The issue of sustainability is perhaps the biggest issue that we face as a species going into the future, so I was amazed to find out that the Student Sustainability Conference, which took place at Leeds University on 23rd March, was the first of its kind. Me and my fellow publishing assistants at Susthingsout travelled up to the event to see a variety of different talks and workshops about this issue and what universities can do to play their part.
After a few engaging introductory speeches, Crystal Lameman’s powerful opening keynote lecture got proceedings properly underway. Discussing the sobering way that large oil companies have broken and abused promises made to her Native American community in her hometown of Alberta, Canada, it was both extremely alarming and incredibly inspiring. The fact that she credits People & Planet with allowing her to spread her message across to a wider audience speaks volumes about the organisation’s important role in getting these sorts of important agendas across to students, who most likely not know about some of these issues without them.
Lameman also stayed to take part in the first workshop that I attended during the day, a talk about concerns over the use of fossil fuels at universities in Britain, as well as the growing movement for them to start ‘divesting’ (remove their money) from this dying industry. She was joined by Colin Baines of the Co-Operative Group and Andrew Taylor from People & Planet to discuss about the increasing movement towards divesting money from fossil fuel companies. I enjoyed hearing about how viable the solar power industry has become, particularly in comparison to failing oil and coal companies and hope to start implementing more sustainable ways of generating energy in my local area.
After consuming a very eco-friendly lunch prepare by volunteers at the university, I headed up to the second workshop of the day, a look at how students can get more involved with their curriculum. Presented by a NUS representative and a members of exciting new charity Post Crash Economics, it was a very challenging but rewarding lecture to take part in. I like engaging with events that challenge the way I think about important issues and this workshop was definately that!
The day finished with a fantastic closing keynote speech from author Sara Parkin OBE, who managed to deal with very difficult topics, such as overpopulation and the potential drawbacks of recycling, in a charming and engaging way. Ending her rousing lecture with her claiming that the day’s events were vital in getting positive ideas about sustainability into the minds of students, it was a joy to listen to.
Reflecting on my day at the Student Sustainability Conference at Leeds University, I really felt that this conference was a fantastic event to be a part of. As a third year student, it has really inspired me to continue taking part in sustainable events and initiatives well after I’ve finished my studies. Same time next year?