BY SOPHIA BOLTON SIREN CALLING PROJECT LEAD
It is clearly not surprising to anyone reading this section of Student Life, that there are reams upon reams of ways we can make individual changes and advocate for national changes to reduce both the likelihood and impact of the impending climate crisis.
At the end of February, we held Siren Digital, an East Suffolk based environment themed festival run by young people, for young people. This involved live streamed discussion events about the environment; interspersed with dance, photography, short films, and music. Throughout the weekend we had nearly 2500 Facebook Live views and covered multiple topics from fashion to music, and wellbeing to food. Bringing more than 70 young people together in one place to discuss a range of environmental issues, this discussion ranged from broader solutions to the minutely specific and, multiple themes emerged.
For me, the most surprising was locality.
Climate change is a unique challenge full stop, let alone in the context of localism. Conversations were had about the impact of coronavirus and how regional focus is now of greater importance than ever before, especially with restrictions on travel and those few months we spent in the regional tier system. The music industry, one of the worst hit sectors by the pandemic and arguably receiving the least financial support, was discussed at length. Looking to the future, it is likely we will see a greater number of local music festivals with the aim of reducing the carbon footprint of those attending. The outcome of the discussion was hope that larger touring artists will begin to play a higher volume of smaller local gigs, increasing their carbon emissions through greater travel but reducing carbon emissions overall through the reduced travel of attendees. Not ideal but a solution.
A second environmental theme where locality was key was the discussion on food. Value was key here: value built through local relationships and its benefit for mental wellbeing; value-for-money in cutting out supermarkets as the middleman; and the financial value of supporting local food businesses. This way we could have much needed stimulus into our regional economy which has greater financial rewards than any form of trickle down economics. In addition, value to our originating means we know what we are putting into our body, not to mention the farming processes used and the obvious reduction of carbon footprint through travel miles.
At this point it is worth adding the second main theme which emerged throughout the festival. This was that what we can achieve through individual choices within the “system” is so minuscule we need other forms of change. ‘The System’ could be defined differently by every one of us, but ultimately, I see it as an economic and political system in which trade and industry are controlled privately for profit, rather than by the state for the benefit of everyone. A world controlled by moneydriven individuals with little foresight for our future as young people.
Our local authorities have ‘declared a climate emergency’, but does control by the system reduce our ability to achieve change on a local level? Ten years ago, the government began to prioritise locality in a rapidly globalising world, promoting decentralisation and empowering local councils, neighbourhoods, and individuals. The aim was to free local authorities from government-mandated tasks, allowing communities to have more say in decision making. Unfortunately, this was then followed by radical budget cuts, so despite having freedom to prioritise, authorities have reduced income. Alongside this there is little clarity about their responsibilities, especially in relation to large-scale international issues such as climate change.
The solution? Well, outside of our day-to day choices and priority of locality, we can add our voice to the Fridays for Future campaign, the next protest is March 19th.
In addition, vote as soon as you are old enough not just in national elections but in local elections too, young people have the lowest voter turnout of any demographic and this is even lower in council elections! Research the candidates and their record on advocating for climate justice. In addition, join activist and political groups, to make sure they are steered by young voices internally as well as externally.
Finally, whilst we are achieving our goals of a sustainable future, the last emergent theme of the festival was wellbeing, bringing in over 50% of our views across the weekend. Eco-anxiety, climate depression and activist burnout are all huge issues amongst our generation. Be kind to each other, reach out if you need help and remember, no campaign, no goal, no issue is ever more important than looking after your own mental wellbeing.
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FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE: www.fridaysforfuture.org/march19