NUS Sustainability Summit 2020

Earlier this month, The Students’ Union Sustainability Officer Vanique Krugerand your VP Community and Welfare Ubong Ante attended the annual NUS Sustainability Summit.

In this blog post, they share their reflections and learnings from the summit.

Vanique Kruger

On Monday 2 November, the NUS kicked off its yearly Sustainability Summit. I was lucky enough to join in on the first day. Topics of the talks included Education for Sustainable Development and The Green New Deal.

I had a proud moment when UWE Bristol received a shout out for the work they have done to map out their courses against the UN Sustainable Development Goals. I was even more pleased when The Students’ Union at UWE presented about how students have acted as a catalyst for change at the university.

The talk that caught my attention was delivered by Clover Hogan, a 21-year-old climate activist and founder of Force of Nature. She spoke on the subject of eco-anxiety. This is a relatively new term and is defined as a “psychological disorder afflicting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis” (Psychology Today).

Hogan explained that eco-anxiety can happen because every day we are presented with the slow and seemingly unchangeable reality of climate change. These anxious feelings are intensified because we see the loss it causes and we feel helpless. Eco-anxiety is also caused frustration; we know we’re all doing our individual bits, so why is it not helping? Why is it not making a difference?

What made Hogan’s talk so impactful, was the fact that she was honest, she did not preach from a pedestal or ridicule attendees for not doing enough. She reassured us that even doing a tiny bit is better than doing nothing at all.

We cannot expect centuries of behaviours to be rectified in a few decades. What is important is that we do not lose hope. We keep trying and we keep making changes, no matter how big or how small, to our ways of living and working. Even something as minor as popping our food containers in the right recycling bin and bringing our reusable cups (when we can) can count.

Ubong Ante

As The Students’ Union  President championing Sustainability this year, I attended the NUS Sustainability Summit. This year’s themes focused on curriculum reform, the climate emergency, race and climate justice, and lastly food justice.

It was good to gain more knowledge on sustainability and it gave me a clearer understanding of what the bigger picture is. UWE Bristol and The Students’ Union place sustainability as a huge priority in all that we do. The UWE 2030 strategy is very comprehensive in highlighting this, as well as the variety of work The Students’ Union is involved in.

This includes the work to be carbon neutral by 2030, eliminating the use of single-use plastic and introducing the zero-waste shop. There is also work happening to address inequality, closing the attainment gap and decolonising the curriculum. This is all great work and I’d like to encourage more students to get involved and understand how they can positively influence the future.

I feel one area to start looking into is acknowledging that the climate emergency is deeply intertwined with ecological systems/socio-economics. It’s important to reflect on the role we can play in positively impacting these socio-economic concerns, in addition to environmental issues. I look forward to working with the University and The Students’ Union on how we can continue to embed sustainability in all we do.