Tuesday 22-12-2015 - 11:16
This year, I started my journey into sustainability. Will you start yours in 2016?
At the beginning of the year, I didn’t expect to be speaking to hundreds of student activists and officers about fracking. 2015 has been a massive journey for me, and I feel like I get sustainability now. It’s not just something ‘over there’ for the environmentalists to sort out by planting a few trees. It’s at the heart of everything I already cared about, and something my membership really cares about too.
In October, I was lucky enough to be part of the launch of Students Organising for Sustainability at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Student groups from around the world came together with environmental thinkers to form an international network of student activists. It was my first proper taste of the sustainability movement, and it helped me to see it was about so much more than switching the lights off and recycling. It was about social justice at a global level. And that’s something I care about a lot.
Just one month later, I gave the closing keynote speech at the second ever Student Sustainability Summit in Bristol Students’ Union. Six months before I didn’t even really know what fracking was. Someone explained it to me for the first time, and I thought it sounded like a smear test. (It still does). But as I learned more, I’ve come to see how fossil fuels are not only a disaster for the climate, but linked to so many other forms of power, economic oppression and social injustice. It’s a fight we’re all have to be a part of.
Most excitingly of all, I got to go to Paris as part of the action around the climate talks. I was at the Conference of Youth to lead a session on divestment. And I was among the tens of thousands of people who took to the streets at the start of the talks, defying the French police’s bogus ban on protest. It sent a loud message. By the end of the talks, the authorities couldn’t suppress people any longer.
The ban had to be formally lifted, as thousands and thousands marched to the Eiffel Tower to call for bold climate action for communities across the world. It was a defining moment for people power, and I’m so proud to have played my part in it.
I feel like it’s such an important time to get involved in the climate movement. In Paris, nearly 200 countries finally signed a global deal for the climate, after 21 years of negotiating. This is a historic deal and represents progress. But it doesn’t go anywhere near far enough. The agreement won’t even keep us below 2 degrees warming, let alone 1.5. And what’s more – as soon as our government got back home, they ramped up their open assault on sustainability. They allowed fracking under our national parks, and cut solar subsidies by 65 per cent.
That’s why we need international networks like SOS to put massive pressure on national governments from the world’s young people – calling them out on their failures, and getting them to advance the ambitions of what they pledged in Paris. And we need to keep building these links between climate justice and all other forms of social justice. This is everyone's fight. Come and begin your sustainable journey in 2016 - I just have.