Sunday, July 13, 2008

Travel


In a previous post I ended with a question; "why are we traveling far and wide to conferences, events, and educational opportunities focused on sustainability when the travel in and of itself is part of the sustainability problem?" I ask this in all seriousness; I am one of those people that rationalizes nine transcontinental round trip flights from Boston to Seattle per year in the name of a unique and ground-breaking education focused on creating a sustainable business climate. So, that makes it OK? BGI offsets the CO2 emissions of students' travel for the intensive weekends, but... 

Given the fact that local economies, building the stores of human, financial, and natural capital locally & regionally is a key part of a regenerative (moving past sustainable) future, why am I not working to build that capacity here in New England (image from kadiak.org) ? Am I another example of the ease with which we have been allowed to seek what we want, where and when we want is assuming we can somehow pay for it? I suppose I am. What if there was a price for CO2? Would I still be going?

What I worry about, something that is already starting to happen, is that within the next 12 months, the time that I would fly to Seattle nine more times to complete my course of studies at BGI, airline tickets will increase at an alarming rate. Yep, there's uncertainty there, and I am 1/2 way through, so what are the alternatives? I am investigating the potential of continuing my susbiz education at the Marlboro Graduate Center here in the Northeast (Brattleboro, VT to be exact). It's a good deal newer than BGI, and with that comes some of the student body challenges that any new program experiences. Also, the whole "sustainable MBA thing" is still a little under the radar, so when I tell people that I am in a new sustainable business MBA program that they've never heard of and it's only 6 years old, I cannot imagine the response would be any different for Marlboro, even though it's in New England. Does that really matter? I don't know. How 'bout a dual degree?

On a scale larger than this solipsistic take on the issue of one fortunate higher ed consumer, there has been some news recently that the EU will be including airline emissions in their CO2 trading schemes, EU include airlines in CO2 emissions trading in 2012. I will be interested to see what happens to airline travel (and travel in general) over the next few years. I tend to believe that the prices will continue to increase, putting travel options out of the reach of many people that used to have access to it. What will that do to family, social, and business networks? Will it help accelerate a move back toward localization, staying close to home? What about virtual technologies like Second Life (there are others as well), will they start becoming a way to connect people across great distances with more realism, replacing real travel? I am a little behind the technology curve. I learned over the weekend from a friend at Marlboro that IBM has been quite active in virtual worlds, they have their own business center in Second Life, using it to better connect their global organization.

What about the millions (billions) on the other side of the digital divide, do they need to be connected or do others need to disconnect? Will the phone be good enough?

A recent article from Worldchanging, Web 2.0, Ubiquity, Sustainability and Consumer Rights, helped me connect my thinking that came out of the BALLE conference a few weeks ago. There is an increasing interest (and need) for the recreation of our local economies, yet we have access to technologies that connect us over great distances to share experiences, expertise, and cultures.
How do we best utilize technology to build a sustainable world?

Given the question I posed at the start, should I send my avatar to the BGI intensives this year?

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