This paper examined the motivation for academic air travel despite information outlining the impact that flights have on climate change. The topic is very new in academic literature; therefore, the research provides rich insight into the motivations behind academic air travel. Using a qualitative methodological approach, the research revealed the emotional distress academics experienced when they acknowledged their environmental concerns did not align to their flight patterns, better known as an attitude- behaviour gap. Emphasising limited control over mobility patterns, academics predominately adapted their attitudes to match their flight patterns, to reduce the distress they experienced. Applying three theoretical lenses to the finding’s, neoliberalism, cognitive dissonance and cosmopolitanism, the research was able to deepen the understanding of why academics travel and how they deal with distress from their attitudes not aligning to their actions. The research found that the main reason for academic air travel was to attend conferences as they support professional and personal development. However, a divide between the Global North and Global South academics was found in relation to access to resources for conference travel. This finding highlighted how unequal access not only causes professional limitations but also exclusions from a ‘citizens of this world’ cosmopolitan identity. Without travel, individuals are not afforded the opportunities to obtain first-hand experiences of new countries and cultures. This finding highlighted privileges within academia and how they impact career and professional development. Overall this research contributed to understanding the attitude-behaviour gap within academia, as flights are the predominant transport choice for travel despite academics knowing the impacts this activity has on climate change. The research findings were able to provide insights into motivations for academic air travel and the impacts of the Global North and South divides of academia, which will help fill in gaps found in the literature.

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Oane Visser
Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies (AFES)
International Institute of Social Studies

Vincent, Lara. (2019, December 20). The attitude-behaviour gap of academia: Exploring the paradox of hypermobility and environmental concerns. Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies (AFES). Retrieved from