Be Human in a Warming World (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2021).

By Joseph Nevins

Feelings are a not a subject one typically encounters in a book on climate change, especially a book written by an environmental scientist. But as Kimberly Nicholas, a professor at Lund University in Sweden, asserts in Under the Sky We Make, “this is a different kind of climate book, one that’s not only about the science.”

Nicholas presents the overwhelming scientific case for anthropogenic global heating in compelling and lucid prose for a non-specialist audience. She also shares many stories from her personal journey, contending that scientific understanding is not sufficient to meet the challenges of climate breakdown. We already have the technical knowledge we need, she insists. In addition, we must tap into “the strength of our feelings about what we most fear, grieve, and love.” Only by being fully human “can we start to head toward the solutions at the speed and scale we need.’

The ”we” that Nicholas invokes is differentiated by profound inequities in the people and places most responsible for the climate crisis and how the resulting harms are experienced. In terms of the resolution of that crisis, she says much depends on the United States—as the world’s largest economy and the biggest historical emitter of CO2. If U.S. Americans begin taking climate change seriously, it would serve as “an enormously powerful accelerator of climate action worldwide,” declares Nicholas, not least because of the global influence of the U.S. model of consumption.

At the same time, Nicholas emphasizes that power, wealth and privilege do not insulate us from the ill effects of climate change. The fires that devastated large portions of California’s wine grape fields “happened in rich neighborhoods, in a rich state, in the richest country on Earth.” This shows that “no one is safe in a destabilized climate”—an assertion that has proven painfully true as evidenced by this summer’s floods in Germany and Belgium, devastating wildfires in Canada and record-high temperatures in the U.S. Northwest resulting in hundreds of deaths .

Nicholas grew up in Sonoma, California on her family’s vineyard. And her grandfather was a highly successful industrial turkey farmer. She calls modern agriculture “the main driver of the biodiversity crisis.” The huge physical footprint of modern agriculture—human beings use about half of the world’s ice-free land to feed ourselves, Nicholas reports–and its chemical intensity combine to destroy habitat and poison wildlife, while intensifying the climate crisis.

Until fairly recently, Nicholas confesses, she was a very high-level consumer, largely due to her frequent flyer status: In 2010, her “peak flying year,” she took fifteen round-trip flights for reasons of both work and pleasure. Seventy-two percent of global climate pollution is due to household consumption, she points out.

Professor Nicholas implicitly rejects the position that producers are ultimately responsible for what we do. Producers and consumers “are part of the same system” and, thus, consumers, particularly the world’s top ten percent (which includes anyone in the United States with an income of more than $38,000 per year), have an important role to play. Drawing on the work of climate scientist Kevin Anderson, she notes that if the richest 10 percent of the world’s population were to reduce their emissions to the current level of the average European (still a high standard of living on a global scale) that by itself would result in a one-third cut in global emissions.

Nicholas says “responsibility scales with power.” Yes, there are certainly people and institutions with a lot more responsibility and power than she has, but she refuses to let herself (or her well-heeled, high-consuming readers) off the hook. Rather than “sweating the small stuff,” Nicholas urges hi-emitters to focus on big actions on the personal front. She thus calls upon herself and others to do their utmost to go flight-, car-, and meat-free. As she sees it (and she draws on considerable research to back up this position), such personal-level change is necessarily part and parcel of collective, systemic transformation.

Kimberly Nicholas, Senior Lecturer, Center for Sustainability Studies, Lund University

The transformation entails a shift from what Nicholas calls an exploitation mindset—one predicated on the domination of people and nature as well as convenience and efficiency (of a narrow sort)—to a mindset of regeneration. The Regeneration Mindset focuses on “working with rather than against nature and bringing out the best of ourselves and one another.” It is based on three simple ideas: Respect life; stop harming life; and strengthen life. These ideas provide key elements of the effort to “create a world we love rather than one we fear.”

At the time of this writing, climate-change-intensified wildfires rage from California and Canada to Greece and Siberia. This is a world of our collective making. But we can remake the sky under which we live. Through her captivating and inspiring book, Kimberly Nicholas has helped us see the necessity of doing exactly that, while providing many of the tools to do so. She also illuminates the beautiful potential of pursuing that journey.