In response to climate change, many people have started to change their habits and practices. For instance, public transit usage is up and more people are riding bikes. Drivers are buying hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius. People are buying energy efficient, compact florescent light bulbs. Recycling is on the rise. Reusable shopping bags are hip. More and more, people are going green.
This seems like a good thing, right?
Wrong. For starters, all of these are changes in consumer habits. This idea that going green is going to solve all our ecological problems is a joke. The punch line is that those responsible, the big corporations, are going to continue to plunder the natural world while making an extra buck off us with these token conscientious products.
“Green” is a complete abstraction with no concrete foundation. It doesn’t set any type of realistic goals the will ensure sustainability and life on a healthy planet. It doesn’t address the real issues. What “green” is, is the new marketing campaign for capital — the self-organized appearance of change with none of the sincerity or intent. The spectacle, if you will.
This brings me to our new student government’s green initiative. In a recent interview in the UVU Review, student body president elect Trevor Tooke, in response to the following question — ‘What is the one thing that you would like to change?’ replied, “I want to improve the campus recycling program.”
Tooke, if you haven’t noticed, there are already several blue trashcan-looking receptacles all over campus. The theory is that people are supposed to put things like paper and aluminum cans in them. From there, those items will be recycled. You can set all these programs in place, but it doesn’t mean that people will use them. I believe that structural change and individual change are both crucial, but right now structural change takes priority.
I don’t want to be critical without constructing, so here’s a proposal. Instead of refining the programs we already have in place, like recycling, why not do something different? Consider this. Push for the installation of solar panels on campus. This would create energy to power the school that wouldn’t come from coal or other environmentally harmful sources.
If the campus were able to produce it’s own power, we would lower the energy bills and could pass the savings on to the students in the form of lower tuition. This would be a step toward sustainability. It would help the school better negotiate this economic depression. It might cost a lot in the short term, but the long-term benefits are undeniable.
While I agree that recycling should be part of the solution, it should not be the solution. Right now there are more pressing issues. Recycling may have been effective in our parent’s generation, back when it was the hippie thing to do. We’ll never know.
What we do know is climate change is starting to take its toll on the planet. This generation’s responsibility and moral obligation is to mitigate the damages done and preserve the earth for the future.
We should strive for more than ineffectual activity. As students, let’s make UVU a sustainable institution, not a green one.
Let’s take this seriously — as seriously as if our future on this planet depended on it. It does. Let’s keep a constant dialogue going and challenge ourselves to be as pro-active as possible on the topic. As a community, we should be striving to make Utah County sustainable and self-reliant, and to promote a local economy. These are realistic goals. These are goals that we can and must achieve.