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Column: Awareness To Action

Heights Columnist

Published: Sunday, February 3, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 01:02

Who’s responsible? It’s a question frequently pondered by my fellow environmental studies peers and myself when considering the degradation of the world around us. The blame could easily fall on the government, big business, societal constructs, or even our nation’s education system for not cultivating awareness from an early age. Often, the individual feels he or she is too small or inadequate to make a difference, and people would much rather point fingers than consider their own actions. While I personally don’t think any one group or person is entirely to blame, I believe the role of the individual is just as important as the role of any larger entity.

To quote from Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking Silent Spring, “We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one ‘less traveled by’—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth.” It is my hope for our generation that we be one of trailblazers, choosing over and over again the less traveled path, turning awareness into action.

 From what I can tell, we’ve reached a point in time where most of us grew up with some sense of our place within the greater environment. Maybe it was as simple as learning to recycle from Dad or being told to shut the water off when not using it by Mom, but a certain shift took place with our generation. Further evidence of this shift is our absolute familiarity with phrases such as “going green” and “eco-friendly.” While this change is definitely a step in the right direction, I’m afraid that too often people get caught up on the words themselves without understanding their meaning, and I think the recent efforts on the part of the UGBC exemplify this.

Back in October, the UGBC Senate released a statement titled “A Green State of Affairs: Promoting a Sustainable BC.” While the sentiment behind the release is commendable, I felt it was lacking in tangibles. Rather than giving solid examples of what can or will be done by our campus’s student leaders, Senate relies on vague rhetoric to encourage students to engage in, continue, and promote sustainable practices without actually explaining what those practices might be. Education and awareness are important, but action is essential, and that’s where each one of us has room for improvement.

Luckily, taking action does not have to be a solo venture, and we have incredible examples of groups doing so right here on campus. The students and staff behind groups like Real Food BC, EcoPledge, and EcoReps make an effort to do their part for the environment every day, and it’s a shame they aren’t given greater recognition. Also, to its credit, BC’s Office of Residential Life has recently decided to play a more active role in the University’s green push with its new Sustainable Living-Learning initiative. Starting next year, 24 rising sophomores will have the opportunity to form a new residential community focused on environmental issues and action. The group will be instrumental in building this program for future years, hopefully with significant expansion. Applications for this unique experience are still being accepted, and I strongly encourage environmentally aware freshmen to choose the less traveled path and apply. Educating ourselves for a global future should no longer be an elective, but a way of life. In my mind, the question is no longer “Who’s responsible?” but instead “What path will you choose?” The choice, after all, is the individual’s to make.


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