SOS: Student Sustainability Summit

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This year myself and the Environment and Sustainability Officer Thea went over to Lincoln Students Union to attend the annual SOS Student Sustainability Summit on the 7th of February. Over 100 delegates from universities and further education colleges from across the UK attended as well as speakers from organisations such as Demilitarise Education, Youth for Nature, and the Department for Education. It was amazing to see so many people coming together, organising, and learning about how to bring about change to make our planet a healthier, safer, and fairer place to live.

                The conference opened with a panel discussion ‘Climate Justice and Intersectionality’ hosted by Zamzam Ibrahim, Tamara Ullyart, and Ahmad Yazan Miri. Two of the speakers on this panel were both student activists in the environmental movement and it was inspiring to listen to their stories about how they have personally been affected by injustices surrounding sustainability and intersectionality. One of my favourite comments during this talk was when they were talking about accessibility they said, “the difference between being accessible and inclusive is someone being invited to a party is accessible, being asked to dance is inclusive. That there may be a lift for someone to use but if it feels like they are in the way using it then it is not inclusive”. This was powerful as it really showed that a place can be accessible, but if it isn’t inviting then we are no inclusive. It really made me think is our Union inclusive or just accessible? Would really like to hear your comments on this, please leave a comment at the bottom if you have a view.

                After the panel discussion, there were a verity of different workshops we could choose from focusing on different things. I decided to attend the ‘Decolonise, Democratising, and Decarbonising our Education’ session as I was aware this was the thing I knew the least about but also felt it was very important in relation to Aberystwyth University and all the work the Academic Affairs Officer Elizabeth has been doing this year in relation to diversifying the curriculum.

                This session was fascinating for a number of different reasons. Firstly, it didn’t occur to me how closely linked these three areas were. I was very ill-informed about the ties between the global environmental crisis and racism and social injustice. They explained how, “climate justice is the moral, social and political side of the climate crisis”. This relates to the saying we are all in the same storm, but we have different boats. This saying hits a little harder now considering the climate crisis. The quote explains that depending on where someone lives, their upbringing, the way people live, and the privileges some of us have give us a huge number of advantages in terms of climate justice. When people in the UK say that climate change doesn’t exist because it still rains and its cold here, they are not only ignoring the climate changes that have happened in the UK, but they ignore communities all over the world who are facing drought, flooding, and other natural disasters occurring due to climate change. However, we need to think about why we think this way. The talk explained that it is mainly down to our Western knowledge and education systems, and how we very rarely learn about other communities outside of our own. They went on to show us a video explaining how the climate crisis is a racist crisis.

                I gained so much more knowledge and understanding from attending this conference and it really made me realise my own privilege in terms of climate justice. I hope to be able to share this information with as many students as possible. I would love to organise a workshop about ‘Decolonise, Democratising, and Decarbonising our Education’ at the Union to share the important messages that were said.