Alicia Siddons
By Alicia Siddons, Commissioning Editor

Why is it so easy for us to declare what it is we are against and so much harder to act, collectively, on the values we want to uphold?

The media storm regarding the shortened suspension of Warwick’s group chat students is an illustrating example. Calling on the university to fulfil its mandate as a value-building institution, a stream of emails, statements, a live petition and a trending hashtag (#ShameOnYouWarwick) have expressed deep concern regarding the culture of this university. With all this momentum, is it possible to turn this concern into a positive campaign? Might we now turn to climate change – an issue most deserving of our attention? Might we build a healthier environment on campus, where the buzzword ‘welfare’ reflects a concern for all humanity?

What does the year 2030 hold in store for you?

Is it a promotion? Marriage? Children? These are certainly popular on civilisation’s carousel of dreams. Yet might I suggest that the environment – the most fundamental support network of all life – is at the heart of what we are and all we do; and that climate change – an existential threat to our species – is a brewing storm ready to rip through the banners of our Career Events. Climate change is the silent interviewer in the room. More outrageous still, climate change is ready to rob us of our children’s futures too.

According to a study by the Environmental Research Letters, the greatest impact an individual can have to combat climate change is to choose not to have a child. This, surely, is the strongest indictment of industrial civilisation, if ever there was one. A most scandalous proposition! And yet, are our industrial societies a world into which we really want to bring our children?

Now, imagine if the university were to prove itself a cornerstone of a better civilisation – one built on universal respect, freedom and sustainability. Imagine if this current taint to the university’s reputation were outshone by its successful attainment of carbon neutrality by 2030. If this were the campus to which the infamous group chat members return, how out of place would their comments then be? How insignificant to the culture of this university? Most of us will have graduated by then, of course. Yet the investments we make here today will move on with us. Why else do we proud Warwick students – hung-over, heavy-eyed and Smack-scarred – still drag ourselves out of bed, fight our way onto battle ships known as Stagecoach and Uni Express and claim library seats before sleepy Term Three 6 A.M.s?

Please forgive the next line of metaphors – I hope to break through crisis fatigue. Here goes: the university is the cradle of our future dreams; climate change is a ticking ecological time-bomb; and I, too, am a biological weapon. I am a twenty-year-old woman, who, approaching the thirty-year mark, will no doubt experience that all so natural desire to have children. When the time comes, I want to make a responsible decision in their interest – above all. I view children as a privilege for which I need to fight. I wonder whether you do too.

If we are seriously concerned about our physical, intellectual and moral health here on campus, it is not time we put an end to all forms of ecological violence on these grounds? To preserve climatic conditions favourable to life on earth, we need to cut world-wide carbon emissions by 45% by 2050, according to the IPCC Special Report in 2018. We can start here, today.

Let us unite in calling upon the university to stand up to its pledge to sustainability. For, surely, we are that generation. That generation forced to put climate change on top of the agenda or else make dreadful sacrifices later. As students, we have both the freedom and the opportunity to dare to make a difference to all humanity. Please join me, and the coalition behind Project Climate Emergency, to petition the university to support our welfare world-wide and aim for carbon neutrality.

Header Image: Photo by platinumportfolio on Pixabay, TeroVesalainen on Pixabay and Nicholas Smale on flickr (CC BY 2.0)

One comment

  1. A fascinating discussion here. The concern for human population growth is omnipresent. While 20th century discussion has often focused on population growth in the developing world (1), interventions in these realities are complex – not least given the function of children’s work as an often important part of household livelihood strategies, including as a substitute for missing welfare support and insurance (2).

    Personally, I feel contributions such as that referenced above (by Waynes & Nicholas), reframe this discussion a highly relevant way: as they recognise that global ecological concerns require significant reflection by global elites (higher capacity couples in higher consumption countries) on their own fertility. This is particularly true of those with the highest consuming offspring and who might contribute to the aspirations of others (dare I reference: 3).

    Fertility rates are of course influenced by many complex variables in all contexts, but it remains highly likely that the creation of economic and social opportunities for women, other than through raising children, offer an important contributor to lowering endogenous population growth (4,5,6). Moreover, the role of foundational, as well as higher education, is very relevant, partly as it influences female economic opportunities (7).

    The involvement of women in education is of course, in itself, a complex issue. However, the wider culture that constructs understandings and treatment of women certainly plays in: particularly through the degree to which this create empowering or disempowering experiences of lived reality. Here, linguistic violence – from micro to macroaggressions – against specific individuals or the collective identity, be it in presence of women or exclusively within a male group, can well be seen to undermine female empowerment, including within the university context (8,9).

    It is for this reason, that in my personal opinion, your article offers very relevant insight in drawing the connection that it does. As a community at Warwick we have many important choices to make about how our actions impact current and future generations, through both direct and indirect causal pathways. Again, speaking personally, I hope we have the courage to remain true to ideals, rather than concede too much to pragmatic and administrative comfort—on both the interrelated issues of misogyny and climate change.

    Links

    (1) http://science.sciencemag.org/content/162/3859/1243
    (2) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s001480050162
    (3) https://inews.co.uk/opinion/royals-third-baby-sets-poor-precedent-combating-climate-change/
    (4) https://wol.iza.org/articles/female-labor-force-participation-and-development/long
    (5) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00324728.2018.1498223?needAccess=true
    (6) https://www.riseprogramme.org/sites/www.riseprogramme.org/files/publications/Kaffenberger.pdf
    (7) https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00220388.2017.1303675
    (8) https://www.jstor.org/stable/41658864?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
    (9) http://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/handle/2097/32941

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