Category: Careers

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

This guest blog comes from Sarah Gold, MSc student, studying Sustainable Cities

Why environmentalism needs to be intersectional

On 28th May, three days after the murder of George Floyd, climate activist Leah Thomas shared a post on Instagram which quickly went viral, popularising the term ‘intersectional environmentalism’, a type of environmentalism which takes into account the ways in which social and environmental justice overlap. In this blog, I explain why an inclusive, anti-racist approach is vital to the environmental and climate justice movement and where we can all learn more.

What is intersectional environmentalism?

‘Intersectionality’ was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American lawyer, civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theory. The term describes how multiple forms of injustice, such as racism, sexism, ableism and countless others, overlap or ‘intersect’ with each other. These inextricably linked systems of oppression present in our society mean that some individuals will simultaneously face several sources of discrimination.

For instance, as a woman I will inevitably confront sexism throughout my lifetime, however due to my white and other privileges, there are many other forms of oppression that I do not have to face on a daily basis.

Intersectional environmentalism, then, is the concept that environmental issues do not exist in a vacuum, but cross paths with other forms of injustice. According to Leah Thomas, it is defined as “an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalised communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and to the earth, to the forefront and does not minimise or silence social inequality. Intersectional environmentalism advocates for justice for people + planet”.

Intersectionality is a powerful tool to connect environmental activists with other social movements such as feminism, Black Lives Matter (BLM) and LGBTQ+. Working together helps to amplify each movement’s voice and create meaningful long-lasting change.

Why is intersectional environmentalism important?

In the past, environmentalism has typically been associated with and dominated by white, middle-class males. At best, this means mainstream environmental movements and NGOs have too often shied away from acknowledging the racial dimension of issues such as air and water pollution; at worst, this can mutate into ‘ecofascism’, a disturbing white supremacist ideology that considers racial purity to be the solution to environmental problems.

The danger of ecofascism was clearly demonstrated in 2019 when two of its adherents committed public shootings in El Paso, Texas and Christchurch, New Zealand. Opening up the environmental movement to all races and minorities and educating ourselves on racism are necessary steps to address this problematic past and present, and the privilege associated with participating in environmental struggles.

Whilst white people are more likely to be able to afford a ‘sustainable lifestyle’, minorities are more likely to be on the frontline of the worst environmental problems. The environmental justice movement that emerged in the late 1970s in the USA first drew attention to the disproportionate environmental burdens borne by economically disadvantaged and minority communities.

In 1976, the ‘Love Canal’ case gained international media coverage for having caused significant detrimental health effects in residents of a working-class area in Niagara Falls, New York that had been built on top of a toxic landfill site. This was the first well-documented example amongst many of the increased exposure to polluted and noxious environments experienced by minorities.

A study in 2016 showed that London’s black, African and Caribbean communities are disproportionately exposed to air pollution, and are more likely than white people to breathe in illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, a harmful pollutant responsible for increased rates of respiratory problems, particularly asthma in children.

Climate change is no exception to this trend. The climate crisis will – and already is – increasing both global and local inequality. The effects of climate change will hit hardest those least responsible for global warming in the Global South. Australia being the only exception, countries with lower GDPs will warm the most. The effects will be also felt disproportionately by marginalised communities in the Western world.

Non-white people are currently experiencing the worst environmental problems in our world. In the U.S., Black and brown communities are more likely to live near toxic waste sites, live in communities with fewer environmental amenities, be harmed by climate change, inhale fine particulate matter and more. Globally, indigenous people and people living in island nations and Central Africa are facing the brunt of climate change and waste dumping. Likely due to this first-hand experience, a recent study found that Black and Latinx people are much more concerned about climate change than white people. Witnessing the toll of environmental issues can help environmentalists more fully understand the problems we’re facing and share in these communities’ concerns. And amplifying stories from these minority communities can hopefully convince policymakers that these environmental issues are real and deserving of immediate attention.

The book ‘Why Women Will Save the Planet’ highlights how women are likely to be most adversely affected by climate change too, particularly in poor and marginalised communities in developing countries, since they often depend on climate-sensitive livelihoods such as agriculture, securing water, food and fuel, and are often the last to evacuate their homes when natural disasters strike, leading to higher mortality rates.

Although these are just a handful of examples of the manifold ways in which minorities are more likely to suffer the consequences of environmental crises, it illustrates the importance of adopting an intersectional approach – it is impossible to extricate them from socioeconomic issues. It is worth reminding ourselves that sustainable development, the holy grail of many environmentalists and human geographers, is based not just on environmental, but economic and social sustainability too.

Where can I learn more about intersectional environmentalism?

As a white environmentalist, it is more important than ever to ‘do the work’ and hold myself accountable! Here are some incredible intersectional and anti-racism environmentalists that have inspired and educated me so far.

  • Leah Thomas, @greengirlleah, shares informative content on climate justice and intersectional environmentalism, the term she popularised online.
  • Check out the Intersectional Environmentalist platform which Leah co-founded. It’s a website full of information on how to dismantle systems of oppression in the environmental movement, with resources aimed at a growing number of communities (at the moment it includes Black, Latinx, U.S. Indigenous, LGBTQ2S+, South Asian and allies).
  • Pattie Gonia, @pattiegonia, who describes himself as an “intersectional environmentalist, ally-in-progress and fetus drag queen” is also one of the co-founders of the Intersectional Environmentalist platform and has some great content on allyship.
  • Mikaela Loach aka @mikaelaloach uses her voice on Instagram to talk about inclusivity in sustainability as well as anti-racism, anti-ecofascism and feminism. She is also co-host of the brilliant @theyikespodcast which I highly recommend! Their episodes have covered topics including the links between coronavirus and ecofascism, fast fashion, BLM, and going beyond white environmentalism.
  • You can also find Marie Beecham at @wastefreemarie for actionable tips for zero-waste living and information on climate and racial justice.
  • Who doesn’t love a good TED talk? Check out Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED talk on intersectionality, for a great 20 minute introduction to the concept. And if you’ve got just 7 minutes to spare, watch 17-year old youth striker Isra Hirsi’s TED talk on being the ‘Angry Black Girl’ in the climate justice space.

Please feel to add to this list, share with others and start conversations with your friends and families!

Become a Sustainability Champion Assistant!

The King’s Sustainability Team are offering an opportunity for students to gain skills in project and people management, sustainable development, communications, events management and leadership by supporting the team to deliver the Staff Sustainability Champions programme here at King’s.

Join the 300+ staff within Sustainability Champion programme, a programme which is aimed at celebrating and recognising sustainability achievements whilst also providing a framework to improve the sustainable performance of King’s. The scheme is part of Green Impact, a sustainability awards programme run by the National Union of Students (NUS).

Last year King’s had 62 teams and 371 staff and student champions participate and this year would like the programme to be even bigger!

Examples of what student sustainability assistants did over the 2018/19 year include: planting over 200 trees in the Maughan library garden, organising and assisting with events (e.g. swap shops- collecting the clothes, running the event, donating leftover clothes to local charities) (see below images), as well as aiding in the completion of workbook actions each champions team are given, in order to achieve their Bronze, Silver or Gold award.

Planting of 202 trees in the Maughan Library garden, with the library champions team and their student assistants.

 

Fundraising team at their annual swap-shop (2019)

Objectives of a Sustainability Champion Assistant:

Support and motivate a Sustainability Champion team by helping to implement and improve sustainability initiatives in their department or faculty.

Key skills gained for students:

  • Experience of working on a national project in a professional environment
  • Knowledge of environmental management techniques of offices and academic institutions
  • Insight into effective behaviour change methods
  • Experience of communicating using a variety of different means
  • Ability to support and encourage others to perform
  • Events management skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Time management
  • Project management

Apply

Please fill out the application form. You are also welcome to send your CV to alexandra.m.hepple@kcl.ac.uk.

The deadline applications is midnight on the 18 October 2019.

If successful you will be invited to the Sustainability Champions Launch event on the 31 October 13.00-16.00

My Role as a UAMSA Projects Assistant

This guest blog comes from Josefin Nordahl, second year student studying International Development at King’s and UAMSA Projects Assistant.

As a part of the Universities Against Modern Slavery Alliance (UAMSA as short) conference, we are working to raise awareness of modern slavery by bringing academics, students and businesses together to initiate conversations about the current issues within modern slavery and how to address them.

Rebecca Brown, King’s staff member in the Policy Institute who established UAMSA and the Sustainability Team who aided in the setting up of UAMSA were recruiting for student assistants to help with the establishment of the conference.

I was successful in getting one of the three assistant positions.

From the nervousness building up to the interview and the interesting conversations and follow up opportunities from my involvement in UAMSA, my already existing interest in modern slavery has sparked. So much so that I am planning on writing my dissertation on a topic related to modern slavery later this year. The opportunity was fantastic and gave me the chance to assist and work on something I am passionate about and it has really made it feel less like work and more like an opportunity.

Considering the personal benefits from this opportunity, I have received invitations to other events relating to the subject and the chance to engage in discussions with the leading professionals in the field. My involvement has also helped me in the work I currently do for the Fairtrade Foundation where I have had to use my event planning and organization skills and the knowledge about modern slavery in supply chains in the work for the foundation. I have also learnt a lot about the research and the involvement of producers in this field and this has allowed me to build my own perception of the broad topic of modern slavery and how this better can be dealt with.

But that is not the most important take away from this. The greatest achievement from the inauguration conference we set up in March, is the start of future discussions and collaborations between businesses, academics and students who are all working for the same thing – to end modern slavery.

I look forward to the continued work with UAMSA in the fall and I hope to see more student engagement and involvement from King’s and across other higher education institutions.

A Career in Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility

This year’s Sustainability Week saw two events organised by the Careers Department to provide students with information about how to get a career in Sustainability. A wide range of speakers, from the private, public and academic sectors, provided their insights to students on what a career in sustainability and corporate social responsibility is like, and how to go about getting a job in these sectors.

Sustainability Week Twitter Post (3)

As with any job, speakers highlighted the need to gain relevant experience while at university; from volunteering at environment-themed events, working with societies to run events and programmes, and choosing modules that provided knowledge of relevant issues. However, they also stressed that you don’t necessarily need a sustainability related degree (one of the speakers had studied English Literature) to get into the profession. Useful skills such as commercial awareness, knowledge of the law, and financial accounting, all provided important technical knowledge that was relevant to the field of sustainability. The jobs may not always be in the sectors you assume, either; Zoe from Marks and Spencer’s Plan A works on the sustainability of their buildings, since they are an often overlooked part of the sustainability puzzle where good design can significantly reduce energy use and carbon emissions, where as poor design can lock-in bad practise for the decades-long life of buildings.

You can make any job sustainable

One of the stand out pieces of advice the speakers at both events gave was not to limit yourself solely to jobs with ‘Sustainability’ in the title. Although the sector is growing and there are more jobs available, there are also a huge number of people applying for those jobs, making it a difficult sector to get into. Their advice was to find any job in a sector or organisation that you wish to work in, and work to integrate sustainability into that role and influence your colleagues.

This is sound advice, and something King’s itself practises. We have a hard-working team of Sustainability Champions; individuals from different departments around the university who work to make their departments more sustainable, to achieve bronze, silver or gold status. This massively increases the reach and impact of sustainability at King’s, and offers staff the opportunity to bring sustainability into whatever job they are doing.

If you want to find out more, audio recordings of the events are available on KEATS, and there is further information about careers in CSR and Sustainability on the careers website. Our Sustainability team also offers volunteering opportunities to gain experience in the sector, and paid internships each year. Sign up to our newsletter so you know when these opportunities come up.

So if you’re keen to get a career in sustainability and CSR, these events should have provided some valuable information on how to go about doing so. It may not be a straight forward journey, you may not get the job you wanted right away, and you may have to take a position outside the sector and bring sustainability to it to achieve your goal, but that is all part of roller-coaster of careers with purpose. Indeed, if you are ecologically minded, the best place for you may be at the most environmentally destructive companies – they are where change is most needed, and if you have the passion you could make a big impact.

Green Impact Audit Training

Last week we held training for students and staff to become Green Impact Auditors as part of the NUS Green Impact scheme, gaining practical experience of auditing through the IEMA approved scheme.

With 27 teams currently working towards their Green Impact award as part of the Sustainability Champions scheme at King’s, there has been some great changes across the university already!

The morning involved a training session, with a quick introduction into environmental auditing, as well as a discussion into what sustainability meant to each of us. The variety of responses to this, Fairtrade produce, longevity, recycling, compassion, showed the true variety of things that sustainability encompasses across King’s.

The team of auditors last Thursday!

The team of auditors last Thursday!

After discussions, ice breakers and lunch, we began to prepare for an afternoon of audits. This involved taking a positive approach to all communications, while looking for evidence to support team’s environmental actions. Each of the auditors were given the chance to get involved with hands-on training and learn about the small changes that can be made to create a more sustainable environment across King’s.

With the Sustainability Champions Awards Evening taking place on the 22nd September it will be a great chance to see the results from last week’s audits and reward the teams for the efforts they have made in the last few months!

The Sustainability Champions scheme provides the opportunity for everyone to get more involved with sustainability across King’s. We are hoping to continue to expand this sustainable network across King’s in the next academic year, so if this seems like something you and your department may be interested in, get involved by filling out an application form.

For any further details of how you can get involved with sustainability at King’s in general, contact the Sustainability team at sustainability@kcl.ac.uk or sign up to our newsletter.


Rhianne Menzies, Sustainability Projects Assistant

EECC post event summary

The inaugural Environmental and Ethical Careers Conference took place on Monday 23rd March.  Over two hundred KCL students and alumni attended the event to listen to a host of industry experts discuss the array of potential roles available in the sustainability sector.

Speakers provided a broad overview of the sector as a whole, as well as a more detailed insight into specific sectors such as business, the not-for-profit sector, and finance and consultancy.

A careers information fair in the Great Hall also provided attendees with a chance to talk one-to-one with representatives from a selection of organisations including PWC, the RSPB and NUS.

There was something for everyone at the event, and panel discussions showcased the latest developments in sustainability.  The conference demonstrated that sustainability is a major growth sector and increasingly becoming a core component of many businesses’ and organisations’ activities.  As one speaker from Futerra put it, their aim is to make sustainability so desirable that it becomes normal.

The event also provided attendees with advice on the key skills and experience they require to get a job in the competitive sustainability jobs market, where demand for jobs vastly exceeds supply.  Commercial awareness and time management skills were deemed as important as knowledge about sustainability, and potential employees need to clearly demonstrate the value they can add to the companies they work for.

The event also offered many topics of discussion about how best to drive sustainability; for instance whether to sell a positive message as opposed to warnings of impending crises, and whether large corporations or smaller businesses and NGOs were the more effective mechanisms to promote change.  The event provided a platform for a range of opinions to be presented on this topic, all delivered by sustainability experts.

IEMA were present throughout the day, providing the most up to date information and advice about the sector and offering free memberships to students.

The event as a whole proved a resounding success, and plans are already underway to run the EECC bigger and better next year.  For those who missed the event or wish to have a recap, summaries and recordings of the panel presentations will be online next week.  In the meantime, if you would like any further information on the event, please email ecosock.kcl@gmail.com

 

 

Run up to EECC- ‘How I got my job’

With the Environmental and Ethics Career Conference coming up on Monday, I asked members of our team how they got to where they are now and if they had any advice for students and graduates who would like a career within Sustainability. Here’s what they said:

Tom Yearley, Energy Manager

MTom Yearleyy name is Tom Yearley, I am currently the Energy Manager at KCL. I took this role in September 2014 to progress my career as an environmentalist. As energy manager I am responsible for paying all utility bills for the University and for the University achieving the 43% carbon reduction target by 2019/20. This is a significant challenge and to date I have established a fund of over £3,000,000 to invest in order to achieve the savings.

To get to where I am today I did an undergraduate course in economics: the study of scarce resources. Since leaving University I have worked for a wide range of public and private sector organisations, including banks, law firms, food manufacturers, BAA, the BBC, and a gas import terminal. Most recently I spent five years working at the University of Reading as their Energy Officer. My aim through my career has been to gather a broad range of experience across the sustainability sector. Along the way I have become a full member of IEMA and a Chartered Environmentalist.

If you want a job like mine, I would suggest a similar objective. I see one of my key strengths is the breadth of experience I have gained. I would recommend that a year as a junior consultant in a good consultancy company is more useful than an MSc. That’s not to say that an MSc in a subject you wish to specialise in is not important! There are many opportunities for recent graduates to gain employment in the environmental sector, including paid internships, junior consultancy roles and the more traditional graduate recruitment roles.

Martin Farley, Sustainable labs project coordinator

I Martin Farleystarted working in biology labs thinking I was going to finish a PhD. The labs I happened to work in highlighted to me that science had other issues beyond trying to get my stem cells to differentiate correctly, and the program I was in afforded me an opportunity to work in another internship.

I was tired of studies that weren’t exciting me, so I started to just google words that I liked the sound of. One of the first searches was ‘green science’ and I ended up coming across an article about a fellow in the US named Alan Doyle. A few contacts later, I ended up as a laboratories programme facilitator in the University of Edinburgh. Since then, I’ve loved the progress and growth in this position and can’t imagine going back to research.

If I had to give some advice (which I’m still a bit young for), I would say try everything you can until you can’t take it anymore, and then use that experience to push yourself into what you love. It’s been said but if you don’t love it, you won’t do it well.

Ann Maclachlan, Operations Sustainability Manager

I joined KCL in November 2014 as Operations Sustainability Manager.  My role covers a wide range of sustainability issues such as development of our Environmental Management System, Sustainable Procurement, Sustainable Construction, waste and running our Sustainability Champions program.

I did a BSc in Immunology and Microbiology followed by an MSc in Environmental Studies.  When I left university I got an analyst consultant role with AEA Technology and have since worked as Environment/Sustainability Manager for a range of organisations including an Airport Operator, Interiors fit-out company working in the education and retail sectors as well as for a renewable energy company.

My advice to anyone interested in a career in Sustainability would be to look out for seminars/workshops etc. to attend – these can be great opportunities to not only learn more but also to make connections that can help you progress in a career.  Doing your thesis in conjunction with a business can be a great way to gain experience before you graduate – I did a project for mine in conjunction with Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports which gave me some great experience in industry and 18 months after graduating I joined Glasgow Airport as Environmental Assurance Manager!

Sarah Hayes, Sustainability Projects Assistant

My name is Sarah and I am currently working as a Sustainability Project Assistant as part of King’s Sustainability Team. This role is quite varied – I get to organise events, look after the teams communication networks, work with the energy manager and procurement manager to get involved with things such as DEC assessments, Environmental management systems (EMS) and much more.

To get where I am today I studied and undergraduate in Geography and then a Masters in Environmental monitoring, modelling and management. During university I undertook two internships, one with Air Quality Monitors and one with the Renewable Energy Foundation. At the end of my Masters I started working for King’s and have recently become a graduate member of IEMA.

If you would like a job like mine, I would suggest getting as much work experience as possible (which is what this role is great for). If possible try to gain experience whilst at University; even if this is just volunteering with a society or charity at weekends. My two internships during university helped me to realise where I want to go in my career and also helped boost my CV. This role with King’s, along with other graduate and internship schemes, is a great opportunity to get paid experience in the field and I know that this will help me with future career options.

It can be so hard to get your first job (especially if you have found it hard to get any experience), but keep going! One day you will get a ‘break’ and get offered that first job and then the rest is easy…..right?! J

 

EECC – one week to go!

The Environmental and Ethics Career Conference is fast approaching, and with the final list of speakers now available there is no excuse not to reserve your ticket!

pictureAs you may know, the EECC is offering students and recent graduates of King’s College London the chance to see and hear about the diverse array of organisation and opportunities in these two areas, and will provide sector-specific  and role-specific careers advice that is otherwise difficult to find. The EECC is made possible by alumni donations to King;s Community Fund and is co-organised by EcoSoc, the careers department and King’s Sustainability Team.

The format of the conference will be a combination of a careers information fair in the Great Hall from 12.30 – 14.30 and a series of talks throughout the day on Strand Campus.

For the full list of talks and speakers please click here.

If you require any more information please contact us! 

The Environmental and Ethical Careers Conference

This week, EcoSoc talk about an exciting event coming to King’s on Monday 23rd March 2015: The Environmental and Ethical Careers Conference. 

The EECC offers students and recent graduates of King’s College London the chance to see and hear about the diverse array of organisations and opportunities in these two areas, and will provide sector-specific and role-specific careers advice that is otherwise difficult to find. The EECC is made possible by alumni donations to King’s Community Fund, and is co-organised by EcoSoc, the Careers Department and Sustainability team at King’s.

Sustainability and ethics are increasingly no longer just options for businesses, but a necessity to ensure long-term profitability.  The EECC will showcase a range of organisations with sustainability and ethics at the heart of their business and provide King’s students with the employability skills that are increasingly crucial for them to secure jobs after they graduate, through the multiple workshops running during the day.

For those students seeking a career that is both kind to their wallet and kind to the world, the EECC is the perfect opportunity to learn about the range of opportunities on offer.  The EECC will have many of the companies conventionally associated with ‘ethical or ‘green’ careers fairs, such as WWF or Amnesty International, but seeks to also look beyond this to showcase the wide array of ethical and environmental careers available and the diverse roles on offer.  We will seek to showcase diverse opportunities such as environmental consultancy with PWC, driving sustainability at industry giants like Unilever and Ford motors, environmental journalism at the Guardian, and becoming an environmental lawyer with some of the largest legal firms in London.

The format of the conference will be a combination of a careers fair in the Great Hall from 12.30 to 14.30 and a series of sector specific talks throughout the day on Strand Campus.

In the Great Hall, students can meet and talk to representatives from an array of companies that have sustainability and ethics at the core of their business, from industry giants such as Unilever to conservation charities like WWF.

The series of talks opens at 10.00 in the Edmund J Safra Lecture Theatre. This will provide an introduction to the EECC and an overview of the growing opportunities of ethical and environmental careers from industry experts.  Following on from this introduction there will be subject specific talks from 11.00-16.00 on Strand Campus.  Each of these talks will be focused on sustainability and ethical opportunities in one of six specific sectors: Law; Finance; Government and Conservation; Research and Industry; Media, and; Food and Retail.  The talks will each be one hour long and delivered by a panel of experts in the relevant fields, and include a Q&A session for students to get answers to any burning questions they have.

The EECC offers something for all students at Kings; whether you are set on an ethical career or just interested to find out what opportunities are on offer and how they compare to roles you have been considering, the EECC is for you!  The information on offer, the chance to talk to industry experts in a diverse array of fields and the plethora of key employability skills to be gained are not to be missed.

The Environmental and Ethical Careers Conference (EECC) will take place on Monday 23rd March 2015 and we look forward to welcoming you to the event. If you have any questions or would like further information, please email ecosoc.kcl@gmail.com

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