Thursday, December 17, 2009

The victory of Greenthink on campus

James Howell thought university life would be filled with junk food, non-conformism and critical thinking. He was wrong.

I had thought that in joining an institution like Goldsmiths, University of London, which is known for being a progressive university – this is where the BritArt explosion happened in the 1990s and many famous writers, musicians and academics have studied and taught here – I would be immersing myself in a free-thinking, non-conformist, alternative atmosphere. I was wrong.

The Goldsmiths Students’ Union has signed on to the 10:10 campaign, which means it has pledged to cut the college’s carbon emissions by 10 per cent in 2010. A string of celebs, as well as sports clubs, big companies and schools have signed up to this rather fashionable campaign, which is supported by the UK Guardian. In fact, the campaign is backed by everyone from Number 10 to various local councils and MPs (1).
So perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that Goldsmiths, too, had jumped on the bandwagon. Yet universities – or at least student bodies – are supposed to be different. They are supposed to be havens of non-conformism and plurality of thought. Right?
What was truly surprising to me is just how little questioning and challenging of orthodoxies happens on student campuses these days. That was once the staple of student life, but, today, when it comes to the effects of climate change, any student who chooses not to recycle their lecture notes is treated as deranged.
Around the UK, various green student societies have sprung up. At Goldsmiths, for instance, there’s the ‘Enviro-club’, which is ‘passionate about environmental issues’. At an event last year, the club put a sofa on the street and handed out free tea and cake to anyone willing to participate in ‘inspiring conversations about fruit, veg and gardening’ (2). Which is possibly the most inappropriate use of the word ‘inspiring’ ever. Read more.

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