Well, there I am with my bamje of cheese, criminally destroying the planet. At least that’s the message. And that really pisses me off. Because what really annoys me is the moralism behind these plans. Here, a member of the Executive Board is basically asking staff to students to become vegan. Really, is it immoral to bite into a cheese sandwich because it contributes to global warming† Are we not allowed to make our own decisions? Are students, staff and pre-school professors unable to form their own opinion about this?
Ellen van Schoten notes that the subject is very much alive among students, and that she has received petitions. A little googling shows that according to the Dutch Association for Veganism, about 1 percent of the Dutch are vegan. That percentage will probably be slightly higher on campus, but it really won’t be a majority. Are we going to base the food supply on the opinion of the few percent who are firmly convinced of the moral correctness of its position, to the exclusion of options considered acceptable by the vast majority?
Another reason why I can only see this policy as abhorrent moralism is the lack of impact on global warming. The motivation for the proposed policy is that 8.5 percent of the university’s total emissions can be attributed to catering. Wouldn’t it make more sense to first look at the other 91.5 percent? There may be areas where emissions can be reduced much more effectively, such as heating, power generation, and transport.
Now you can of course say that the other 91.5 percent will still have to come, and we also have to look critically at the catering. But as many students and staff will fall back on options from outside a vegan campus, the impact on CO2 emissions are low. Moreover, the climate benefit of vegan food over vegetarian is rather small, while it considerably limits the options.
The climate gains may be greater if the food supply becomes vegetarian (whether or not supplemented with less climate-damaging meat options, such as fish and chicken), because people will be less inclined to seek refuge outside the campus. The traditional bamje of cheese that Erasmus probably also sometimes consumed, is really not the main cause of global warming. So why go vegan?
A third annoyance is that a social problem is turned into an individual behavioral problem. The logical consequence is where this ends. The alarmist contribution of Servant-Miklos and Yogi Hendlin is illustrative. As far as they are concerned, there will be no more fossil fuel cars parked on campus in three years’ time. Perhaps a realistic goal if everyone gets a professor’s salary, but not everyone spends 40 grand for an electric car.
And since electric cars also place a heavy burden on energy and raw materials, the next step can of course be nothing more than banning cars from the campus. Is your place of residence difficult to reach by public transport? Bad luck, then you move. And can we not work from home more often? Then fewer buildings need to be heated. And while we’re at it: coffee is more polluting than tea, so get rid of that coffee machine. And a chocolate letter as a Sinterklaas present? I certainly don’t need to explain that cocoa is a huge CO2emissions caused?
By considering global warming as a behavioral problem, we never do enough, and the university measures people according to criteria that it determines itself. The new rules for the use of trains for business trips are also an example of this. These rules shift the problem onto the individual scientist, as the train is more expensive than the plane. The available travel budget for conferences is in fact reduced as a result. Requiring green behavior without an eye for the consequences does not help to increase support.
Finally, a word about impact. Although I think that the environmental benefit of making the buildings more sustainable is considerably greater than that of a vegan campus, I understand that individual behavioral change is also desirable. I limit my meat consumption to about two days a week at dinner. I once ate meat every day at dinner and lunch. What has led to this change in behavior are solid books like Simon Fairlie and simply listening to vegetarian friends and acquaintances. Don’t judge, but explain. I think such an approach is a lot more effective and more in line with Erasmian values than making veganism the norm with a raised finger, regardless of the actual impact and the opinions of students and staff.
University board wants campus to be completely vegan by 2030
Ellen van Schoten of the Executive Board would like to see Erasmus University…