Will sustainability fly? Aviation fuel options in a low‐carbon world by Walter J. Palmer Published by Ashgate, 2015, 271 pp., £67.99, hardback.

Published date01 November 2017
Date01 November 2017
AuthorAntigoni Lykotrafiti
Cunningham should be applauded for taking on such a vanguard
work in an impressive manner. While the ideas and critiques presented
in Information Environmentalism provide for interesting and thought-
provoking discussion, there nonetheless seems to be a reductionist
approach to certain concepts which is somewhat problematic. The
first is the consolidation of all facts, knowledge and expression in the
world into a singular concept of ‘information’. This single package of all
knowledge, all of the expressions of that knowledge and all creation of
that knowledge – whether falling under the scope of intellectual prop-
erty protection or remaining free from its supposed spectre – is then
deployed throughout the work and subjected to countless contor-
tions. In such a manner, the information provided in complex concepts,
methods of manufacture, artistic expressions and other information-
rich conceptions are equated to, and evaluated on, the same level as
simple facts and the information they provide.
This convergence of different references of discourse, whether
physical, incorporeal or of differing values, into a single term of ‘in-
formation’ causes conceptual problems that are difficult to overcome.
Indeed, taking the central point of the work at face value, and the
praise heaped upon the FLOSS (Free Libre Open Source Software)
ethos (an ethos centred in the legal realm of copyright law), one
wonders what could be considered an infringement of the copyright
of the very book itself. Indeed, there would be little argument that
Cunningham’s ideas presented between its covers have now been
cast into the information commons (intellectual commons) that he ad-
vocates in support of – yet if we similarly employ Cunningham’s use of
‘information’ there is no distinction between his ideas and his expres-
sion of those ideas as they appear on paper. In essence, one could feel
free to copy, reprint, distribute, sell, offer for sale, modify or create
derivative works from Cunningham’s Information Environmentalism, for
there is no difference between the thought- provoking ideas which he
presents and the book in which they appear – it is all ‘information’ and
it is all in the commons.
A second concern stems from what I see as a clear bias to view
the world of intellectual property through the lens of very modern
and technologically relevant issues. There seems to be an undue focus
on ‘information/digital age’ situations – indeed, one can almost hear
‘open source code’ advocates screaming between the lines. However,
one is forced to question whether the ideas presented in Information
Environmentalism apply equally across the vast landscape and great
variety of works that can claim copyright protection. Could it be con-
sidered that works of art should be as freely available for modification,
distribution and social production? One can only imagine that, in such
a case, the world’s fine art museums would abound with such crowd-
sourced masterpieces as the likes of Ecce Homo of Borja.
In sum, the blanket treatment of ‘information’ as one and all the
same and a focus on the intersection between modern technologic al
issues and intellectual property at the expense of all other appli-
cations combine to devalue the grand discussion of Information
Jacob R. Adams
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
DOI: 10.1111/reel.12224
Walter J. Palmer
Published by Ashgate, 2015, 271 pp., £67.99, hardback.
The contribution of aviation to climate change and the need for it to
mitigate its harmful outputs gained considerable attention following
the European Commission’s decision to include international aviation
in its emissions trading scheme as of 2012. This decision was never
implemented, as it outraged the aviation industry and the international
community at large. However, it catalysed action to curb aviation emis-
sions. Investment in sustainable alternative jet fuels is one of the mea-
sures that has been adopted by the aviation sector to contribute to
carbon- neutral growth. This book delves into the potential of aviation
biofuels to achieve emission reductions. As the title of the book sug-
gests, the discussion is framed within the wider theme of sustainability.
Even though considerable progress has been achieved in this respect
since the publication of the book, the analysis remains relevant.
The book sets off by focusing on the aviation sector’s contribution
to climate change, pointing out that this may have been underesti-
mated in official data, in the absence of sufficient research into this
issue. The connection between gross domestic product (GDP) and avi-
ation growth is drawn, the suggestion being that aviation grows faster
than GDP since it is not merely a derived demand. The book next
singles out the areas in which emission reductions can be achieved,
namely fuel efficiency, air traffic management, operations and aero-
nautics. The main suggestion is that efficiency alone is not going to
provide the answer, whilst the development of dramatic technology is
going to take time. The focus turns next to the fuel currently used in
aviation, i.e., kerosene, and the aircraft technologies designed around
it. The question is posed as to whether we already have the fuel ma-
terials and ways of converting them into what the fleet is already de-
signed and certified to use. The concept of biofuel and a number of
technologies for the production of biofuels are explored in this regard
to suggest, in conclusion, that biofuels are neither the only answer nor
the best option in the long term. This suggestion paves the way for the
policy analysis that follows in the book.
The analysis moves to the conflicting nature of the principle of
non- discrimination under the 1944 Convention on International Civil
Aviation (colloquially known as ‘the Chicago Convention’) and the
principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) under
the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC). The point is made that an effort to satisfy the principle of

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