People are highly adaptive animals. While the dodo disappeared when humans introduced other animals on its islands and fish die when water conditions change, humanity has shown itself capable of evolving its methods and inventing technologies to adapt. But being adaptive does not mean enjoying the process of adaptation. Adaptation is often hurtful.
For instance, in order to be more economically efficient and also be able to create more things, societies industrialized. Students also have to adapt, as they change from their family environment to university environment. As study is an activity which requires high concentration and solid wellbeing, universities must provide safe, calm and pleasant environments for their students, in order to be successful.
Lancaster does a great job at that, with its efficient spine walkway, its warm collegiate system, its omnipresent help infrastructures, and its very developed Students’ Union. The accommodation is also good quality, mostly clean and in good shape, with relatively new buildings, which is key since accommodation is one of the most important environments for students, as this is where they sleep and eat, and often where they study. We can’t ignore the big kitchen areas, really modern rooms, and quick Wi-Fi we all enjoy.
But the uni should try to reduce discrepancies between similar sorts of accommodation across campus, County superior ensuites being “far less well made than those in Lonsdale”, according to a first year Philosophy student. Several students also complained about temperature issues, rooms and toilets being far too hot, as well as some seminar rooms in Bowland. According to a first year French student, the Great Hall Complex piano rooms are “either chilling cold or boiling hot”, making it near impossible to practice the piano. It has also been noted that some flat entry doors in Bardsea building in Furness have a door lock which automatically shuts itself if the key used to unlock it is not maintained in its position. This poses a serious problem for someone who is differently abled and has issues with one or both of their hands. Windows are also often badly insulated, allowing cold air to go through, which is uncomfortable. And this leads us to ecological issues.
Our environment is not man-made. Our planet allows for life because it has an extremely bountiful environment. Its diversity comes in great part from the different climates the Earth hosts. Yet humans in our global capitalist consumerist society have a way of life which consumes more energy than the planet can offer, and destroys unique environments ideal for diverse forms of life, such as forests and the oceans. Without even considering our moral duty to protect our planet (a duty we owe to other species as well as our children), it is in our interest to drastically reduce pollution, in order to preserve the favourable environment which allows us to live mostly calm lives. Two years ago, I was not a political ecologist. Then, I read a novel, Exodes, written by Jean-Marc Ligny who researched and discussed with several scientists to try and imagine the worst case scenario of our planet in 2100.
This acute vision of our planet made me highly sceptical at first, but as I read through, it hit me how terrifyingly realistic it was. The Netherlands were under water. Ligny’s story focuses on several characters from different areas of Europe, seeking to find idyllic places. A couple from Norway leaves their town, left desolate from fights for food, chaotic storms destroying fishing boats and houses. It is truly harrowing to think about.
While this description might seem too extreme to happen in 2100, during our own children’s lives, this future is worryingly looming over us. Hence, humans who were always able to adapt to the evolutions of our environments are today incapable of reacting properly. Are we cluelessly opening Pandora’s box? We’re already noticing summer and winter temperatures growing more extreme, and storms increasing in frequency and violence, such as the hurricanes on the USA’s coasts. Sea levels may increase several meters over the next 50 to 150 years. A warming of 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures would risk submerging cities. A study conducted in February 2016 warned that New York, London, Rio de Janeiro and Shanghai will be among the cities that could flood by 2100.
It is vital that we take all measures possible to reduce pollution. This means reducing the heating in our buildings, and wearing a sweater instead of a t-shirt, or two layers of clothes if needed. This means having a second button on all toilets for a small. This means having hallway lights that don’t automatically light up during daytime and stay on for shorter periods. This means desigining buildings with the environment in mind to store and lose heat more efficiently depending on the time of year. This means recycling food and using it as natural compost. This means building wind turbines, and solar panels when we can, to provide more than 15% of the electricity on campus. This means replacing traditional lights with LEDs as quick as possible. Finally, this also means a little effort from all of us, such as using bio detergents for washing machines, for instance. Every little helps!