Environment + Ethics Officer Oscar recounts his day at the NUS Student Sustainability Summit
On 31st October (a bit of a strange day to hold a conference perhaps), myself and Alice, the Environment + Ethics Collective’s secretary travelled to Manchester Met SU for the NUS’ annual Student Sustainability Summit. After getting lost on the way there (turns out neither of us has been to Manchester before), we began with introductory speeches from Zamzam Ibrahim, NUS Vice President (Society & Citizenship), and Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Mayor and former Shadow Home Secretary. A keynote speech was given by Tony Juniper, leading environmentalist for 30 years, who spoke about the crucial role the student movement has to play in shaping an upcoming Environment Bill.
After the talks, it was into the workshop sessions. First for me was the Student Opportunities in Sustainability workshop, while Alice headed off to Inclusivity in Sustainability Campaigning. I heard from staff members at Lancaster SU and Roehampton SU about the work they do to engage students in their sustainability projects. I also did a little presentation about the brand new Green Impact Student Groups workbook that I have developed (we’re going to be promoting this majorly soon, but get in touch at email@example.com if you’d like to do it!), with a sabb from Nottingham expressing interest in beginning it there – exciting stuff!
The next workshop I went to was Undoing Borders – Changing the Narrative on Migration, and Alice went to the Know Your Impact! session. An exec member of the Danish Union of Students spoke about their student refugees project, offering support and advice to refugees wishing to enter or re-enter Higher Education, amidst a government with a hostile environment policy to immigrants – reminiscent of the one we have in the UK. Then was a presentation from Stop Funding Hate, a campaign group you may have heard of. They campaign to persuade advertisers to ditch advertising in publications (read: the Sun, the Mail, and the Express) which espouse hate speech against migrants. In 2016, the Express ran 73 negative front pages about migrants, but thanks to Stop Funding Hate’s work, there have been zero anti-migrant front pages from the Express this year (although that doesn’t mean the rest of it is worth reading), while the Express and the Sun have also issued apologies.
Lunch was provided by Met Munch, a student social enterprise providing sustainable and nutritious food, where I also bumped into Charlotte, YUSU Environment + Ethics Officer from 2005 to 2007! The whole conference then gathered for a panel discussing why climate change is a race issue, throwing up really interesting points about how those in the global south feel so disproportionately the affects of climate change, as opposed to those in the global north, and they also discussed the racism that is unfortunately still present in the environmentalist movement.
Finally, both Alice and I reconvened for a workshop on Fossil Fuel Divestment and Beyond, where Simmone from People & Planet talked through some successful divestment case studies, and how best to persuade your University to divest from fossil fuels. Fossil Free York is our big campaign at the moment with a whole day of activities taking place on Wednesday 21 November for the National Day of Divestment. Please check out the Facebook event here and sign the petition if you haven’t already at tinyurl.com/divestyork!