With shale oil funding green education in Jordan and major polluting Israeli companies paying to set up sustainability schools, green education is looking more like ‘greenwash’ every day. It recently emerged that Israel Chemicals and Oil Refineries Ltd, will be the founding funders of the School of Sustainability at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. The two companies are better known for their environmentally unfriendly activities and exploitation of non-renewable resources such as oil and phosphates which are highly polluting.
According to a report at Haaretz, the school will be focusing on the importance of environmentally conscious business development and entrepreneurship. The first students will enrol this September and will be able to sign for a bachelor’s degree in sustainability studies. There will be also be an emphasis on sustainable and long-term development solutions to deal with water and energy resources.
The companies explained in a statement that the move is part of wider strategy to enhance knowledge on environmental issues and improve relations between academia and industry. The Interdisciplinary Centre in Herzliya remarked that financial support from corporations and businesses to set up an academic school was accepted practice among world leading universities. The School of Sustainability will cost an estimated NIS 7.5 million.
Whilst is is great to see a new academic institution set up with the aim of dealing with environmental issues, I think universities need to be wary of the power and influence that large corporations can wield. I am not saying that corporations who fund universities always seek some influence but it certainly undermines the independence of researchers and academics on certain issues.
Furthermore, I don’t really believe in the notion that it is better for polluting companies such as oil corporations to fund green projects. I worry that it may in some justify their (continued) work and ultimately, the money they use to fund these projects comes from profit garnered from exploiting natural resources to the detriment of our planet. Finally, before any organisations wants to portray itself as one with green credentials they need to show that they have applied these green principles to their own companies.
As one of the heads of the Knesset environmental-social lobby, MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), told Haaretz: “I am in favor of companies adopting a sustainability agenda but it has to start first with them in their own activities.”
: Image via HoriaVarlan/flickr.
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