Admittedly, I have a vested interest in this idea because I (1) hate to fly and (2) love going to academic conferences. But considering that 90%+ of law professors are liberals in good standing, they ought to go along with the idea. After all, as their favorite newspaper reports today:
Your Biggest Carbon Sin May Be Air Travel
For many people reading this, air travel is their most serious environmental sin. One round-trip flight from New York to Europe or to San Francisco creates about 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year; the average European, 10.
So if you take five long flights a year, they may well account for three-quarters of the emissions you create. “For many people in New York City, who don’t drive much and live in apartments, this is probably going to be by far the largest part of their carbon footprint,” says Anja Kollmuss, a Zurich-based environmental consultant.
A report on smart meetings opines that:
Traveling by plane to meetings and conferences makes up a significant part of many companies’ internal carbon footprint, often 50 percent or more among non-manufacturing companies.
So wouldn't it make sense that sending law professors flying around the country for workshops and conferences is the biggest part of a law school's carbon footprint?
The smart meeting report continues:
Technology and services are available that can support virtual meet- ings and conferences in a much more time and resource efficient way. Online meeting rooms, video-conferencing, ad hoc Internet video links such as Skype, remote desktop sharing, webcasts, and other advanced communication aids are giving businesses tools to work remotely and thereby avoid business trips or physical commuting. Virtual meetings range in sophistication from high definition immersive telepresence experiences (which can even allow surgery to be performed remotely) down through dedicated medium resolution office to office systems, to pure audio conferencing and on to simple online text chats. One or another of these new techniques can be used with the same or better result as a physical meeting in many cases.
So why aren't we using them to conduct legal conferences? Can you imagine what the carbon footprint of the AALS annual meeting must be?
In the meanwhile, in case you were wondering, my current rule is that I will attend an academic conference or workshop if I can get there by car in a day (or so) or via Amtrak (with a sleeper car). But I'd rather Skype from home.