CASCA’s New Sustainability Committee

By / par Chris Matzner (University of Toronto)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2020)

Canada declared a national climate emergency a year ago and astronomy, like every profession, is beginning to face the challenge posed by the global climate crisis.  The problem is both an ethical and a practical one.  Ethically, we must recognize that the impacts of global heating – to which our professional activities contribute – will be the worst for those who have contributed the least to the problem:  the poor and marginalized in our own society, the Global South, and future generations worldwide.  Practically, we must find ways to live up to the commitments set out in the Paris Agreement: to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, and reach net-zero by 2050 in order to avert irreversible and catastrophic climate change (ipcc).  

As members of CASCA’s new ad-hoc Sustainability Committee, our mandate is to encourage all Canadian astronomers to evaluate the environmental impacts of the practices of astronomy; to work with you on reducing them; and to provide sustainability-related resources for those engaged in teaching and outreach.  The Committee was created by the CASCA Board in early 2020, in response to the LRP white paper Astronomy in a Low-Carbon Future.  Its membership was drawn initially from that paper’s authors, with those involved in organizing the online version of the 2020 Annual General Meeting joining shortly thereafter. 

Now that the online AGM is over, we will work to: 

  • Plan and promote a virtual component to the 2021 AGM and other meetings to help members reduce their travel-related emissions;
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  • Encourage and assist our fellow astronomers, and their institutions, to consider, track, review, and reduce their environmental impacts;
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  • Build relationships with cognate committees in other fields and elsewhere in the world;
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  • Advocate for changes in granting rules to acknowledge the environmental costs of doing research and permit climate-related costs like carbon offsets as eligible research expenses; and

  • Collect resources for effective astronomy teaching and outreach on topics related to sustainability and climate change.

  

We’re looking forward to engaging with you!  If you would like to get involved and join our roughly bi-monthly virtual meetings, please contact the committee chair, Chris Matzner.  

Sincerely yours, 

CASCA’s Sustainability Committee and Associates: Christopher Matzner, Nicolas Cowan, Dennis Crabtree, Michael De Robertis, René Doyon, Vincent Henault-Brunet, Roland Kothes, David Lafrenière, Martine Lokken, Peter Martin, Sharon Morsink, Magdalen Normandeau, Nathalie Ouellette, Mubdi Rahman, Michael Reid, Joel Roediger, James Taylor, Robert Thacker, Marten van Kerkwijk

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