Saturday, November 5, 2011

Structural eco-deficit

No room at the inn, the dice are loaded, the playing field isn't level: choose your metaphor, but the drafters of UVic's 2011 draft Strategic Plan have left precious little space to be potentially occupied by ecological awareness or responsiveness. This is why I'm worried that all the ecological objections that a person might raise can so easily be kept out of the draft Plan.

The Plan's strategic bit is divided into four sections:
  1. People (pages 5-7, objectives 1-11);
  2. Quality (pages 7-10, objectives 12-27);
  3. Community (page 11, objectives 28-31); and
  4. Resources (pages 11-12, objectives 32-37).
What I'm wondering, perhaps obviously given all my other objections in this blog, is where ecological awareness fits into this four-part model, at least as each of the four elements are conventionally imagined. People? Not part of nature. Quality? Well, it'd be nice to have a pretty campus. Community? More people, but off campus. Resources? Kind of: let's use our resources but carefully enough that we can call it "sustainability."

But every one of these sections could - should? - include specifically ecological objectives, apart from the purely social ones that are there now. Given the university's persistent marketing of itself as green, I'm puzzled why there's not even any gestures in this direction. After all, the recent Maclean's review featured exactly one UVic picture: of a laptop-carrying Environmental Studies student balanced atop two rocks in Mystic Vale, a photo provided by UVic Communications after they requested it from an ES faculty member. (I can't find it online, so you'll have to either trust me or check out the hard-copy version.)

And with this corporate exploitation of the ES program, its students, and the campus' ecology, you're telling me that there's no room in the Strategic Plan for environmental concerns?!?

So anyway, here are some possible changes.

People, for example:
  • helping students understand their consumer footprint, both in this place and in principle for their future places of residence
  • ensuring that alumni preparing to leave Victoria understand the principles that would allow them to fit into the ecological reality of their new places of residence
  • helping faculty, most of whom are new to Victoria, learn the ecology of their new home and what they can do to work toward sustaining it.
Or maybe these ideas, under Community:
  • ensuring that objective 28 - on governance - requires the university to take ecological concerns into account with all its decisions, particularly those that affect the community outside Ring Road
  • insisting in objectives 29 and 30 that the university adopt a leadership role on regional ecological literacy and the activism that should flow from it
  • recognizing at objective 31 that the university has a responsibility to the ecological community of which it is a large and awkwardly shambling part.
And yes, indeed I do realize that perhaps I should go ahead and draft the specific objectives I'm implying here, so I'll do some of that in the coming days. But you know what? This draft Strategic Plan is so empty of ecological awareness that it's hard for me to see how adding individual objectives will have meaning without contextual support that's interweaved throughout the document.

At this point, the statements of vision, mission, and fundamental values are so utterly divorced from questions of ecology that ... no, I'll just say that they're divorced. You figure out what it means, and why I'm so unhappy about it.

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