Choosing Not to Fly Need Not Ground Your Career

Lenore Fahrig

Interviewed by Marie Odile

Bio: Lenore Fahrig has been a professor of Biology at Carleton since 1991. She conducts research on the effects of human-caused landscape change on biodiversity.

Lenore, you made the decision to stop flying for work. When did you make that decision and why?

I made the decision in June 2015 as I was flying home from a workshop in Spain. I had been thinking about it for a couple of years though. I am very disturbed that climate change is literally wrecking the biosphere, and putting millions of peoples’ lives at risk. I found I was becoming increasingly unable to justify the huge carbon emissions associated with flying. I decided the benefit to me was not worth the cost to the climate.

Was carbon offsetting not enough?

Carbon offsetting is “the counteracting of carbon dioxide emissions with an equivalent reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” A big problem with carbon offsetting is that no-one is actually checking up and making sure that any reduction in carbon dioxide from carbon offsetting actually matches the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from my share of a flight. In any case, carbon offsetting can’t possibly work as a solution to climate change. With increasing droughts, fires, and floods removing more and more trees and other vegetation every year, planting a few trees to offset my flight is equivalent to the proverbial finger in the dike – good try, but not effective.

How are you able to continue your work without flying?

Actually, I think we are quite lucky that just when we need to stop flying, the technology for remote meetings and conferences has really taken off, so to speak. I have given several presentations using videoconferencing, even a keynote presentation at a conference. Of course I miss the social aspect of meetings and workshops but I don’t feel I can use that to justify the carbon emissions of a flight. And in any case I’m not missing out on meetings altogether. I have been attending meetings within rail or bus distance, and during my next sabbatical I intend to take a boat to Europe and spend some time catching up with colleagues.

Do you think there is a risk that this will negatively affect your career?

I guess I am in an enviable position in that I have probably already reached the ‘peak’ of my career so, no, it won’t negatively affect my career. In fact, at my age and stage I would say the biggest impact of my decision not to fly is actually on my personal life. No ‘travel bucket list’ for me, unless (ever hopeful) planes start flying on something other than fossil fuels.


“CUASA Votes to Divest From Fossil Fuels”



By: Gabbi Van Looyen

March 30, 2017

The Carleton University Academic Staff Association (CUASA) has passed a motion at their latest council meeting to divest their pension funds from fossil fuels. The vote, which was held on March 17, received unanimous support among union members.

This is the latest development in the Carleton Fossil Free Faculty’s (CFFF) push to move towards green investments. The CFFF is a special interest group within CUASA made up of 55 tenured professors from about 20 different faculties, who have been lobbying for this divestment over the past couple years, according to Lenore Fahrig, a Carleton professor and CUASA member.

“This is from our perspective, a pretty big success that the union has now passed this motion unanimously,” she said.

She said this is important if Carleton wants to more effectively combat climate change.

“In a major sense, it’s an ethical stance,” Fahrig said. “Having investments in these industries is essentially like betting that efforts to stop climate change will fail or betting almost in favour of failure.”

She said that maintaining their current investments could have negative economic consequences for the university’s pension fund.

“If governments do actually follow through on their commitments to reduce emissions . . . then these companies that extract fossil fuels, they’re going to have to leave approximately 80 per cent of their claimed reserves of fossil fuels undeveloped,” she said. “What that means is that they’re going to have stranded assets.”

That, she said, would translate to smaller returns on their pension fund portfolio as it stands.

The Pension Committee is a separate board from the administration that makes decisions concerning the pension fund for all Carleton employees who are eligible for a pension. The committee is made up of representatives from the Carleton administration and unions on campus whose members benefit from the fund.

Carleton is not the first post-secondary institution in Canada to divestment from fossil fuels, with the first challenge being launched by students at Université Laval a few weeks prior.

The major difference between these campaigns and the CFFF’s is that it focuses on the pension fund rather than the endowment fund, according to Fahrig.

“What [the CFFF] wants is for the pension fund to divest. The pension fund is generally much bigger than endowment funds,” she said.

Although the motion has been ratified by CUASA, the next phase of lobbying will involve a request for their two union representatives on the Carleton University Pension Committee to bring forward the same motion for ratification.

“I have invited our pension committee members to our next meeting so, that would obviously be a topic of conversation with them at that point.” she said. “There’s lots and lots of literature out there right now on how to do this . . . but we really don’t want to be overly prescriptive in telling them how they need to go about it.”

Fahrig said they would like to see these funds reinvested in Canadian renewables if possible, but she added this is more of a long-term goal as it is still a burgeoning industry.

The Charlatan reached out to the university for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Climate Politics: Trudeau, Trump, Political In/Action, and Alternative Forms of Political Mobilization

Join us for our second Climate Café, focusing on the topic of climate politics and political mobilization in the times of Trump & Trudeau.

Speakers from Carleton University, Ecology Ottawa, 350 Ottawa, and others will be joining us for a discussion of the following questions:

Given the political climate in North America, how can climate activists move forward, what might be some effective strategies, and where should we put our energy?

What is the role of politics with respect to climate change action? What differences do we see between the US and Canada? In the absence of forceful action, what alternative approaches can we explore? What other forms of political mobilization are available?


All are welcome!


Wednesday April 5, 2017

7pm -9pm

James Street Pub (390 Bank Street)

“The fossil fuel industry’s invisible colonization of academia”


Benjamin Franta & Geoffrey Supran

Monday 13 March 2017


On February 16, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center hosted a film screening of the “Rational Middle Energy Series.” The university promoted the event as “Finding Energy’s Rational Middle” and described the film’s motivation as “a need and desire for a balanced discussion about today’s energy issues.”

Who can argue with balance and rationality? And with Harvard’s stamp of approval, surely the information presented to students and the public would be credible and reliable. Right?


The event’s sponsor was Shell Oil Company. The producer of the film series was Shell. The film’s director is Vice President of a family-owned oil and gas company, and has taken approximately $300,000 from Shell. The host, Harvard Kennedy School, has received at least $3.75 million from Shell. And the event’s panel included a Shell Executive Vice President.

The film “The Great Transition” says natural gas is “clean” (in terms of carbon emissions, it is not) and that low-carbon, renewable energy is a “very long time off” (which is a political judgment, not a fact). Amy Myers Jaffe, identified in the film as the Executive Director of Energy and Sustainability at the University of California, Davis, says, “We need to be realistic that we’re gonna use fossil fuels now, because in the end, we are.” We are not told that she is a member of the US National Petroleum Council.

The film also features Richard Newell, who is identified as a Former Administrator at the US Energy Information Administration. “You can get 50% reductions in your emissions relative to coal through natural gas,” he says, ignoring the methane leaks that undermine such claims. The film neglects to mention that the Energy Initiative Newell founded and directed at Duke University was given $4 million by an Executive Vice President of a natural gas company.

Michelle Michot Foss, who offers skepticism about battery production for renewables, is identified as the Chief Energy Economist at the Center for Energy Economics at the University of Texas at Austin. What’s not said is that the Energy Institute she founded at UT Austin is funded by Chevron, ExxonMobil, and other fossil fuel interests including the Koch Foundation, or that she’s a partner in a natural gas company.

You may notice a pattern. The very experts we assume to be objective, and the very centers of research we assume to be independent, are connected with the very industry the public believes they are objectively studying. Moreover, these connections are often kept hidden.

To say that these experts and research centers have conflicts of interest is an understatement: many of them exist as they do only because of the fossil fuel industry. They are industry projects with the appearance of neutrality and credibility given by academia.

After years conducting energy-related research at Harvard and MIT, we have come to discover firsthand that this pattern is systemic. Funding from Shell, Chevron, BP, and other oil and gas companies dominates Harvard’s energy and climate policy research, and Harvard research directors consult for the industry. These are the experts tasked with formulating policies for countering climate change, policies that threaten the profits – indeed the existence – of the fossil fuel industry.

Down the street at MIT, the Institute’s Energy Initiative is almost entirely fundedby fossil fuel companies, including Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron. MIT has taken $185 million from oil billionaire and climate denial financier David Koch, who is a Life Member of the university’s board.

The trend continues at Stanford, where one of us now works. The university’s Global Climate and Energy Project is funded by ExxonMobil and Schlumberger. The Project’s founding and current directors are both petroleum engineers. Its current director also co-directs Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy, which is named after (and was co-founded by) the CEO of a natural gas company (now owned by Shell). Across the bay, UC Berkeley’s Energy Biosciences Institute is the product of a $500 million deal with BP – one that gives the company power over which research projects get funded and which don’t.

Fossil fuel interests – oil, gas, and coal companies, fossil-fueled utilities, and fossil fuel investors – have colonized nearly every nook and cranny of energy and climate policy research in American universities, and much of energy science too. And they have done so quietly, without the general public’s knowledge.

For comparison, imagine if public health research were funded predominantly by the tobacco industry. It doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to understand the folly of making policy or science research financially dependent on the very industry it may regulate or negatively affect. Harvard’s school of public health no longer takes funding from the tobacco industry for that very reason. Yet such conflicts of interest are not only rife in energy and climate research, they are the norm.

This norm is no accident: it is the product of a public relations strategy to neutralize science and target those whom ExxonMobil dubbed “Informed Influentials,” and it comes straight out of Big Tobacco’s playbook. The myriad benefits of this strategy to the fossil fuel industry (and its effects on academic research) range from benign to insidious to unconscionable, but the big picture is simple: academia has a problem.

As scientists and policy experts rush to find solutions to the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced, our institutions are embroiled in a nationwide conflict of interest with the industry that has the most to lose. Our message to universities is: stop ignoring it.

We are not saying that universities must cut all ties with all fossil fuel companies. Energy research is so awash with fossil fuel funding that such a proposal would imply major changes. What we are saying is that denial – “I don’t see a conflict,” MIT’s Chairman told the Boston Globe – is no longer acceptable.

Two parallel approaches can help. First, mandatory standards should be established in climate policy and energy research for disclosing financial and professional ties with fossil fuel interests, akin to those required in medical research. And second, conflicts of interest should be reduced by prioritizing less conflicted funding and personnel.

One way or another, the colonization of academia by the fossil fuel industry must be confronted. Because when our nation’s “independent” research to stop climate change is in fact dependent on an industry whose interests oppose that goal, neither the public nor the future is well served.

Dr. Benjamin Franta is a PhD student in the Department of History at Stanford University, an Associate at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a former Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He has a PhD in Applied Physics from Harvard University.

Dr. Geoffrey Supran is a Post Doctoral Associate in the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Post Doctoral Fellow in the Department of History of Science at Harvard University. He has a PhD in Materials Science & Engineering from MIT.

The Same River Twice

The Same River Twice: Nature, Media and Philosophy in the Anthropocene 

Dr. Etienne Turpin

Carleton University 

132 Azrieli Pavilion

April 12, 2017 


Carleton Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences 

Carleton Climate Commons 

What do contemporary urban ecologies teach human residents about ethics, epistemology, and media? First attributed to Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 BC – 475 BC) by Plato, the remark that we cannot step in the same river twice is at once a statement about the nature of perpetual change and an acknowledgement of a tension between sensation and abstraction in human understandings of nature. Over twenty-five centuries later, the Indonesian island of Java is now inhabited by more residents than lived on Earth during Heraclitus’s time, with many living in densely arranged megacities. In fact, the greater metropolitan area of the capital, Jakarta, has over 30 million people residing alongside thirteen rivers that the run from the mountains of the Sunda Arc to the Java Sea. What can we learn from the residential knowledges and itinerant practices that characterize this megacity? This lecture will consider the ethical and epistemic consequences of residential life in the city—including dispositions toward nonhuman entities, mediations that enable collaboration and contestation, and contributions to postnatural ecologies—to help explicate the concepts emerging from this torrential formation. 

Dr. Etienne Turpin is a philosopher and Founding Director of anexact office in Jakarta, Indonesia. He studies and designs knowledge infrastructure and produces platforms, exhibitions, and publications by combining design, archival research, documentary, and ethnography. Etienne also works as a Research Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he coordinates the Humanitarian Infrastructures Group and co-directs the disaster mapping project for the Urban Risk Lab. With Anna-Sophie Springer, he is Co-Principal Investigator of the exhibition-led inquiry Reassembling the Natural and the intercalations: paginated exhibition series for the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin. He is also editor of Architecture in the Anthropocene (Open Humanities Press, 2013) and co-editor of Fantasies of the Library (MIT Press, 2016), Art in the Anthropocene(Open Humanities Press, 2015), and Jakarta: Architecture + Adaptation (Universitas Indonesia Press, 2013).

For more information please contact Chris Russill (

The Same River Twice Poster (7)

“Global Warming Hoaxsters”: The Rising Cost of the Environment

“Any and all weather events are used by the GLOBAL WARMING HOAXSTERS to justify higher taxes to save our planet! They don’t believe it $$$$!” – Trump

“A Trump administration will focus on real environmental challenges, not phony ones: We will reject Hillary Clinton’s poverty-expansion agenda that enriches her friends and makes everyone else poor. We’ll solve real environmental problems in our communities like the need for clean and safe drinking water.” – Trump

These tweets from notorious climate change denier, Donald Trump, speak to a growing opposition between the environment and the economy. This opposition extends to recent news articles on the effects of climate change, ranging from catastrophic natural disasters to rising taxes. Climate change poses an imminent threat to the survival of the planet, while sustainable development threatens our (economic) survival. We invite you to a discussion that considers the ways in which the environment is pitted against the economy.

Questions to consider:

Is it possible to reconcile these seemingly opposing topics (environment vs economy)?

How do we distinguish between “real” and “phony” environmental challenges?

What are some alternatives to imposing a tax? Is money the only motivator to get people thinking conscientiously about the environment?

What do we mean by the “environment”?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


1811 Dunton Tower


Moderated by Kim Sigouin

An article on record heat:

Articles on carbon tax:


Please contact Kim at if you are interested in receiving additional readings.

“Power to Change” Film Screening

The Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-operative (OREC) and the German Embassy of Ottawa are partnering with Ecology Ottawa to screen the German documentary “Power to Change – the Energy Rebellion.” The film will be followed by a discussion led by Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes, Vice-President of the European Renewable Energies Federation. 

The film shows the conflict over Germany’s energy revolution, which began as a grassroots movement and is being advanced through decentralized, regional players. It draws upon the personal stories of people who have taken the responsibility for their energy supply and the protection of their natural livelihood into their own hands. It’s a film that aims to put an end to the doomsday scenarios and the cynical discussions over the feasibility of the energy revolution. It’s entertaining, exciting and fascinating, without succumbing to moralistic preaching. 


5:30pm – Doors open
6:10pm – Begin film
7:50pm – Discussion with introduction by Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes

March 06, 2017 at 5:30pm – 8:30pm
Mayfair Theatre
1074 Bank St
Ottawa, ON K1S 3X3
Be sure to reserve your seats!

Green Energy Doors Open Ottawa

The Ottawa GEDO Organizing Team is a small group of dedicated, green-energy enthusiasts in the Ottawa Region who are determined to provide green-energy education to members of the public and opportunities for our local green-energy businesses to showcase the great technologies that they offer.

They represent green-energy businesses, community associations, educational institutions, energy co-ops and not-for-profit organizations working in the energy industry. Everyone, sharing this common interest, is welcome to join!


Join the GEDO for their 2017 kick-off celebration and tour a Passive House!

March 1st, 6-8pm.

Location: Wander House

105 Bayswater, Ottawa

Event info:



Follow on Twitter:  @OttawaGEDO