Why students forget about the environment

Lili Bidwell 5 November 2016

Arguably the most important issue of our time, the environment is something which our generation should be fighting to protect. University students should be the core of this movement, but instead they are busy fighting for other things, and studying for their degrees. I am by no means saying that the environment is more important than women’s rights, LGBT+ concerns, and combatting racism for example, however it is worth remembering that if we do not do anything to protect our planet and reverse the damage we have already done, then we will not have long to live. That is to say that all too often this fundamental issue is overlooked in favour of seemingly more pressing problems we face in daily life. The environment does not seem to relevant to many students, they cannot connect with this issue on a personal level which makes the campaign much less attractive. 

The difficulty is, how can we make environmental campaigns more inviting? How can we encourage university students to participate when there is so much else going on in their lives? Green officers in Cambridge college JCR’s have their work cut out. Even trying to get people to attend a meeting can be challenging, and people respond much more to issues relating to homelessness for example than to the boring ways of trying to make our electricity use more efficient. It seems that, in spite of being an integral part of our future as humans on this planet, nobody can find the time in their lives to help combat climate change. It seems such an impossible and daunting task that students would rather instant satisfaction of other campaigns than less popular green issues.

This lack of involvement from the student body also seems to be part of a wider phenomenon in Cambridge. At Cambridge University you might expect to find a whole host of students ready and willing to fight for their beliefs, to protest about the important things in life. However, this all seems a little stifled by the academic and social pressures of university life. There are undoubtedly many students running societies and schemes and they should be celebrated, nevertheless there are still so many students who do nothing but their degree for fear of not having enough time to cope with it all. I am not saying these people are weak, in many ways they are doing the most sensible thing and putting their well-being first rather than overworking themselves, but the fact remains the same: Cambridge is not a place conducive to student run projects and extra-curricular activities. There are many options, but no time to get fully involved in anything in order to make a substantial difference. From this perspective it is even less surprising that many people forget almost entirely about environmental issues, given everything else that they have going on in their lives.