PhD student Sara Ullström studies mobilisation, and voluntary action connected to low-carbon ways of life
What do you explore in your PhD?
My research investigates the questioning of high-carbon worlds through the case of the staying on the ground phenomenon in Sweden. This phenomenon consists of people voluntarily pledging to eliminate or drastically reduce their flying because of climate concern, and illustrates a form of mobilization around low-carbon ways of life. In particular, I study how the staying on the ground phenomenon has emerged, and what does it do to the meanings attached to aviation practices in a carbon-constrained world.
How far have you come?
I just started my second year of the PhD, and I am currently working on an article situating the staying on the ground phenomenon in a historical context. In this work, I focus on how air travel has gone from being a rare luxury to a normalized and taken-for-granted consumption activity for some groups, and how the idea of flying as a social norm now is being increasingly challenged.
What excites you the most with your research?
In today’s highly mobile society, air travel is not just a lifestyle choice, it is a socially and culturally embedded practice where everyday life, infrastructures, technology, policy, and cultural meanings interact. I find it really interesting and exciting how the staying on the ground phenomenon challenges this complex aeromobile system and foster new visions around low-carbon ways of life.
What do you see as important with your work?
In the transition to a sustainable society, we need to understand how low-carbon worlds are produced and maintained, and how new practices that challenges the current order emerge and find resonance. This makes the staying on the ground phenomenon an interesting and important case to study.
About the research project
The takeoff of staying on the ground (2019-2022, funded by Formas). A project exploring narratives of staying on the ground and their potential in fostering social, cultural and political change towards more sustainable air travel behaviors.