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July 20, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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President’s Column

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Students at Victoria have a long tradition of environmentalism. A Radical Tradition: A History of Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association, 1899-1999, traces environmental activism on campus to 1963, when students expressed their opposition to French nuclear testing.

The following selection of Student Representative Council (SRC) policy resolutions provides an indication of the issues students have concerned themselves with over the decades.

  • “That this Association oppose any development in New Zealand which does not take into account the factors of long-term environmental, conservation and preservation considerations.” (1974)
  • “That this Association supports the Maritime Unions in their principled stand against nuclear warships and urges the Government to take immediate steps to remove the USS Truxton and prohibit any further visits of nuclear warships to New Zealand.” (1976)
  • “That this Association calls for the resignation or sacking (whichever happens first) of the Minister of Environment, Venn Young, due to his decision as Minister of Forests to proceed with logging Whirinaki Forest Block 10 in 1979.” (1979)
  • “That VUWSA presses for standardization of refunds on milk bottles.” (1980)
  • “VUWSA would like to express its shock and sympathy at the bombing and murder upon the Rainbow Warrior. Furthermore that this Association donates $100 to Greenpeace.” (1985)
  • “That VUWSA opposes the lifting of the GE Moratorium.” (2003)
  • “That VUWSA oppose any privatisation of public water as it is a public good.” (2003)
  • “That Victoria University begin a consultative process immediately to lead to implementation of an environmental policy by the end of 2005, and that VUWSA actively lobby the University in this regard until such a policy is implemented.” (2005)

As the above resolutions illustrate (check out VUWSA’s SRC Policy Book at for further examples), Victoria students have activated on a broad range of environmental issues, both local and global.

In 2005, students attending VUWSA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) voted to create a permanent position on the VUWSA Executive specifically to address environmental concerns. The position of Environmental Officer was lobbied for by campus environmental groups such as Gecko, and was first filled by Tushara Kodikara at a by-election in March 2006.

The Environmental Officer’s portfolio (as outlined in the VUWSA Constitution) consists of three primary responsibilities:

  • To control the student union complex and provide quality cost-effective (consumer) services for members (Goal 4 of the Association);
  • To promote discussion and action as appropriate, on issues concerning students as citizens (Goal 6 of the Association); and
  • Liaison with environmental groups on campus and at a national level.

VUWSA’s 2009 Strategic and Operational Plan identifies Environment Week as a key component of the Environmental Officer’s job. The Plan highlights that this Week is held “in order to raise awareness about environmental issues, and in such a way that provides students [with opportunities] to participate in actions concerning these issues” (Goal 6: Public Issues; Priority Goal 8: Environmental awareness and sustainability, p. 31).

This year’s Environment Week consists of a series of themed days and events which highlight various environmental issues and ideas. Environment Week includes the involvement of campus-based groups such as Students for a Sustainable Planet and Gecko, along with NGOs and Victoria University.

Offerings include the likes of ‘Meat Free Monday’ (reducing greenhouse gas emissions by going vege once a week), recycling initiatives for creative types, a variety of workshops and film screenings, and an ITS teaching services video-conferencing day (a how-to for students and staff interested in cutting carbon emissions by video-conferencing rather than flying to meetings and conferences.)

Check out the full Environment Week programme in this issue of Salient. Try something different. You’ll feel better for it.

In solidarity and service,
pressig

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