Higher Education Funding Council for England

Activism grows from the Student Sustainability Summit

Wednesday 13-05-2015 - 09:20

It's been a couple of months since #SSS15 but the work to take action on sustainability and social justice continues to grow. Izaac Cole from UClan Students' Union reflects back on the day's inspiration, and looks forward to more activism. (Originally published in student newspaper Pluto)

“Our leaders haven’t been leading on sustainability. It’s time for the student movement to lead instead”, said Piers Telemacque as he opened the first national Student Sustainability Summit.

The purpose of the event was to encourage students to voice their concerns about climate change.  Targets to tackle the issue are fast approaching, such as cutting the UK’s carbon emissions by 80% before 2050 - and there are fears we are not moving fast enough.

So on Monday, March 23rd, UCLan’s Green Ladder volunteers came together with students from across the country for the first real recognition by NUS that something needed to be done.

Interestingly, the agenda was reminiscent of UCLan’s ‘Green Week’ back in February, (just on a much, much bigger scale). It was organized between the National Union for Students, EAUC and People and Planet and took place at the University of Leeds – they have a duck house, yes, a DUCK HOUSE!

Sustainability as a student means living in a way that minimises our waste, whether that be food or energy. It also means thinking about where we get these products from and how far have they travelled. For example, is the petrol we put in our student motors environmentally friendly?

‘Disinvesting’ or the stopping and no longer using fossil fuels is the center of the argument. At UCLan this would mean ceasing to work with dirty fuel providers; instead, working with ethical and environmentally sensitive ones.

No one brought this home as much as conference guest speaker Crystal Lameman, who has seen her Canadian homeland, carved up by the oil industry.

Crystal explained how her ancestors had made a legally binding treaty in 1876 that was completely ignored by the oil industry.

This intervention has since caused widespread pollution, leading to the draining of lakes and mutation of wildlife. Things her family enjoyed and relied on. Her talk made me reflect on the current Fracking debate in Lancashire and the potential consequences of letting Cuadrilla get their own way.

Crystal said, “Your role as young academics is to build skills and understanding... Be the change because you are the change. You have to want something different.” 

Naomi McLellan, third year Community and Social Care student, said, “After seeing her speak on stage, she made me realize how important it is to act locally and have a positive impact – both nationally and globally.”

Crystal’s sentiment was carried in the days following activity workshops, with titles such as “Disinvest Uni’s 5.2 billion”, to “Get sustainability into the curriculum.”

During the workshops our Green ladder group, consisting of Abi Law, Naomi McLellan, Emma Bartlet, Vanessa Silva and Lisa Moench, split up – to search for clues…

I asked Abi Law, UCLan 3rd year Business student, what she had taken away from the “Circular Economy” session.

“I’ve learned that we could generate a sustainable economy at UCLan by buying-and-using disposable plastic products made out of plant based substances. That means they can decompose afterwards.”

I myself, attended the “Strategy and Curriculum” workshop with Vanessa Silva and Emma Bartlet. The workshop involved discussion with other students as to how we could create impact.

Afterwards, I asked Vanessa Silva, Green Ladder employees how she ranked her influence over sustainability at UCLan.

“ 6 out of 10, said Vanessa, “My role within the UCLan SU is about talking to students and university staff about sustainability in the curriculum. Today has helped me to see outside our university bubble and be inspired by what other institutions are doing.

Take action by contacting Green Ladder and getting involved or join UCLan’s Go Green society.

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