The Ecological Footprint of Astronomy 

The Ecological Footprint of Astronomy 

Thibaut Roger (University of Bern, Switzerland) reports on a session at ERIM to initiate a discussion about the ecological impact of astronomy and planetary research activities. 

Read article in the fully formatted PDF of the Europlanet Magazine.

The main goal of the Europlanet Research Infrastructure Meeting 2023 (ERIM) was to outline the future of the Europlanet Society, which also made it an ideal place for our community to discuss the ecological impact of astronomy-related activities. According to a study published in Nature in 2022, the carbon footprint of astronomical research infrastructures rivals that of some countries. 

Exactly how we can make astronomy and astrophysics greener is a complex topic that cannot be solved in a single day or discussion. However, holding an ERIM workshop focused on the ecological footprint of astronomy was a first step for the Europlanet community. The session started with an introductory lecture from Luigi Tibaldo from IRAP (France). It was followed by an open discussion amongst participants, which highlighted the many cultural differences regarding ecological concerns at institute level. For instance, did you know that some countries in Europe give you a salary bonus if you work from home to reduce your ecological impact, while other countries actually do the opposite and apply penalties when you do not work from the office? 

Astronomers, in general, are willing to move in the right direction but can often be hampered by administrative complications. Solutions may need measures to be introduced at an institutional and/ or international level. Nonetheless, the discussions at ERIM brought hope, as we could see there are several policies recently implemented by institutes to reduce the carbon footprint of our community. Conferences and meetings are another point of leverage, where everyone can actually help by pushing for eco-friendly solutions. 

You can watch the session recording on YouTube and find out more through the links below: 

Further Information

Haslebacher et al. 2022. 

Cantalloube. 2022: 

Issue 6 of Europlanet Magazine