Houston, TX

Timothy Morton, Rice's professor refuses to take airplanes in the future

Jessica Yang

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HOUSTON, TX — Last month, Timothy Morton's tweet went viral on Twitter that said. “I won’t be flying to give lectures. Period. It’s the 2020s folks. Time to get extremely real.”

As one of the world’s leading environmental philosophers and a popular lecturer with a rising international profile, that sounds quite a commitment to do.

Morton’s recent show for BBC Radio 4, “The End of the World Has Already Happened,” had a worldwide influence. Last month, Morton's profile was widely read by New Yorker explored the massive influence of the Rice professor’s “hyperobject” ontology.

Morton is Rice’s Rita Shea Guffey Professor of English, is fully aware of the increasing visibility of damaging effects in flying. Airplanes cause the most harm to the environment in terms of transportation. A single flight from San Francisco to London produces the equivalent of 5.5 tons of carbon dioxide per person. Even though only 3% of the world’s population flies regularly, the airline industry contributes up to 5% of global warming.

Morton insisted “If I’m not setting an example, then what am I doing?” Being a lecturer demands across the world, so it was common for Morton to fly weekly to cities across Europe and Asia before the pandemic. Morton spent almost $20,000 for plane tickets alone in 2018.

However, Morton acknowledged, “I fully understand that plane is probably still gonna fly and someone’s going to be sitting in that seat right now, but I think it’s possible to model something different and hope to persuade by example that this is something that’s doable.” they added.

When an online video platform such as Zoom starts to gain traction, it is more “doable” to give remote lectures in Germany, Slovenia, England, and Pennsylvania in a shorter period of time. Morton believes it’s also possible to establish a bond and sense of togetherness through the internet.

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