Every week St Andrews students have the opportunity to order a veg bag from One World society – stuffed full of organic vegetable goodness, grown locally just down the road from Cupar. The carrots come caked in mud, the onions … Continue reading
Blog post written by Isobel Edwards, Environment & Ethics officer, University of York With most UK universities linked with fossil-fuel investing banks, putting pressure on Student Unions and Universities themselves to switch to ethical banking sends a powerful message to … Continue reading
By Laura Clayson from Lancaster People & Planet “Ecocide”: “heedless or deliberate destruction of the natural environment, as by pollutants or an act of war.” ‘Unconventional Fossil Fuels’ certainly fit this framework well. As Dan Sweeney explains them, these are … Continue reading
This blog was written by Sarah Arnold who is the International Programmes Coordinator for the UK Youth Climate Coalition
I’m going to Doha in exactly five days.
The last few months have been a whirlwind of planning, saving up and pulling together fundraiser events, giving talks to students and campaigners about climate change – and best of all, helping train and working with the six other awesome people who are coming with me.
Why am I going? To meet the young people from all over the world who are campaigning for solutions to climate change. To work with them, share stories with them and learn from them. Oh yes, and the UN climate talks are happening there – but we aren’t just going to follow the process, or to support negotiators. We are there to build our own movement, the international youth climate movement, and to remind politicians that they are accountable to us.
Over the next few weeks we will call for raised political ambition – the current carbon cuts are less than half what is needed to commit us to a safe future according to the scientific concensus.
We will show that there are innovative solutions to climate change – what we are lacking is political will, not the technology or ideas.
We will show that the UN climate talks are one opportunity positive action can be taken on climate change.
We will share inspiring stories from the global youth climate movement.
We will share our own stories.
Sounds much better than UN jargon, right? Follow our blog, follow our twitter (@ukyccdelegation), sign up for the hotspot, do our ‘Doha Dares’, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – get in touch!
…And here is a video we made to introduce ourselves to all the other young climate activists who will be joining us. Take a look:
The York People & Planet group write an open letter requesting that the candidate for the position of new Vice Chancellor sees environmental sustainability as a priority and signs up to the Green Education Declaration.
To Whom it May Concern,
Consultation over the qualities and interests required in a new Vice-chancellor has never been more important at this conflicting time in the University’s status – rising 18 places in the world rankings; plummeting to 126th in People & Planet’s Green League; and the rising tuition fees making students more valuable stakeholders than ever before.
However, listing the student and staff consultation times only on the back pages of the university website shows a serious neglect to take the views of students seriously. This is even more marked by the inconvenient timing of the last consultation for students (an extra meeting, fought for by YUSU president Kallum Taylor) listed on Monday 15th October, just as students and societies come out of their busy fresher’s week and settle back into term life.
Our views are important to sustain the future of this university. At People & Planet we feel that one of the most vital qualities needed in our next Vice-Chancellor is a high priority for sustainability and a drive to develop an environmentally friendly institution. As it stands the University’s failure to implement an effective environmental strategy discourages potential students and disappoints those who applied due to York’s promised sustainable developments.
It is crucial that our new Vice-Chancellor leads from the front with regards to environmental commitment, as discussed in the University’s Sustainability Strategy drawn up in January 2012. Those institutions with the best sustainability records have environmental sustainability embedded at every level of the University. This is inspired by a high level of personal commitment from their Vice-Chancellor.
The new Vice-Chancellor additionally needs to recognise the importance of working with other UK organisations dedicated to sustainability, such as People & Planet, so that we not only have the motivation to improve that accountability brings, but also so that we can be helped to develop environmental strategies above and beyond current best practice. We call on the new Vice-Chancellor to join other leading University’s in signing the Green Education Declaration as soon as their post begins. The University as an institution has a responsibility towards the wider community to ensure environmental sustainability, and our next Vice-Chancellor needs to prioritise this. Furthermore, the new Vice-Chancellor needs to lead and inspire the fundamental change in culture and practice essential to make us an outstanding, modern university.
Most of these qualities are necessary in order to adhere to the University’s Sustainability Strategy drawn up in January, 2012, and all of them are necessary to make the University the world-class institution it ought to be. We hope, as key stakeholders, that the University will listen to our views, as promised. We also hope that the University will take our recommendations into account and appoint a Vice-Chancellor who will restore York’s damaged environmental reputation and make it an institution we can be proud to be part of.
People & Planet Society
University of York
Hello all you brilliant People & Planet campaigners.
It’s my third day at the People & Planet support office and I can’t stop smiling. The atmosphere is buzzing as we fresh-faced interns learn about all the exciting events and actions that are planned for this year.
I have been active in the network since my first term at The University of York. My earliest memory as a new-born campaigner is spending one winter’s day dressed up as a caged chicken… for a campaign of course.
It is fair to say that I am obsessed with food co-operatives and growing initiatives as really positive local solutions to help fight the problem of climate change. I helped set up Scoop- York University’s Food Co-op and founded Edible Uni- a guerilla gardening project turning unused green areas of campuses into edible spaces for all to use and enjoy.
My new role at People & Planet is as Climate Change Campaign intern. I will be working on our Going Greener:Transition Universities campaign helping you to bring about a low-carbon, resillient and community-led education sector.
Please do contact me (on email@example.com) with any new ideas you have for Going Greener campaigns at your University or just to update me with what you’ve been working on. You can find me on Facebook or on Twitter
Can’t wait to hear from you!
People & Planet’s first ever parliamentary event took place yesterday, in Portcullis House. Representatives of over forty universities who achieved a First Class Honours in the 2012 Green League joined other distinguished guests for two hours of discussion, debate and celebration.
One of these guests was the leader of the Green Party (for another two months at least) Caroline Lucas. In an interview before the event, Caroline emphasised how successful the Green League had been in the five years since it began, encouraging progress and change. This year, universities reduced their carbon emissions by 4%. Caroline was optimistic that the Green League could be a model for other sectors of society and the economy to emulate. This idea was taken up enthusiastically later in the panel debate – where couldn’t the Green League model be applied! How about MP’s constituency offices? What about reputation-savvy large corporates? Schools and the further education sector?
Jonathon Porritt (Founding Director of Forum for the Future) brought everyone back down to earth with some cold hard statistics – only 0.66% of universities’ energy is self-generated. Absolutely pathetic! It’s too easy to buy in renewable energy, it needs to be produced too. Jonathon reckons that universities have all the assets necessary to generate their own energy. They could take advantage of the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) to buy biomass boilers, or collaborate to invest in big wind generator projects. Better, he thinks, to address carbon cutting measures and carbon generating measures at the same time, rather than set up an unhelpful ‘either/or’ opposition.
Sadly, Jonathon doesn’t see any help from the government coming any time soon. In fact, in his view, they are a bunch of “sustainability illiterate mugwumps” who need to be re-educated or better educated. Instead, hope lies with students who must be engaged and empowered by the inclusion of sustainability in the curriculum.
Kat Thorne from the University of Greenwich, this year’s winners, responded positively to these suggestions. Despite the problems Greenwich has faced along the way (a flight path blocking their wind farm plans; poor communication from the local authorities; the restrictions of having heritage buildings), their achievements so far have been more than impressive, and Kat is hoping for more. Kat takes the ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ approach, and sees communication and collaboration as integral parts of universities’ future progress. Communication should be particularly with the students, and there needs to be a focus on the positive aspects of sustainability – not just managing and reducing the negative ones. For example, knowledge and engagement with sustainability is an increasingly employable skill.
Tim Pryce, of the Carbon Trust, agrees and described the “financial business case for significant carbon reductions”. Reducing carbon is not just good for the environment, but good for the economy too – something that former members of today’s government also acknowledge. The cost effective argument is undoubtedly a very powerful one for many; Jonathon Porritt went so far as to say that the green rhetoric should shift from cutting carbon to cutting pounds, as a more persuasive tool in times of austerity.
This audience, though, was already convinced about the merits of cutting carbon – and more importantly, they had taken great strides in doing something about it. So after all this debate, they were invited up to receive their First Class Honours awards from Caroline Lucas, suitably clad in a graduation gown.
All too soon it was time to leave, and as I walked out I noticed what I hadn’t before – that a 2006 portrait of David Cameron was hung outside the door. Funny, isn’t it, that yet again the government was sat outside the room, while the green agenda moved on inside – time to brave it, David, you might even like it in here.
I will be blogging from Rio de Janeiro next week, reporting on issues raised at and around the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (otherwise known as Rio+20), which will be taking place between June 22nd and 24th around 30 minutes outside the city (30 minutes that is if you have a VIP pass, for the exclusive traffic lanes and heightened security are similar to the plans currently being rolled out here for the London Olympics). The gathering of world leaders is to focus upon two main strands: firstly, the need to build a so-called ‘green economy’ in a context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; secondly, upon what an institutional framework for sustainable development might look like. However, for reasons alluded to below, the focus of this blog will be less upon Rio+20 itself (and its related UN organised cultural events), and more about the discussion and action that will take place in the centre of Rio, during the Cúpula dos Povos (People’s Summit) that will run concurrently alongside the conference.
The Future We Want
Many activists are sceptical about the agenda and therefore the outcomes of Rio+20, for two key interrelated reasons. Firstly, because whilst ideas of a green economy sounds great in theory, there is legitimate concern that this may produce yet more ‘greenwash’ market solutions, that don’t address the root of the problems, but merely find sometimes quite ingenious new ways to commodify nature. The second concern is that politicians may well be even more resistant than usual towards implementing the progressive change needed, using austerity as an excuse and citing the continuing reverberations that still follow the financial collapse of 2008.
This widely held pessimism about outcomes is interesting by comparison to the optimism that accompanied the first Earth Summit in Rio, 20 years ago this June. As Mikhail Gorbachev(former President of the Soviet Union) wrote earlier this week, ‘during and just after the Rio Earth Summit, there was an overwhelming air of enthusiasm and hope for the future…20 years later we are instead surrounded by cynicism and, for many, despair’. The reasons for this apparent decline in trust and indeed hope for the future are of course both myriad and complex. However, let us wait and see what happens. This cynicism is conceivably misplaced and the conference may yet deliver upon its promise of a ‘Future We Want’, as their strap line promises. Of course though, we do remain concerned. This is not about a future that is distant, but one which affects all of us here and now. As Sha Zukang, the Secretary-General of the UN Conference himself remarked on Wednesday, ‘Time is precious. We have little of it left to ensure we deliver. We need ambitious and historic outcomes.’
Come Reinvent the World
Of course he is right, we do need real ambition. But we also need a new vision. Surely, we can’t continue to fall back upon the failed current economic model based upon hyper-profits and hyper-consumption? Despite what some politicians may tell us, there are alternatives. These alternatives will be discussed next week by the people themselves at their own Summit in Rio’s Flamengo Park, where our Brazilian host organisers have asked civil society to ‘come reinvent the world’. And amongst our friends, despite it all we remain optimistic. Indeed, I am reminded of the earlier optimism of the French psychoanalyst and activist Félix Guattari, who on his trip to Brazil in 1982, 10 years before the first Earth Summit, said ‘I can see it…perhaps i’m raving, but I think that we’re in a period of …creation, utterly fabulous revolutions from the viewpoint of this emergence of a people. That’s molecular revolution: it isn’t a slogan or a program, it’s something that i feel, that i live, in meetings, in institutions, in affects’. (see Guattari and Rolnak’s ‘Molecular Revolution in Brazil’).
Is it really too much to hope for to look forward to ‘utterly fabulous revolutions’ through an ‘emergence of a people’? If we don’t do something soon, it may well become too late.
Dave will be blogging again next week direct from the People’s Summit in Rio, with pictures and hopefully video to complement the text. Your comments, concerns or questions would be very much appreciated.