The Transition University Southampton Initiative gained momentum this week following both its first open space conference and a keynote speech by Mark Levene at the LASS conference. Based on these meetings students and staff have begun to put together an alternative vision to challenge the Universities own recently released Strategic Vision.
The Initiative, supported by Crisis Forum, SU Green Action and SU AllotSoc with help from SUSU’s Environment & Ethics (E&E) department, is a group of students and staff at the University seeking to get the uni to address and adapt to the triple challenges of Climate Change, Peak Oil and Global Inequality. It is aligned with the national Transition Town movement along with Transition Universities Edinburgh and Winchester, which is also suggesting a Hampshire-wide University and County Council Transition Network. The group has released the following statement:
The University has released its Strategic Vision, detailing its vision of a more profitable, globalised research hub integrated within the market by 2015. But what it does not envision is how the University will react and cope with the unfolding crises of Climate Change, Peak Oil and Global Inequality. We feel that this is an incredible oversight in an age where every individual and organisation needs to consider how to reduce their contribution to these problems and create plans for dealing with their consequences. By 2015 it is likely we will have passed crucial tipping points for the global climate, Peak Oil will have started to affect our lives and the economy will be suffering as a result, putting millions of people into poverty and destitution around the world.
The Transition University Initiative is a grouping of staff and students who want to see a different vision for the University emerge, one which understands and includes responses to Climate Change, Peak Oil and Global Inequality rather than just concerns for maximum profitability and International reputation.
Many innovative ideas and suggestions came out of the alternative conference on Tuesday to make the campus more sustainable and resilient, with suggestions including supporting a fruit and vegetable co-op to replace unifruit and partner with a local farm to supply them and the university’s canteens with produce, creating inter-school modules on sustainability and the environment with timetable slots specifically for these and practical workshops, using green space on campus more effectively with parts dedicated to productive gardens, a rolling programme of retrofitting old buildings with energy saving measures and extensive micro-generation capacity, an internal trading system and an online alternative library.
Another issue identified at both the conference and by Mark Levene was the problem surrounding the business-centred model that universities have been heading towards since the 80’s, and that in order to address the crises of the biosphere and inequality a learning-centred and morally-based model of higher education for the collective benefit of humanity needs to be adopted. By refusing to discuss or criticise the economic model that the university operates within that has caused the issues we are facing, it was noted that it would be impossible to be able to fully and holistically address these problems.
The Transition University Southampton Initiative is hoping to build on the success of these conferences and extend their campaign as the University begins to implement their own Strategic Vision. Students and Staff are encouraged to join in this process by sharing their views and ideas, and begin an honest debate within the University on the direction we are heading instead of simply accepting the plan that has been thrust upon us. They promise that further opportunities to do this will be coming soon, and in the meantime ideas can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.