During lockdown Manaaki Whenua sacrificed national and international travel and visits by overseas scientists, and replaced them with online events and workshops. This change will continue as we seek a change in travel culture, but it needs to be managed carefully so as not to put our scientists at a disadvantage.
For much of our work in the field there is no alternative to travel; for example, to conduct experiments in New Zealand’s remote forests, the Pacific Islands, and Antarctica. But even here we are looking at new ways to observe the environment; for example, through remote sensing and satellite imagery.
While we expect that our future will include travel, just as it still includes fieldwork and making new connections, we see travel as one tool among many for effective collaboration. All of us have now experienced video conferencing as a suitable substitute for face-to-face meeting, and many have also benefited from the ability to dial into webinars, online tools, and training.
With our CRI colleagues in Science New Zealand we are promoting this change in travel culture to manage costs, emissions and personal well-being. This is an aspiration we want other New Zealand businesses and organisations to share, many of whom are members of our Toitū Envirocare carbon management programmes.
Our new normal will include ensuring that staff think carefully about the need to travel. We aim to sustain the reductions in our carbon emissions brought about by COVID-19, and to learn from the lessons of lockdown.