Nov 21st, 2022, 10:00 AM

AUP Students Aren't Here to Save the World

By Alyssa Gauk
Image Credit: Unsplash / Li-An Lim
It’s easy to ignore the climate crisis when you can afford to look the other way.

Everybody knows that the climate crisis is real. Well, most of us anyway. My point is, we know something drastic needs to change if we want to live on a healthy planet with happy people. The worst part is, Gen Z essentially has to take on this responsibility since they will be living with the mess made by our parents and grandparents. Gen Z (those born roughly between 1997 and 2010) is known as the most sustainable generation with the most passion for creating positive changes both socially and environmentally. However, I do not see this drive from AUP’s Gen Z and do not believe they are here to save the world; and I think it’s because they can quite literally afford not to care. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by AUP Memes (@aupmemepage)

I knew attending a private American university meant I would meet lots of rich Gen Zs. However, I did not expect the level of privilege I encountered during this past year at AUP. Randy Vener, Director of Financial Aid on campus, says that “around 60 students on campus right now have more than 50% of their tuition covered by AUP institutional financial aid”. This means that many students (or most likely their parents) are covered when it comes to the high tuition costs. 

In 2015, Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute conducted a report that found the rich are driving the brunt of climate change, with 10% of the most wealthy contributing to 49% of carbon dioxide emissions. While not all AUP students come from the top 10%, most are from upper socio-economic backgrounds and it shows in their consumption and behaviors.

Over the summer semester, I took Renate Strauss’ Sustainability in Fashion course. In the midst of discussing the problems of fast fashion, a student next to me opened up the ASOS website. At first, I thought she was looking to critique the company based on the class discussion until I saw her add a pair of plastic boots to her cart. This complete disregard for the subject was commonplace, and I soon discovered many students in that class were only there because it is a required course for the Fashion Track.

The AUP Green Club “intends to be a forum where students with environmental curiosity can congregate, share knowledge, and plan action regarding sustainability and the natural world.” It has roughly 10 active members which is an incredibly low number for a student body of over 1,100 students. Sarah Glavan, an Environmental Sciences student and president of the AUP Green Club, shares my concern about the lack of sustainable efforts from students. During an interview, Sarah shared her concern over the immense number of flights students take on a regular basis. I even know of two students who flew to the UK for a day trip. Air travel is one of the largest contributors to climate change, so why do AUP students choose to fly around Europe when there is an incredible train system?

Unfortunately, Sarah recognizes that the AUP Green Club members “do not reflect the rest of AUP’s student body.” She says she “hasn’t seen AUP students making a conscious effort towards living a sustainable life” and hopes that she can “create a community where people can come together in a healing space” to learn more about sustainability, how to live a slower pace of life and how to reduce their overall consumption.

The faculty advisor of AUP’s Advisory Board on Environmental Sustainability (ABES), Professor Albert Cath, says that “climate change is a reality” and whether we like it or not, it is something we have to deal with. Professor Cath believes that AUP’s students have a long way to go, but recognizes that there has been a huge shift between generations. He has witnessed a large increase in awareness over the last 20 years, mentioning that Gen Z is much more conscious of environmental issues than their predecessors. Cath emphasizes, however, that awareness is not enough. Awareness and action are required for a positive change to occur. 

Cath also highlighted that individual changes in behavior are not enough to save the planet. The larger systems which have led us to this climate crisis must be changed as well. However, doing your part sets a good example for companies and corporations. Furthermore, it is a privilege to fully understand the climate crisis and know ways you can reduce your footprint. AUP students should be at the forefront of the fight against climate change, especially if they can afford to do so. 

If you would like to learn more about your carbon footprint and what you can do to fight against the climate crisis, here are some resources:

Carbon Footprint Calculator

https://www.footprintcalculator.org/home/en

Ways to Take Actions

https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/16-ways-take-action-climate 

AUP Advisory Board on Environmental Sustainability 

https://www.aup.edu/advisory-board-environmental-sustainability-abes

AUP Green Club

https://aup.campuslabs.com/engage/organization/aupgreen