Ditch the cruises − keep the future
I live in two different bubbles of higher education students. In the first one, I see how eco-anxiety determines our everyday lives. Instead of studies and student life, our thoughts are dominated by constant news of the rapid disappearance of biodiversity, tens of thousands of koalas that have died in trees and record-breaking warm seasons. In this bubble, it is difficult to have trust in matters like saving for a home, having children or having career plans for the coming decades. All these matters seem insignificant – after all, we are living the last serene moments before the global conflicts caused by climate change and other environmental crises. This is like Harry Potter’s wizarding world before Voldemort has truly returned: you can sense the upcoming conflict, but it lets us wait until the end of the story. In the wizarding world, the story ends happily, but our future is open.
What about the other bubble? It does not include magic but neither enormous eco-anxiety. In my other bubble, I spend the best student life in the world on my beloved Otaniemi campus, organising student dinners and having the same conversation every day about whether to go and have lunch at A Bloc, Kipsari or Valimo. It feels good to be in the Otaniemi bubble, and every single day I am glad that I will not yet graduate next year. At my home university and student life, people have a strong belief in technology development and the ability to solve major challenges in time.
There is some reason for technological optimism, but the figures that call for immediate action do not care whether you live among your eco-anxiety peer group or in the sanctuary of technological development. In 2018, the IPCC calculated that we must cut our emissions by 45% by 2030 to stay within the critical 1.5 degree warming target. Ten years is not a long time, especially when it means that rich countries must act without delay in order to achieve at least some justice between the states. Ten years ago, I was counting my final math assignments in elementary school and spent the winter months downhill skiing in the nearby slopes. Now I am completing my final system analysis course for my Bachelor level minor subject and downhill skiing with the same boots I had ten years ago. Ten years is a short time and we must act now.
We know what to do, but we are expecting decision-makers and business leaders to make the difficult decisions. However, decisions are rarely made without the change required by individual people. It is paradoxical to hope that the crisis caused by overconsumption would be resolved without changing your own lifestyle choices. Besides, few of us are 17-year-old high school students anymore. We will also become leaders and decision-makers, whose inefficiency lets us avoid our responsibilities today. And age is no excuse to think that it is someone else’s job to take care of everything. We should remember a certain 17-year old upper secondary school student called Greta Thunberg. And one Greta is not enough.
Influencing does not mean the end to your wonderful student life – volunteer culture, singing together at Smökki, Unisport league games, May Day – all of these are good and important matters, let’s keep them. However, it is dishonest to say that no lifestyle changes are needed in student life as well. First of all, I suggest that we replace traditional cruises that cause excessive carbon and chemical emissions with communal travel and leisure in ways that do not require shipping or flying. Secondly, I suggest that the food offered at events should be plant-based. AYY aims to lead the way in environmental issues and these suggestions are part of our daily routine. The impact becomes clearly visible when more and more communities change their ways of acting, and all of us can have effect on our ways of acting in our daily lives. Of individual choices, food and travelling are the most significant causes of carbon emissions right after housing. Therefore, these relatively small changes do matter.
The current environmental crisis is the most important and urgent issue to resolve in global society. Therefore, it is everyone’s responsibility to promote the issue and take it into consideration in their lifestyle choices. The state of the future predicted in the climate debate is the same future where we have the opportunity to learn in interesting jobs, be amazed by family life or have adventures elsewhere. But only if we succeed in preserving the world that provides us with all these opportunities. This is also the aim of Aalto University Student Union’s work on sustainable development.
AYY Board Member
Responsibilities: Sustainable Development, Social Policy, Municipal Advocacy, Sports