“We have to make policies; but at the same time, we have to make changes in our own lives.” That is how Dean You, Jong-Il summarized the commitment required to have actual positive impacts that improve our earth’s risky environmental status.
We all know the KDIS began its PURE campaign last October and there was a 10-day challenge event in November. The initiatives to create an environment-friendly school started a long time ago, and they will and must continue. We talked to Dean You and asked him about specific measures that the school, and he himself personally have taken to play a part in climate change mitigation.
I heard that you are very committed to environmentally friendly actions. Did you have a certain wake-up call that made you pay more attention to this topic or why do you have so much interest in this topic?
First of all, I can’t say I’m overly committed to protecting the environment. All I can say is I just try to do what I can. Why do I do that? Because of course, as an intellectual, I understand that a lot of our problems come from our neglect and exploitation of the environment. For this reason, I advocate for policies that put a lot of emphasis on protecting the environment. I also have to say that I try not to preach one thing and do another. I believe actions to mitigate global warming are needed and that is why we apply certain measures at our school.
Before talking about the school’s environment-friendly during your deanship, could you please share with us some of your personal actions related to this topic?
Well, I have tried to do actions such as reducing my meat consumption, putting solar panels on the roof of my house, and walking and using public transportation rather than driving. Those little things that I can accomplish, I try to do. I personally do this but there are other people who make even bigger efforts. For example, my daughter became a vegan because of her concern about the environment. I admire her and even though I haven’t followed that lifestyle choice, I try to do other things that have an impact.
Now, can you please tell us a what kind of measures have been implemented in KDIS since you were named as Dean?
Since the moment I began running KDIS, I have tried to think about what I can do to better the environment. First, I instituted environment-friendly management when I began my deanship three years ago. For example, I asked to shift to paperless meetings since whenever we had meetings a lot of paper was used. We also eliminated plastic umbrella covers. We don’t have plastic water bottles anymore. We replaced them with water dispensers with paper cups. I also really emphasize the need for proper recycling because it’s good education for students from all over the world; that is why we ask them to dispose of waste appropriately in the different containers provided outside the dormitories. We launched the PURE campaign. Last November, we turned Café Vobiscum into a zero-plastic café.
What are the next steps for KDIS? Will any other actions be implemented?
Now we are introducing that, in terms of purchasing policy, we are trying to buy only eco-friendly products and enhance recycling methods. I also want to install more solar panels because one of the most absolute necessary aspects to focus on is energy transformation—moving to renewable energies. Additionally, we are trying to add more courses on environmental issues. As a result, we have been trying to hire faculty members who specialize in environmental policy and sustainable development.
Do KDI School measures align with Korean national objectives on the environment?
Of course. What I have tried to do is upgrade our policies to do whatever we can to help Korea shift to carbon neutrality by 2050, which is not an easy target. So I tell other people who run their organizations, government ministries, and whomever I meet, ‘Look, it’s not just preaching that we have to change, we have to do that, and we have to make policies in the institutions we are leading’. But at the same time, I know we have to make changes in our own lives. Otherwise we lose the moral force of our argument.
How important is to actually set policies from any kind of institution regarding this important target?
I always emphasize individual efforts are vital, however, a policy change that will induce people to change their behavior is the most important step. Policies enhance companies and institutions to change their behavior even if they don’t care about the environment at all. Moreover, policy change will also induce more technological innovation and that will have a greater impact.
How can we bring up policy changes for a topic that has many different opinions and crossing interests?
Well, surely not only by preaching. Of course, there are big forces and interests who don’t want to change, but that is why we have to build the momentum for policy change and political change. For that, we need the moral force in our arguments and we should bring people together in solidarity to make the necessary changes and create a better future for the next generation.
Lastly, personally, which you would say is your biggest motivation to try to do all these changes—which we are sure is sometimes challenging—in favor of the environment?
Well, I’m actually approaching the last stage of my life, so global warming is terrible, but I could also say not that terrible for my own life. However, when I think about my children, the students at KDIS, and young people in general, and consider the future, well, it is really scary what they could face in the near future. It would be a crime of my generation if we don’t begin to take big steps towards addressing environmental issues.