Today I had to pull out from an academic collaboration because I don’t have time for that, striking, preparing my PhD research proposal, finding somewhere to live after Massey, and updating the fossil fuel divestment brief.
This is a further illustration of why it is probably pointless to aspire to any sort of long-term work in a university (don’t tell your committee members, though, lest they cast you adrift).
Nonetheless, I think the situation is OK. Fighting climate change is the most important thing any of us can do and, judging by the weak-willed involvement of most U of T faculty, being a professor isn’t much help in the struggle. We have to assume that the world is going to become more and more challenged by forces of destruction, and our chance for countering that depends on new strategies, coalitions, and ideologies.
One advantage of being a student for so long, and of spending times working for good pay paying off debt or saving for more school, is the expectation of a modest standard of living. As a brilliant essay by my hero George Monbiot points out, a big part of freedom is being able to live cheaply.
We have an exceptional struggle ahead of us, and nobody who aspires to social justice can really aspire to personal prosperity at the same time. We can aspire to be among the people who future generations curse less – the ones who didn’t rationalize excessive consumption or dwell in apathy, but who tried to be strategic and political and focused on what matters most.