This year marks the 51st Earth Day, an event that endeavours to diversify, educate and initiate the environmental movement worldwide with 190 countries actively participating. The main focus for this year is ensuring that as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, environmentally, we do not resume the “business as usual” model; predicting carbon concentrations rising to 550 parts per million by 2050 accompanied by a decline in food production of 6% (Kiehl, 2019).
The virtual event, hosted by earthday.org, will run numerous activities from the 20th-22nd April to engage people of all ages across the globe and raise awareness of how vital it is that we all play our part in protecting the world around us. The first day will see a youth global summit led by Earth Uprising, aimed at 11-18 year olds, in collaboration with My Future Voice and OneMillionOfUs. Throughout this conference, speeches, discussion and panels will be led by renowned activists including Greta Thunberg, reinforcing the importance of the small changes we can make to encourage a top-down response to climate change.
Something that I am incredibly passionate about is conveying the message that climate change is not something of the future; it is happening now. We are already witnessing climatic and natural disasters on the most extreme scales in human history, such as the Australian bushfires of the 2019-20 season; burning an estimated 18.6 million, causing <$5bn in damages and killing 1 billion animals (Burton, 2020). But what we need to recognise is that climate change is hitting the global south the hardest. In 2020 alone, the ten most extreme climatic events occured in Asia, exacerbated by an unusually wet monsoon season in India and Pakistan (The Independent, 2020). One event in particular proved to be particularly destructive: over the course of three days, Cyclone Amphan accrued damages in excess of $13bn (Sud & Rajarum, 2020). Climate change also has secondary effects on millions across the globe, including food insecurity. Approximately 333 million people in Africa alone – 27% of the continent’s populace – faced food scarcity in 2016 (UNICEF, 2017).
Earth Day is not solely about climate change and natural disasters, but an annual celebration of the beautiful natural sites we are so lucky to have. Be it the lush rainforests of the Amazon, the harsh conditions of the polar regions, or even the parks and gardens on our doorstep, we should never take the intrinsic beauty of nature for granted. I often find that British wildlife is overlooked, yet we have an incredible array of birds, mammals, amphibians and flora (to name a few groups). This Earth Day, I will be walking along the streets around where I live litter picking, as I am sure many students know how messy the streets of Uplands and Brynmill can get. Shortly after that, I will be going on a long walk to soak up the calming birdsong of Singleton park.
As a university, we are among the most sustainable in the UK. We are currently ranked in 9th position in the Guardian University Green league and this is something that as an SU, we are particularly proud of. Our current Societies & Services and Welsh Affairs officers, Georgia-Rose and Katie respectively, have worked incredibly hard to make amendments to the university’s sustainability policy which will be released in the coming weeks. Our Welfare officer, Liza, has also secured funding to provide students with reusable and eco friendly sanitary products, an excellent continuation of the Go Green for GWA campaign of 2020; these products can be accessed via the website whilst Root Zero unfortunately remains closed. In addition to this, the SU in association with Root run Meat Free Mondays, a really simple way to lower your meat intake over the week without having to compromise on having a warm, hearty lunch.
In my last few months as Environment Officer, I will be lobbying the university to install terracycle bins on both Singleton and Bay campuses. As someone who has a dairy intolerance, I find it difficult to plan visits to the nearest correct disposal point for my milk alternative cartons as these cannot be mixed with regular cardboard; having a site on campus would offer a closer location for terracycling for both students and staff. Once it has been deemed safe to do so and restrictions are eased further, myself and Georgia-Rose will start our fortnightly beach cleans again – so please come along! I will also be launching a fortnightly street clean for students and staff to take part in, hopefully alongside local residents of Uplands and Brynmill, again, once restrictions permit.
If you have any questions regarding the environment at Swansea University, please feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.