July 10, 2019
by Helen Etchanchu
In 2017 at the Austrian Early Scholars Workshop Giuseppe and I started to discuss about personal life choices, beyond research, since I had brought my own 1.5liter water bottle to avoid plastic cups. This was the first time that I brought my own water bottle to a conference to avoid disposable cups. And, I guess, it was a bit of a quirky sight for my colleagues since the bottle was so big that I could hide behind it. Usually I use that bottle when I play tennis or at my home office desk throughout the day. Interestingly, in an academic conference setting, that huge water bottle was a material sign of me bringing my values to work (I bought a smaller bottle since – seemingly more appropriate for professional settings). And from this value statement would germ an honest intellectual discussion about our role as academics and how we can have impact, beyond publishing in academic journals.
Following Giuseppe’s initiative to come to EGOS 2018 in Tallinn by bike, we were a small group of scholars who were motivated to follow Giuseppe’s example and come to EGOS 2019 in Edinburgh by bike as well. Nevertheless, as the conference date was approaching we realized that logistically this was too complex for most of us to handle due to teaching, family and physical constraints. In the end, only Giuseppe and I were left to cycle to Edinburgh from London. Well, my husband was not particularly pleased and leaving my children, 3 and 5 years old, for an additional week seemed indeed too much of a hassle. We needed to find an alternative mode of travel that reduces our CO² emissions and could inspire our colleagues to do the same. Naturally, I suggested to go to EGOS by train. Many of our colleagues go to conferences by plane, searching for the most time and cost-efficient itinerary. If we convinced few of them to take the train instead wouldn’t we have more impact than if the two of us biked across the UK?
In the end we had 33 scholars who signed the pledge to come to EGOS by train and a few more took the train to Edinburgh and posted pictures on twitter. Personally, I came to Edinburgh from my home town in Southern France. I had a 14-hour journey by train instead of 11 hours by plane and car to/from the airport. This was the first time that I had taken the train for a European journey across several countries. It is interesting how I felt throughout the train journey that I had extra time won, rather than precious time lost. I was very productive on the train, reading and reviewing papers, correcting student master theses, writing a travel diary and discovering twitter. (A social media for which I had never taken the time before since it is not part of the essential and valued academic communication channels).
Due to varying pre-conference workshops colleagues arrived one day earlier or later in Edinburgh and we organized the trip quite late since we had initially planned to come by bike. Nevertheless, we could coordinate with four scholars to travel together by train from London to Edinburgh. The train ride allowed for a very prolific work session brainstorming about future actions. We were 4 scholars, representing 4 different countries, on a 4-hour train ride. This precious collective time on the train allowed us to launch the OS4Future movement. What will be (y)our next #climateaction?