I’m taking a course at Uppsala University this autumn in a program called CEMUS. CEMUS is a student initiative founded 20 years ago by two students, Niclas Hällström and Magnus Tuvendal. They were both frustrated by the fact that what was happening in the world was not discussed in class at all. Especially, they felt there was a lack of discussion about important questions like climate change, which worried the two students already then. So they said to their professors; ”This is the kind of courses we want; interdisciplinary courses and courses that actually touch the subjects of the big challenges we have ahead”. It is a big inspiration to see that they managed to get through their wishes in an old traditional University where they felt every institution focused only on itself and its own subject. Now the program has run for 20 years!
It is of course important for students to get knowledge in their own area but environmental and sustainability questions are often interdisciplinary questions that requires an understanding of systems and how things work together. Additionally, Niclas Hällström points out that the first priority of Universities should be to educate people so that they don’t use their knowledge in a bad way once they have graduated. What is meant by this? Well, the sad truth is that a lot of people with degree titles are the ones creating most damage to the planet. People in politics often have law degrees or similar higher degrees but seem to forget the state of the planet when they are taking decisions.
Here’s a nice quote by Stephen H. Schneider, Ph.D. at Stanford University. Apparently he was a great lecturer when it came to climate change issues.
”Just because we scientists have Ph.D.’s we should not hang up our citizenship at the door of a public meeting.”
So what degree do you have? And how do you use it to make a better planet? Niclas Hällström said to my class:
”Trust your gut-feeling. Have a healthy lack of respect for authority. The values they are reflecting upon us are not always the right ones”.
So how do we change policies made by people who don’t seem to be very keen on it? Well, remember that all big social changes in history have come from below, not the top.
This is an important lesson; do not underestimate what you can do RIGHT NOW. Don’t sit back and think I will do something once I finish this degree, or after this job, or after having a course on climate change or whatever. I can relate to what they were saying about that. That it is difficult to know what to do with the scary facts about the state of the planet and it’s easy to get paralyzed or follow the logic “keep calm and carry on”. Our systems are complex and our focus on money-value is not easy to change. So you wait and think that the degree will give you some answers to that and some tools to work with. The truth is that we all know already about something we can do and there’s no better time to start than now!
It’s a fact that climate change is happening. It is by this time irreversible and the effects will probably come sooner (and be worse?) than we are prepared for. However, instead of letting this depress us, it’s a great opportunity for us to change things for the better. So do something good for the planet and allow yourself to feel good about it! Don’t worry if you don’t have all the knowledge: if you don’t try you won’t know if it works, and you can always ask for help. Now is the time to try different possibilities and share as much knowledge as possible. It’s even better when we do things together, in groups, in communities etc. because it’s a rewarding project creating co-value.
The things we do can be the smallest things from buying local and ecological, recycle, learn more by reading a book on the subject or do something bigger by challenging yourself and buy nothing new for a year, start your own company with the right values or volunteer in an NGO.
So, what are you going to do?
Catarina Holmsten-Carrizo, www.rulesofgreen.com