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How Scholars Reason About Air Travel

Profile picture of Nina Cyrén WormbsNina Wormbs, professor in history of technology at the division, has published a chapter together with Elina Eriksson (KTH Skolan för elektroteknik och datavetenskap) and Maria Wolrath Söderberg (Södertörn) about the debate on flying in academia. This chapter with the title “Exceptionalism and Evasion: How Scholars Reason About Air Travel” is part of the edited volume “Academic Flying and the Means of Communication” by Kristian Bjørkdahl and Adrian Santiago Franco Duharte (Palgrave Macmillan 2022).


Understanding how scholars reason about their own flying habits is important when dealing with the problems of large emissions from academic air travel. This study is based on a travel habits survey with scholars at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. KTH has relatively high emissions from air travel, but at the same time, it has a high profile in matters of sustainability and a lot of research related to this theme. One can therefore assume a high degree of knowledge about the climate crisis and the climate impact of various actions. It is also plausible that KTH scholars meet special expectations to be role models and that practices in conflict with their teaching can have consequences for the public confidence in the university. In this study, we look at how scholars reason about how emissions from their flying could be reduced. Their responses display a spectrum of varying attitudes, from climate scepticism to a commitment to radical transformation, with the majority in between, either suggesting different types of concrete changes or invoking arguments to justify the status quo. The proposed interventions, several of which are ingenious and wise, can guide university managements to strategies that have support from employees. The more reluctant arguments point to cultural and discursive habits that must be understood and met in an empathetic way. 

If you want to read the chapter, you can find it here!

Working as a doctoral student in the Nuclearwaters-Project (ERC Consolidator Grant, PI Per Högselius), I focus on the nuclear history of Eastern Europe, especially on the territory of the former Soviet Union and its successor states. Furthermore, I investigate expert cultures in nuclear discourses, with a special interest in water-related issues in nuclear power plant decision-making. In addition, I am intrigued by the entanglement of the commercial, scientific and political interests concerning nuclear technologies, with its sometimes harsh consequences on human societies and the environment. Recently this interest has extended to energy systems as a whole in Eastern Europe, including fossil fuels and renewables. Questions of transition within international energy systems in the face of the climate crisis and recent political developments become more important, as my work progresses.