One year ago, on the 20th of September 2019 the St Andrews community came together for the biggest climate strike ever to have happened in St Andrews, forming a line of 1200 people along West Sands Beach. It had a deep impact upon our community and sent a message nationally and internationally about the need for climate action. Since then, it has been amazing to see an increased importance and recognition of environmental concerns and more commitments to change and climate action. However, despite that we are still a long way from where we need to be and the need for global climate action has increased more dramatically than ever.
One year later it has become impossible to imagine a gathering of so many people and community members side by side for climate action for anytime in the foreseeable future. What has happened to the world and how does that link to the Climate Crisis and our future?
Covid-19 is a global pandemic born out of wildlife trafficking and human’s increased invasion into wilderness and nature. It has killed thousands around the world and forced to halt our whole global community in the tracks. It has changed our lives. For better or for worse, we will unlikely be returning to the world as it was before. The challenge is now to use this historic opportunity to build back better. And with historic opportunity – I do mean – singular historic opportunity. This is a turning point. Scientists, conservations, and public health specialists have warned us that if we do not address the Climate Crisis, we are not equipped to address our survival and thus risk increasingly more and increasingly dangerous pandemics as well as weather events and natural disasters.
While we long to go back to normal we must also recognise that what we call normal brought us and our world to where we are now… so perhaps it is time to imagine a new normal. It is time to use this opportunity in our history to build back better. We need a green recovery. A way to build a world that is more sustainable, most just and nature- centred. Because protecting nature means protecting ourselves.
That is why together with the Environment Subcommittee I plan on making this year unlike any other for the St Andrews environment scene. As a Subcommittee of the Students Association we are different to a society. Our mandate is to address environmental topics within the Union, University, and wider town. This year we are a team of 15 students, including the Association President and together we tackle environmental challenges, topics, and are voice for sustainability in St Andrews. Moreover, we want to connect to the issues, challenges and initiatives that are happening at a global level and that deeply impact our future.
On the 25th of September is another Global Climate Action Day and while we cannot hold an in-person event we still want to add our voices to the global movement and call on leaders and politicians to take Climate Change seriously and most importantly to take action and face the Climate Emergency.
Thus, we are planning on doing a St Andrews wide campaign of encouraging students, staff and St Andrews citizens to hang climate posters in windows, participate in a creative climate poster competition and join our online speaker event. This Friday the 25th of September, Erik Solheim, former United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the UN, who is a well-known environmental leader and peace negotiator from Norway, will be tuning into St Andrews from 4-5pm via Microsoft Teams. This is a very exciting opportunity and we are very excited that Mr Solheim is taking time to join us for an online interview on this important day.
Nevertheless, for us in the Environment Subcommittee this is only the start of action and online events this year, many of which have already launched in the last month. We aim to address a wide range of topics exploring big and challenging global topics ranging from economics, politics, technology, land practices, food, education and art to community, inclusivity, intersectionality, and humanity. Furthermore, to facilitate inter-society collaboration we are launching the Eco-Connect site to help broaden the reach and impact of environmental initiatives and events in St Andrews through encouraging collaboration.
Additionally, we are particularly committed this year to exploring more intersectional environmental topics recognising that climate justice can only be achieved through addressing social justice as well. During Freshers, for example, we hosted our first online interview event with Dr Asha de Vos, a St Andrews alumni and conservationist from Sri Lanka, on the topic of Decolonising Conservation which was a deeply inspiring discussion and we look forward to hosting more events like that one. Moreover, the Global Climate Action day organised by Fridays for Future climate activists around the day also maintains that intersectional focus highlighting the most affected peoples and areas because of Climate Change and the need for climate justice.
Another exciting initiative to look forward to this semester is the Environmental Subcommittee’s annual Green Week which will be held in Week 8. We are aiming for Green Week to launch into a University-wide initiative including the different departments and faculties, the many St Andrews societies, University, staff, but also our local St Andrews community. Although most of our events are likely to be online this year it is also an opportunity for more high-profile online interviews and discussions with prominent environmental speakers from around the world.
Furthermore, we are excited about the creation of the University’s Environmental Sustainability Board (ESB) and look forward to supporting and working together with the ESB to help lay the foundations of a sustainable St Andrews.
Nevertheless, beyond our local efforts to improve and address sustainability lies the greater challenge of global climate change, justice, and the need for action. That is why we see it of utmost importance to add our voices to the global call for climate action. Join us for this important global call on Friday the 25th of September.
It is time to unite our voice for climate justice and stand together as a community.
As our event theme of the year states the challenge of our generation is “restoring our world by rising together”. After all, we all share this one planet, and we need to stand together in the race against the Climate Crisis to build a future worth living for on a habitable planet.