Some people believe that student associations’ purpose is to make sure students enjoy their lives while they are drudging through or skipping along their university paths. We definitely think so too at ESN Uni Helsinki; we want our exchange and international students to get the most out of their experiences in Finland! We want you to see snow, try a delicious cinnamon bun and go ice swimming - those are things we love doing too. But we also think that student associations’ can make an impact, and that is why we launched our #ESNUniHelsinkiGoesGreen campaign in the first place.
It is often said that the individual’s cannot change anything, or if they can, the effect is diminishingly small. This statement puts a damper on your mood for two reasons:
- One, it makes us lose hope as we feel like we have no power.
- And two, it sometimes gives us a reason (or an excuse?) not to care. Thinking that we do not have to reflect on our individual choices can be dangerous though, as it can easily make us feel melancholic or indifferent towards major issues.
Before we delve deeper into this topic though, let’s make one thing clear: we are not here to shame or point fingers at anyone. The reason we wanted to address the topic of Environmental Sustainability has nothing to do with wanting to make you feel miserable as that will hardly encourage anyone to do - well, anything. After all, none of us is leading a carbon print-less life in a remote cottage that uses no heat, only eating pine cones and roots of the mulberry trees! As a student association we are not guilt-free either; we organize trips (with buses though, that is marginally better), sometimes print flyers and we have not managed to eliminate all disposable cups from our events (even though that is on our current agenda). But what we are trying to do is to start a conversation and tell people what has been working for us.
We also care because we think that so many people of our generation really want to see a change in the way we use natural resources, treat nature around us and consume things. We want to believe that individuals can drive meaningful change; sometimes world changers just have to clump together to achieve their goals! We see this same spirit in different ESN sections around the network; the fact that ESN International named Environmental Sustainability one of their main causes is quite telling too. So we are definitely not alone here: there are thousands of ESNers ready to battle climate change, and like the student strikes have proved, there are millions of young people all around the world ready to not only affect political change but also consider what they can improve in their own lives to make the world stand a better chance.This is why we are inviting you on a journey with us to think of ways we can craft a more sustainable lifestyle that allows us to enjoy the small delights of each day and limits actions that are negatively impacting our shared living space.
And lastly, we care because we too are individuals living on this Earth. Our volunteers come from different backgrounds and have had very diverse life experiences, and we have all seen the both the beauty nature has to offer but also the devastating news about the effects of climate change. We have all watched how the fires ravaged countries and how floods have destroyed homes; we have grieved for the people and animals that have suffered from the extreme weather conditions that will only get worse as the time goes by if we do not act. So maybe above all, we care because we are just like you; we know that the price for not caring is too high.