Sustainability on Campuses

In times of the upcoming great conference on Climate Change in Paris a lot of articles, books, films and reports are being published on behalf of the global necessities of our present. The blog Environment across Boundaries has only recently featured a controversial report on the state of sustainability as a matter of university politics (see article).

In the course of the article, reflections are being made on the charge of how much the vague buzzword sustainability has transformed into a comprehensive agenda that brings menace to free speech and thinking – even in research. Here, I do not want to contemplate on what concerns first and foremost US academia landscape – or perhaps, even Great Britain, if one takes the divest movement as one of the most articulated representatives of “sustainable” policies on campuses, and whose target has been up to now the financial bedrock of those universities involved.

But how does an analogous picture look like in Germany? I guess, this the wrong question to ask. Of course, universities have already established “green” departments in their administration and student based movements have often strongly pushed and demanded for more sustainable campuses and forms of academic education that entail how we may want to live in a globalized world heading towards Climate Change and other, opaque and deadly threats to come. And still, I do not experience a trend towards judging each discipline along its ethical commitment to items that can be referred to under the buzzword “sustainability” … does this mean that academic cultures and dispositions strongly differ from each other?

If I could pledge for an open discussion among German students and scholars on matters of future, I would choose to dispute controversially the term “responsibility”. Since, though we may study to achieve individual carriers, hopes and expectations, we should not forget to what diverse ends universities are facilitated by “out there” – society; me, you and him/her.

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