By Benedikt Loula, GLOBUS Assistant Editor
Here at GLOBUS, we openly advocate for innovative solutions intended to uphold the principle of sustainability. Although determination is a key ingredient in bringing about green reforms, the other indispensable factor is effectiveness. And where else can we, as students, be more effective than in our own environments? Our newest article series, ‘Sustainable Universities’, will explore university-based initiatives aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change up and down the country.
The first introductory piece in this series reports on The Kenly Wind Farm project that would allow the University of St. Andrews to become a carbon-neutral institution.
The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite,– Hamlet. Act I, Scene V
That ever I was born to set it right!
In these unprecedented times, it’s likely that most are seldom thinking about the environment. Who would have thought that in 2020 seeing a flying airplane in the sky would be nearly as rare as spotting a shooting star? Or that the channels of Venice would be crystal clear, or that dolphins would start to reinhabit the shores of the Mediterranean sea? Whilst it may feel like it, we aren’t living in a surreal story written by Boris Vian – but rather experiencing the impact of capitalism becoming dormant, albeit temporarily; the wheels of the market will start turning and the carbon debt will start mounting once again.
The one variable that might change however, is the wider population’s mindset towards environmentalism. I, I imagine like many others, shall be returning to normal life now acutely aware that global crises are no longer abstract theoretical notions; rather, they are potential realities lurking behind every corner – none more so than climate change, which is already asking many unanswerable questions of the economic system, with its detrimental symptoms said to become more frequent in the upcoming years.
Hence, if we are to play any decisive role in what looks to be a turbulent 21st Century, we as students need to ask: what can we do to alleviate the impacts of climate crisis? One great lesson in effective green activism comes from the University of St Andrews…
Ask not what your university can do for you – ask what you can do for your university.
The University of St Andrews is planning to build six wind turbines near the university capable of generating 12.3MW of electricity, thus saving over 19,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. This project, which was approved by the local council in 2013, entails several positive impacts:
- The university will be energetically self-sufficient and carbon-neutral
- The initiative will help to achieve Scotland’s objective of having 100% of renewable electricity by 2020
- The creation of new jobs during the construction and maintenance
Nevertheless, the project has stumbled upon a few initial hurdles. The Ministry of Defence refused to give its blessing to the construction – the reason being that the wind turbines might interfere with the radar systems at the former RAF air station at Leuchars. On top of that, in spite of several repeated attempts by the University to explore solutions, the Ministry of Defence consistently declined to negotiate any way forward.
On the bright side, this stalemate has spurred a wave of student activism. An Amnesty International St Andrews spokesman said that over 600 people attended public demonstrations at St Andrews in support of the construction. On top of that, a public petition demanding the project to go through gathered over 1100 signatures. The Kenly Wind Farm Campaign has also been endorsed by the St Andrews Student Association and by over 40 student societies.
This project sets a good example for other students in the UK. Undeniably, there is a great vigour among the younger generation to bring about green reforms – as witnessed by the recent climate strikes. Maybe a good way how to effectively channel this enthusiasm is by demanding changes in our most proximate environment – universities. After all, students hold a major bargaining power at universities and therefore are likely to succeed. Of course, building a wind farm is not always an option. But if you are a student, ask yourself: is my university doing enough to uphold the principle of sustainability? If not, why not be the one who starts to hold them to account…