Nearly Carbon Neutral Conferences

If we hope to meet the ambitious goals for climate change mitigation set by the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate Change at United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties 21 (COP 21), all institutions as well as indivudals need to get to work rethinking a range of collective and personal activities that often get taken for granted.

Nearly-carbon-neutral (NCN) Conferences have the potential to largely supplant their traditional counterparts.

We have produced three NCN Conferences at UCSB.

On this page we introduce our most recent NCN Conference, present Ken Hiltner’s White Paper detailing the experiment, and link you to the video archives each conference generated.

Stay tuned to this page for links to future NCN Conferences.

Activists, Artists, and Academics: Building Just Climate Futures Together

Summer 2017
A Nearly-Carbon-Neutral Conference
at the University of California, Santa Barbara


Model for Nearly-Carbon-Neutral Conferences
by Ken Hiltner

Video Archives of our Nearly-Carbon-Neutral Conferences

A nearly-carbon neutral conference took place “at” UC Santa Barbara in Summer 2017.

We invited presentations of all kinds on the theme of “Activists, Artists, and Academics: Building Just Climate Futures Together” for an online, nearly carbon-neutral conference (described below) that took place during the summer months 2017.

Coordinated by UC Santa Barbara, this conference was the culminating event of our series of programs on Climate Futures: This Changes Everything.

The most pressing existential issue of the 21st century for humanity as a whole is the increasingly grim reality of climate change and our entry into a new era in the history of humans and the planet well signified by the Anthropocene.

The changing conditions of life on Earth lie at the center of a storm of interconnected crises which include, among others, the precarity of the global economy, a widening deficit of political legitimacy, and cultures scarred by violence, from the most intimate interpersonal interactions to the most global realities of war-making. And now the Trump administration.

Unlike either the justifiably pessimistic critical discussions or the unrealistically optimistic policy approaches that increasingly confront (or ignore) each other around these crises, this conference departed from our present ground zero by asking participants to develop ideas, analyses, works of art, strategies, and proposals of all kinds on the multiple possible ways to imagine, envision, enable, and collaboratively find or create some of the pathways to a more just – or just less worse – outcome for humanity by 2050.

This summer 2017 conference was a follow-up to one held in the Fall of 2016 called The World in 2050: Imagining and Creating Just Climate Futures, and those talks and discussions can be found here, which will give you a good idea of the basic format and a flavor of some of the themes we were interested in for this summer’s conference.

The website contains a complete archive of the event – please visit it if you would like to see how the conference worked. It followed a two such conferences on the Environmental Humanities held at UCSB in the spring of 2016, whose opening remarks and the accompanying Q&A session help explain the rationale for this approach while also demonstrating it.

This was a nearly carbon-neutral conference. We believe that a conference that takes up the multiple challenges posed by climate change while simultaneously contributing to the problem by burning carbon to such a degree as conferences usually do is simply unconscionable. Even a relatively small academic conference can generate the equivalent of 20,000 pounds or more of CO2 (chiefly from travel).

This conference took place entirely online. Over a period of four weeks, starting on Monday, July 31 and running through Friday, August 25, all talks, activities, creations, and other events were available for viewing on the conference website.

An extended discussion/Q&A took place online during this period, so that all participants and registered attendees were able to connect with speakers and each other via online comments, and speakers were able to reply in the same way. Both the talks and Q&A sessions will remain up on the website as a permanent archive of the event.

While we realize that this does not replicate the face-to-face interaction of a conventional conference talk and Q&A, we believe that it will nonetheless promotes lively (almost undoubtedly better) discussion, as well as help build a community of activists, artists, and academics with intersecting creative interests and hopes for the world.

An advantage to this approach is that individuals who would not otherwise be able to become involved in the conference owing to distance, daily life, or financial constraints will be able to fully take part.

There was registration fee for the conference.

Although this online conference has its own carbon footprint, as data centers and web activity also require energy, we expect that this amounted to only a small fraction of that of a conventional conference, likely as little as 1 percent.

Instead of traveling to the conference to attend panels and deliver a talk, speakers agreed to do the following:

1) Film yourself (or yourself with others – you don’t even have to appear in it if you don’t want to) giving a talk or make some other kind of video of up to 15-17 minutes.

2) Take part in the ten-week online Q&A session by responding to questions and discussion raised by your talk. You will automatically receive an email each time a new comment is posted. Only registered conference participants (this includes speakers, as well as others who register for the conference) will be posing questions and making contributions (no trolls will be allowed).

3) View as many of the talks as possible, posing questions and comments of your own to other presenters. This is especially important, as it is how you will meet and interact with other conference participants.

Given the subject matter, our goal was help establish new relationships and to build a community.

As noted above, the talks are now part of a permanent conference archive open to the public.

Please send any questions to conference co-organizers John Foran – and Ken Hiltner –

Climate Change: Views from the Humanities

May 3-24, 2016

The World in 2050: Creating/Imagining Just Climate Futures

October 24 – November 20, 2016

Activists, Artists, and Academics Building Just Climate Futures Together

July 31 – August 25, 2017