‘Frontiers: Inside the Outsiders’ is Pi Comment’s very own column tackling social issues from the perspective of students. In the wake of her passionate defence of #MeToo, our columnist Kezia Niman next argues that our everyday eco-friendly efforts are being undermined by the failure of government and big business to take the environmental initiative.
I’ve never been much of a fan of broccoli stalks. As I finish up my delicious plate of homecooked chicken and veggies, the green ghouls remain untouched. Not a problem, I’ll just go over to the food bin and ah…right. No more food bin. Welcome to my everyday dilemma, a dilemma shared by many students. This month Barnet council (where I live) announced they have scrapped the collection of food waste, rendering my specialised repository obsolete.
The measure to reduce food waste was only introduced in 2016. It’s no secret that slashes in funding have forced local councils to make hard choices. Often environmental causes are the first to get axed, as no one is left without a home or hospital bed. And yet, I twinge at the thought of my broccoli stalks lying among the broken TVs, old clothes and plastic bottles at the landfill. Beyond this selfish guilt, Barnet Council’s decisions are part of a wider problem. The systematic failure to recognise the leading (but unfulfilled) role of government and industry in environmental protection.
‘Sustainability Week’, buying Keep Cups and going vegan is all very well and good for us conscientious students. But climate change, pollution and habitat destruction need national, if not international action. Keeping England’s lands green and pleasant goes beyond a single student or even a whole university. The government needs to fund endeavours like food waste collection, recycling and conservation. Even more importantly, they need to regulate heavy industry. Fracking in the North of England must be shut down, point blank. Not only does it destroy greenery, but it changes the fabric of the earth, causing mini-quakes.
While it is important to persist with our own personal efforts to curb environmental problems, it is only government policy that leads to real change. There is a climate of unaccountability with regards to the environment – it’s everyone’s and no-one’s. We are all encouraged to do our bit, but what’s the point when fracking, mining and factories can knock out whole swathes of habitats in one fell swoop? We are being saddled with preventable problems due to the short sightedness, ignorance and greed of both government and industry. Students and young people feel this injustice more keenly than anyone else, quite simply because it’s our future.
When I go home and spy the empty space where the food bin used to be, I feel disappointed. Disappointed that yet again the most pressing global issue to date has been side-lined. Of course, I could cultivate my own compost heap, but that rouses horrifying images of rat-infested dirt. It would also take time, money and responsibility – three things I fundamentally lack as a student. This is common to many households, particularly with regards to time and money. Barnet’s food waste collection exemplified that when being green is made easy people are happy to oblige. Similarly, now there’s a sugar tax I’m more inclined to buy diet than sugary drinks. Government policy to incentivise or de-incentivise people works. Scrapping food bins is a regression and there’s no excuse. It reflects the climate of unaccountability that plagues our government. This complacency must end.