“I do it because is the right thing to do”, Jim Longhurst.
What is your job about?
My job is Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability at the University of West of England in Bristol. UWE is one of the largest University in the country with 30,000 students, 3.5 thousands staff located on three main sites in and around Bristol and an annual budget of £220 million. In the past decades we have taken a holistic view to embedding sustainability progressively into the decision-making of the University. My role is to ensure that the University Sustainability Plan is implemented.
What issues do you address?
It is about making students aware that they are not passive individuals who are destined to live an unsustainable future, they can actually do something about it. It is about changing their mind-set to make them aware of the contribution they can make to create a better future.
What moved you to take action?
We could do it because the law requires us to do some of these things, and we do it and it is good that we do it. But it is not enough.
We could do it because if you do it right it saves money and that’s good. However this is not a good enough justification for doing it.
We do it because it is the right thing to do. It is very simple; it is the right thing to do. If you need a further justification for engaging the student population it will be that a graduate of the University, whether is the UWE or any other University, has typically 50 to 60 years of life after they leave University. So, if you have been successful in enabling those individuals to think about their role in a more sustainable future, the role that they would play to help that future be a better future, then you have got 50 to 60 years worth of positive outcomes. You get it wrong and you miss the opportunity to have that positive impact.
What were the obstacles that you had to overcome?
There are numerous obstacles but there is none that cannot be confronted or undermined. Sometimes you have to decide at what point you confront an obstacle, so tactically it is important to do it at the right point and usually at the point of least resistance from the obstacle.
What helped you keep going in hard times?
The awareness and the deep belief that it is the right thing to do.
What first prompted you to become interested in environmental issues and when was that?
I became interested in environmental issues from a very early age. I grew up in Cornwall and in 1967 there was a terrible ship wreck at the Cornish Coast when the Torrey Canyon oil tanker run aground and spread I don’t know how many tons of oil onto the Cornish coast. That was an eye opening event and I can say I have been interested from that point.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being very happy) where would you rate how you feel about your life?
In terms of where the University is compare to where it could be I would give an 8. There is work to be done; there are still things that need to convince me that they can sustain themselves beyond the application of energy and external enthusiasm.