The University Committee for Sustainable Development, now only marginally more known as C-SUM, have issued yet another ‘notification’ that only serves to show how far away this University is from its students. Students have rightfully spoken out about the obvious lack of action, unwittingly agreeing with the Rector in his address at the beginning of this scholastic year. It was actually called Sustainability: in mind and action; an effective exercise in pouring salt in the gaping environmental wound at the University of Malta.
It was admittedly a very well-researched speech, to the Professor Alfred J. Vella’s credit, where he educated his audience about the current harrowing environmental state of affairs. “If one knows the facts and understands clearly the implications,” he said, “one cannot possibly remain passive and not act, hopefully in concert with the rest of society, to do something about it.” He’s right, we need a full societal shift with clear proactive goals to work towards a common environmental good.
Then he turned to what the University should be doing. “As a university, we should also employ our brains towards substantial research efforts addressing sustainability problems.” On this note, although some might have already smirked, he’s also right. The irony hasn’t really started yet, give it a couple paragraphs. Did you know we have a Centre for Environmental Education and Research striving to “empower citizens to actively participate in environmental decision-making fora and in initiatives that promote a good quality of life,” according to their page on the UoM website? This was a collaboration between the University, the Education Ministry, the Environment Ministry and MEPA, so you know it’s legit. We also have an Institute for Climate Change & Sustainable Development with the purpose of promoting “social sustainability and conduct interdisciplinary research in areas related to sustainable development and climate change, including mitigation and adaptation.”
But we also have air-conditioners being left on throughout the Christmas break making sure the Gateway venue is toasty at all hours of day or night. We also have a Students’ House so secure that even when it’s locked, the lights are left on so that any trespassers can be seen clearly by the cameras that may or may not actually work. Entire campus buildings taking the idea of enlightening students way too seriously when there aren’t any lectures being held, you know, over the holidays.
“And as an institution, we have to behave and act as sustainably as possible in order to lead by example,” the Rector incredulously said before finally introducing the Committee of the hour, “For this purpose, I have set up an 8-person Committee for Sustainability at UM (C-SUM) tasked with championing sustainability actions at the University.”
Had you heard of C-SUM before last week’s Facebook tantrum about their ridiculous notification? I wouldn’t hope to find much about them now either, if I were you. They have no dedicated section on the website, they are not listed in the Committees under Senate, Council or both. In fact, the only mention of them other than the Rector’s inauguration address for this scholastic year before the now infamous ‘paper’ nonsense is the other notification on the University news portal Newspoint from the Committee wishing students a “sustainable festive season.”
And even if you were to find that article, I’ll save you the trouble. In their two-sentence post, the Committee, “encourage organisers of social events on campus to avoid single-use plastic plates and cups”. Ironically considering the flagrant lack of environmental conscience this institution clearly portrays, the second and last sentence reminds said organisers to “switch off all lighting and air conditioners as well as all desktops and other appliances not in use during the Christmas Recess.” The sentences are also preceded by a link to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals which actually took up more space on the web page than the ‘article’, and a list of the Committee Members.
To their credit, the committee members are not the only ones clearly deluded. The Rector continued, “one has to mention that, over the recent years, we have quietly been taking important steps to deal with, for example, minimising energy use on campus (by controlling air conditioning set temperatures and operating times; changing over to low energy lighting units etc); installing PV panels over most of the suitable flat surfaces on campus; constructing a green roof as a demonstrator unit for others to emulate etc.”
So C-SUM essentially thought the most appropriate follow up to a notification appealing to Student Organisations to consider doing something they’ve been doing for years now, would be to tell students about paper. “1. Print rarely; 2. Print double-sided; 3. Keep waste paper separate for re-use, recycling and printing on unused sides.” Considering counter arguments on Facebook which were picked up and repeated by The Third Eye, I might have some counter proposals, and a small bit of advice I’m also shamelessly lifting from the Rector’s speech.
To C-SUM, the students understand your plea and have replied: “1. Stop asking us to print so much; 2. Let us print double-sided; 3. Give us clear and abundant recycling bins, rather than using them only to block parking spaces in the most sought after parking areas.” As Professor Alfred J Vella said at the beginning of the scholastic year, “Actions will need to be taken, because actions speak louder than words.”