Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research – Department of Geography / Urban and regional planning, transport planning
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I have always been fascinated by the connection between transport and the environment. My various professional activities as an urban and transport planner have allowed me to actively work in this field, and have provided inspiration for my doctoral research that dealt with the relationship between the built environment and the demand for transport, in the contect of reducing our transport system’s dependence on oil and its climate impact. Currently, I still work on the interaction between the built environment and sustainable mobility. However, I have shifted my attention partly to the decision-making processes that lie at the basis of interventions in the land use and mobility system. Because in my view, the climate problem is not so much a technical problem, but rather a social problem. In addition, I gradually realized that the growth of transport related emissions in the Global North is mainly located in aviation and shipping. I have therefore published a few texts about the problematic nature of the growth of aviation, and I am convinced that we need to thoroughly think about how a globalized world, which includes academia, can work on the basis of less long-distance travel.
In our research group, there has been quite some debate about the ecological footprint of academic travel. For travel within Europe, many of my colleagues including myself now opt consistently not to travel by plane (usually train, or sometimes a cargo ship, as in the picture). The consideration of whether a journey is necessary is now also made more conscious, taking the distance into account.
Together with two colleagues I recently published a scientific article about the ecological footprint of academic workshops (Caset, F., Boussauw, K., & Storme, T. (2018). Meet & fly: Sustainable transport academics and the elephant in the room. Journal of Transport Geography, 70, 64–67.). Some of our international colleagues did not welcome the paper at all. This experience indicates that there is not necessarily more support within the academic realm to reorganize in a more climate-friendly way.
Within my own field I see two major challenges: on the one hand an accelerated energy renovation programme those houses and buildings that are well-located (meaning not too remote and well connected to the railway network), and on the other hand the inclusion of climate impact costs in the price of (mainly international) transport.