We are a university student body. As such, we are gathered from all over the world to study, resulting in vastly different backgrounds. These different backgrounds put us in different positions as students. This leaves us each with different abilities when it comes to making environmentally conscious changes, and considering each of our parts in the assistance of a cleaner world.
After listening to an episode of NPR’s 1A podcast called “Why it’s Hard to Change Minds About Climate Change,” I realized the disconnect we face when trying to instil the importance of the environment. I don’t mean disconnect between reality and environmental facts, but the disconnect we have when communicating sides of an argument. In many cases, it seems to be a contrast in understanding and views between political parties. When the view is a division between liberal and conservative, how do we bridge that divide?
It of course is not a left or right issue, but an everyone issue. It is a matter that we all must take our part in. We all have a voice, we all have coins in our pockets, and we all can use the resources and creativity within us to come up with better solutions. How you use your voice and your resources matters.
The environment, just like every other thing an individual will participate in or abstain from in their life, is a political topic. The gatekeepers are our government officials and the corporations who invest in the politicians, education, and scientific studies. Because of this, you have a voice.
It is easy to say that we are just students trying to get through this year with acceptable marks. When we’re past studying, writing dissertations, and exams, then we can focus on the politics that surround us. But that is not true. It’s never too soon to start paying attention to politics. The sooner you begin, the better grasp you will have of the policies being made and the politicians in charge of it.
We are all of age to vote. I say this not with the implication that we all need to invest in British politics, but rather that we need to invest ourselves in the politics of our home countries and the world. With our votes we can work together to select representatives and leaders who believe in working with others to create a cleaner world to live in. By reading about candidates we can research contributors to their campaigns and see who they have have endorsed in the past. What’s more, we can look into past actions of said candidates to see if their actions line up with their rhetoric.
I understand wholeheartedly that not all countries have easy options for voting, if at all. However, there is more than one way to cast a vote. We can vote with the coins in our pockets. While as students we each have a finite access to cash, we still need to eat, we still need to have clothing, and we still need school supplies. But by choosing to invest in companies with ethical and sustainable practices, we are making our voices heard. Money is the all mighty voice in a capitalistic world.
Of course, buying organic, and investing in bamboo or hemp clothing or notebooks made from recycled materials can get extremely costly. There are many used clothes and bookstores not just in Durham, but online which help to assure that not only are you refraining from investing in companies who may not have ethical practices, but perhaps in somewhere that your money goes toward a charitable cause.
There are many arguments for and against such practice. Some arguments might be, for example, that the complete switch to wind and/or solar energy will cause economic turmoil with displaced miners and oil-riggers, as well as loss of money for the massive companies whose business relies on these things. These are arguments and discussions for another article, but it is important to notice that these arguments are just theoretical, and that it is up to us to come together to problem solve. Buying locally is one of the best ways to invest in a sound economy and to create a supportive environment for small and ethical businesses to grow.
By chosing ethical and sustainable producers, we are taking money away from larger corporations and putting it into the pockets of smaller businesses. This not only works toward a more ethical and sustainable market, but also normalizes these markets, which theoretically should make ethical and sustainable products more affordable and less novel.
The unfortunate truth about local producers is that many sell from out of town centers, such as farms that can be difficult to get to without driving. While markets are useful, they aren’t necessarily the locally produced goods we might hope for, though still falling into the small business category. If those markets could be more farmer- and small-production-centered, then we would see an economic shift if widely adopted.
Considering ‘high-street shopping’, the general idea, in most towns and cities, is the same: big business outlets with popular name brands. The vast majority of these businesses sell products produced abroad and for very little payment to their workers. What if that were to change and become a collection of small businesses that worked toward creating community again? It could be argued that the high streets are designed for large-profit companies and that the cost of such locations would be too high for the small business to withstand, and this would be a valid argument. However, there is no chance of it becoming a reality if the reality is accepted as it is, and no work is done to change it. How we invest our money is a powerful way to start this work.
Furthermore, your voice matters. We are a student body, mixing with people in our lectures, our tutorials, in the libraries, in the gyms, at the pub, on the dance floor, and in our colleges. We talk to each other to communicate, but half of talking is being able to listen. If we can communicate effectively with those around us then we can use our voices to talk about sustainability. Considering ways in which we can talk about the environment and sustainable practices with our peers without data-dumping figures and facts, but instead listing the benefits of a sustainable world, and listening to any opposing arguments they might have is key. Being able to talk to one another and be heard is the only way that we, as a society, can move forward. By addressing doubt and concerns and working together to problem solve, we can develop a more positive and progressive discussion regarding environmental issues.
The important thing to remember is that you have a voice. You are the future of our world, no matter where you are from or what your background is. You have the ability to invest, speak, and vote. It is up to each of us as individuals to use these tools wisely, to consider the future not just for ourselves, but for future generations and the world we leave behind for them.
Use your voice, and use it wisely.