OPINION: The University needs to be in the forefront of sustainable practices

- in Debatt, English
@Lundagård

“The World Economic Forum, Lund University, all top decision-making institutions ought to set the example and materialize concrete action towards sustainable change”. Master students Eléna Liquet and Mathilde Martin call upon their faculty LUSEM to embrace sustainable practices, and that the University to practice what they teach in terms of sustainability.

Exhorting World Leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 24th, the young Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg defied all norms of political correctness in claiming that it was “insane that people were gathered here to talk about climate change while travelling in private jets”. Greta’s words regrettably resonate throughout our fixed rationales: if our decision-making representatives don’t set the example, then who will?

Ironically, this paradox is palpable at every corner of our societies. Even in Sweden, Greta’s home, others are experiencing the same edginess. At Lund University, awkwardness emerged when an Economics professor stated at the end of a class that he will be flying twice a week from the Netherlands to teach that course. Some would be more surprised than others hearing this out, especially within LUSEM where sustainability challenges have only recently penetrated the various programmes’ curricula. One step forward, two steps backward is the bitter reality this announcement revealed.

As the sphere that formulates and transmits knowledge, academia should take part in setting a viable agenda for action and, more importantly, act upon it. However, commitment sharply differs from one department to another. Is it legitimate that the University Center for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS) is the only one imposing its staff to travel by train for distances within 12 hours reach? Commitment should not be exclusive to one vision proper to one teaching, while others would be exempted from acting upon norms we should all consider.

Universities ought to translate the knowledge they produce into a new vision.

Vision enables transition. Picture for a second a university that promotes interactive formats of lectures with video-conferences. After all, remote communication and knowledge transfer are inevitable, why not be at the forefront and start experiencing it today? Universities ought to translate the knowledge they produce into a new vision, one that displays change not as an impediment but rather as a source of new opportunities.

There is an urgent need to move away from compartmentalization towards stronger coordination across departments. Sustainability is about unified efforts, not a department-constrained ideology. Initiatives are already on the way. LUCSUS students demand the creation of a Green Office that would ensure the design and implementation of transversal sustainability policies at the University level. As LUSEM students, we call upon our faculty to support such projects, joining forces in producing and spreading a common vision among all university members.

As Greta acknowledges, though some are already taking a stand, they remain “too few or too far away from power to make a difference today”. The World Economic Forum, Lund University, all top decision-making institutions ought to set the example and materialize concrete action towards sustainable change, one step at the time, but always forward.

Eléna Liquet – Master student in Economic Development and Growth, Lund University
Mathilde Martin – Master student in Innovation and Global Sustainable Development, Lund University

This is an opinion piece/debate article in Lundagård. The authors stands for the arguments in the article. 

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