Column Steven: The Wageningen lifestyle laundromat

Where you study impacts your diet, blogger Steven discovered.
Steven Snijders

Blog by Steven Snijders

Wageningen is known for students wanting to contribute to society. This aspect was shown to be important to first-year students. In my experience, Wageningen has different factions. Often living near each other, but not always. I was recently invited to a house dinner at Dijkgraaf. There, you have a great variety of people in one house since Idealis places people together randomly. We had a vegan join, so the menu was without meat. Another person at the dinner table was such an enthusiastic carnivore he brought his own chicken. Just when the conversation focused on reasons to adopt a vegan diet, he began promoting his chicken with gusto: ‘Here, I have chicken. Do you want chicken? I have chicken! It is really nice; taste it!’

On the Wageningen ladder of virtue, the vegans lead, followed by vegetarians. The remainder may be called conformists, seeing as how the vegans and vegetarians remain a minority. These two factions are entrenched in the Wageningen Cold War. Droevendaal is the capital of the non-conformists, with the vegans forming the front line.

Wageningen is a lifestyle laundromat: you go in a carnivore and emerge a vegetarian

How much responsibility should an individual take for structural problems? According to the conformist faction: one person who declines to eat meat will not save the world from environmental issues. The problem is systemic and must be addressed as such. From the ethics perspective, a course I am currently following, there are many different approaches. The vegans may argue from a duty/rights perspective since pollution and climate change are evil in themselves, you must avoid actions that contribute to these issues. The conformists, in contrast, may invoke consequentialism: your personal meat consumption has a negligible effect on the temperature and environment, so quitting the consumption of meat as an individual is neither useful nor necessary.

For many friends, Wageningen is a lifestyle laundromat: you go in a carnivore and emerge a vegetarian. I myself am a member of both factions, being a “flexitarian”. Reduced meat consumption and less air travel, of course. But I don’t want to sacrifice everything. Saving the environment must be a group effort. The consequences of a system call for a systemic solution or forced behavioural changes for all of us, such as a personal CO2 budget. Still, I’m happy that some people in Wageningen disagree.

Steven is a master’s student of Economy and Governance and enjoys playing squash. He is always open to a game of squash and a good conversation. You can reach him by email.

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