Friday, 21 March 2014

Aberystwyth University - environmental credentials

Aberystwyth University plans to build a new campus on Mauritius. It's an island that has suffered environmental degradation at the hands of Europe in the past (indigenous lifeforms like the dodo were made extinct by sailors) and you can safely assume that the campus will be built on, and therefore destroy, a greenfield site. If that wasn't the case you can be assured it would have been mentioned as a positive feature in the university's press release.

This isn't a new thing. See previous posts that cover developments at Aberystwyth University. Only this July the university announced a new "Aberystwyth Innovation and Diffusion Campus" at Gogerddan, funded by biotechnology interests (you know, the nasty industries responsible for GM foods, patenting life forms, terminator crops and so on). And the construction of their massive new halls on a greenfield site continues (which wouldn't have been necessary if they hadn't knocked down and closed other halls, where students would have been nearer to their lecture locations - the new greenfield site will irresponsibly encourage car use).

Aberystwyth University building on a greenfield site

Massive scale of the barn-like halls

Students unhappy about the university closing
historic halls - Cambrian News, 10 October 2013, p3

Mauritius, eh? So they will be flying staff back and forth, encouraging international travel for students too. The phrase "environmentally irresponsible" springs to mind. Again, this isn't new. In the Cambrian News (31st October 2013) it said Aberystwyth University signed an agreement to "combat global warming". How did they do that? By flying four members of staff to Korea and back! The article ended with "Aberystwyth University is proud to have set a precedent on the ethical use of natural resources." It's hardly ethical to fly people around the world, burning fossil fuels in the worst part of the atmosphere. Don't universities teach their press office anything nowadays? Tsk, modern education.

An Aberystwyth University sign. Educational standards are 
obviously dropping, since the sign seems to be unable to 
clarify whether this is a Smoking Zone or a No Smoking Zone.

Perhaps, when you look closely, there is a commitment to the environment in everyday university practice? Mmm. Their outlets use lots of disposable cups and utensils and packaging. The Student's Union got rid of their own independent coffee shop and invited the famous corporate tax dodgers Starbucks in, leading to a massive increase in throwaway cups and packaging. Ah. Student's Union's used to be radical places, and often concerned with environmental issues. Nowadays they're a sad shadow of their former selves, sucking up to Starbucks, filling their shop with products full of non-certified palm oil products even though they know how bad they are - and the shop's first display as you walk in is chocolate imported from America and listing three types of genetically-modified organism in the ingredients. Not very environmentally-friendly.

Starbucks in the Student's Union. Even their advertising
is based around throwaway cup culture.

The university vending machines are full of junkfood. Except - no, what's this? A "Green Box"! It says the contents are "healthy and fresh", which all implies fruit! But look more closely and it is really sugary, teeth-rotting drinks like coke. The university seem to misunderstand the term "healthy". Then again, their Sports Centre proudly displays a garish Coke machine outside its entrance, promoting sugary junk drinks before you even get in.

Honesty in advertising. Not!

When you consider all this it is no surprise that Aberystwyth University languishes near the very bottom of the Green League Table again and again. Aberystwyth University only has to look at the few issues we have covered in various blog posts to start to see why they do so badly.

Who's that near the bottom... again...?
Source: The Guardian.

Here's another little example. In the past the university had benches which blended in to the natural environment unobtrusively.

The kind of bench the university used to
create - minimal footprint, as it should be

Their latest additions are almost the opposite of that principle. Exhibits A, B and C, m'lud.

"Let's sit here for a lovely view of ... a lamp post!" 
A bench with a large concrete footprint 
slapped down on an area with two benches already.

No subtlety, not attempt to blend in – this was a grassy and bushy area
before they were hacked away. 
Now it has fences, concrete, gravel - not a relaxing place to sit. 
It's more like urban decay art installations (a la "the steps to nowhere" 
on the concourse in front of the Arts Centre).

By the sports centre - a nice area of bushes cut down to make this

It's been claimed again and again in other sources that the university is now run as a dodgy dictatorship rife with bullying and suspensions and blogs dedicated to the subject (is it a coincidence that after the person running the humorous fake VC Twitter account was named they suddenly found themselves unemployed?) Maybe that has something to do with this apparent behaviour of the university that the mouth says one thing, the hand does another.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is unbelievable. Why on earth is the uni having a campus in Mauritius? And flying people to Korea to sign a global warming agreement is just beyond a joke. I cannot believe they really did that. Did nobody stop and think?
The uni's going down the pan.