24 February 2016
CECHR Annual Symposium, University of Dundee

Harrison’s first public appearance following the start of The Glasgow Effect, was this Skype presentation to the Annual Symposium of the Centre for Environmental Change & Human Resilience at the University of Dundee, where she has been employed as a lecturer since 2013.

Internationalisation in Higher Education?
Think Global, Act Local!

Does the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change – to attempt to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C – not require universities to radically rethink their strategies; using ‘sustainability’ rather than ‘internationalisation’ as a guiding principle?

Universities should be leading the way towards meeting this goal. Instead of ‘following the money’ within a dysfunctional system, they should become role models for sustainable thinking; taking a much smarter, more realistic view of ‘the future’.

This is a future where immigration laws are only likely to tighten and where travel limitations aimed at carbon reduction may need to come into force.

Real long-term thinking should be focussed on finding a truly sustainable financial model within a university’s locale. Not only would this reduce our carbon emissions, but it would also help increase meaningful engagement with local communities, sharing knowledge and making us all more resilient to the many problems that we are likely to face.

Transcription

Ellie Harrison: Hello everyone, can you hear me OK?

Great! Well thank you so much for coming to this session and I’m really sorry that I’m not there in person, but the reasons for that will become evident as I speak.

So, my name’s Ellie Harrison and I’m an artist and a Lecturer in Contemporary Art Practices at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. And a lot of the work I’ve made over the last six years has been a response to the challenges we are facing and the challenges that we are likely to face over the course of the next century as a result of climate change.

So, for me, it is the role of the artist, not to be an ‘expert’ in any one thing, but to have an interest and knowledge of many different fields, so that they are able to stand back and see the ‘bigger picture’ of what is really going on. And to observe and attempt to address the massive contradictions that I think emerge in our society, through a lack of joined-up or long-term thinking. And I also believe that it’s the role of the artist to take the lifestyle decisions that might not be possible for anyone in a less privileged position.

So, I’m not in Dundee right now, as I’m working on a ‘research project’ called The Glasgow Effect, which you might have heard of, some of you. It caused quite a controversy when it launched at the start of the year. But the central premise of the project is that I’m not going to travel outside Glasgow for a whole year, and, more than that, as a little extra challenge, I am also trying not to go in a vehicle at all. And I’ve succeeded so far.

So, this project is an attempt to address the compromises that were present in my own lifestyle and to see what happens when I actually try to live my values and to practice what I preach, and the impact that that has on other aspects of my life. So, as you might have heard, The Glasgow Effect came out of a research grant application to Creative Scotland with a working title of Think Global, Act Local! And in that application I describe the project as an:

“…essential critique of the ‘internationalisation’ agenda that permeates various levels of public policy and funding, which [I think] is the antithesis of what needs to be done to [actually] address climate change. [Because] in this ‘internationalised’ world, a circle of ‘global elites’ (particularly artworld professionals and academics) operate as though they are above the moral imperative to reduce our carbon emissions, believing it is ‘OK’ for them to travel because what they do and say is so important.”

And, nowhere is this more evident than in our own university’s Internationalisation Strategy, which has been our guiding force from 2012 to 2017. And the central ambitions of this Strategy are to ‘Take Dundee to the World’ which really is all about power. And to ‘Bring the World to Dundee’, which let’s just face it is all about bringing in the money.

And we all know that it is the shameless pursuit of these two things over the last 350-odd years – both power and money – that has led us into the mess we are in now, where we have record levels of C02 in the atmosphere and a century of dangerous climate change ahead of us.

So, I wanna ask you today, after 2017, what our next strategy will be? And given the outcomes of last year’s Paris Agreement on climate change, which as we all know is to attempt to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C, should we not be thinking seriously about using ‘sustainability’ – environmental and financial – as our guiding principle?

Because if there’s to be any hope for our species meeting the ambitious target set in Paris, then surely our universities that should be leading the way. And instead of ‘following the money’ within a dysfunctional system which we obviously currently are, we should become role models for sustainable thinking; by taking a much smarter, more realistic view of ‘the future’ towards which we are actually heading.

Because this is a future, whether we like it or not, where immigration laws are only likely to tighten and where travel limitations aimed at carbon reduction may need to come into force. So, real long-term thinking should be focussed on finding a truly sustainable financial model within a university’s locale.

Not only would this reduce our carbon emissions, but it would also help increase meaningful engagement with local communities, sharing knowledge and making us all more resilient to the many problems that we are likely to face.