It was on a warm day in November, too warm for November, that I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I would quit my studies. I was walking through the lovely trees and flat green plains of the campus, which were not the reason I would quit. That afternoon I would go to the Sport Centre and meet my friends, which was not the reason I would quit. All in all, I was more than content in our small Center Parcs for students.
However, I came here for my education. And the days are getting too warm to ignore the facts. To summarize: at the UT I am still being educated on how to be an engineer in the old unsustainable system. With all the climate reports, warnings from scientists and news reports from around the world of floods, fires and droughts, I had hoped to be a part of the new generation that would revive and repair the destruction. Instead, I am taught how to use the same old materials in the same old way, pushed forward to profit-focused companies, with little regard to ecosystems, soil, emissions and the problems we will face globally the coming decades.
Of course, reality is more nuanced. There are bits that mention carbon life cycle analysis, but most sustainable solutions are being frowned upon. There are a handful of masters or minors that include sustainability, and maybe in some studies it is more forefront, but I have taken courses from different Bachelors at different faculties, and I have not found any. From anyone I talked to, in general the urgency and scope is severely lacking. And I do not think it is worth it to study myself into a burnout for courses that teach me to further degrade the planet.
I will not waste any more time.
We are in a climate crisis, and while your own scientists know the severity and urgency, there are very little indicators that the UT is taking this seriously. The problem is not political, not subjective. It is factual, real, threatening and you will benefit greatly (both in sustainability, public image and support) if you take bigger steps. Here are my six humble suggestions I collected the past year or so for immediate and concrete action.
1) Acknowledge the crisis and call out the climate emergency. Let everyone know this crisis is real, urgent and you are willing to take steps to do your part (this has been requested multiple times from different parties).
2) Write a letter to the municipalities of Enschede and surrounding area about the climate crisis, and demand them to take action. You are a scientific institute politicians need to take seriously, so you have the opportunity to address this problem locally (last year there was a petition by students and staff about this, without success).
3) Cut all ties with the fossil fuel industry. Still, there are thousands or even millions of euros pumped into research for the benefit of fossil fuel companies like Shell or BP. This is morally unacceptable, as you are making the conscious decision to let them further ruin the atmosphere.
4) Add a requirement for the Ethics committee to not allow research promoting or refining unsustainable behaviour (like oil extraction or airplane pollution).
5) Maybe involve your own students and staff in your policy-making? From what I heard, you already had a Consultation meeting once, which was quite successful. Why not make this a regular and permanent part of decision-making? More democratic, and more trust from your intelligent and diverse community.
6) Lastly, what would education for the future look like? Well, we can start with a campus-wide course for everyone on campus about the climate crisis (this is already being done at multiple universities now). Teach us about the problems, systems and possible solutions alongside our studies. Let us discuss, brainstorm and learn together to design sustainable solutions that help those affected by the crisis, while being climate neutral and possibly regenerate nature.
I know this takes courage, effort and a lot of annoying conversations. But it must happen. Do not let this "Sustainability Week" go by without steps being taken. I hope you take this seriously, but I suspect you might not. And in that case, I can no longer be a student here. I can spend my time elsewhere, anywhere that actually will prepare me for what is coming and will teach me how to change things for the better.
I heard Saxion has good sustainability education, along with some other universities, but I also might just find a meaningful place away to work, plant some trees, help out with and learn about eco-construction and more. There are many opportunities nowadays. We will see what my future brings.
Thank you for my wonderful time here.
Ex-Bachelor student of ATLAS University College Twente.