Tag: Climate change (Page 1 of 2)

Meet King’s sustainable student groups and societies

This blog post provides a brief overview of some of the sustainability-focused societies and student groups at King’s. Read on to hear about their goals, how they engage students and how you can get involved. Find out more about all the societies and student groups at King’s on the KCLSU webpages.

KCL Climate Action Society

KCLCA aims to unite students from across the university to bring awareness on climate change and encourage action. Founded in 2019, the society quickly grew to become a large community of individuals who are all passionate about taking action and making change. Follow the society’s Instagram for updates on events, news stories and delicious plant-based recipes!

“The idea behind the society was thus to provide a platform for students to take action, in a context where we often feel powerless as individuals. The two courses of action were (1) organising events to be more aware and knowledgeable when it came to the many facets and issues related to climate change, from food and energy production, to fast fashion and waste pollution; and (2) campaigning at King’s to make and see some actual changes within the institution. […] Seeing so many people coming together and ready to put in the work gives me hope for the future.”Anna Peran, co-founder of KCLCA.

KCL Environmental Society

KCL EcoSoc is dedicated to connecting students who share a passion for the environment, to providing opportunities to learn about environmental issues and campaign for change.

Past events have included webinars on Climate Change, Culture and Communication and Environmental Justice, a live cook-along with celebrity chef Max LaManna, as well as the London Energy Idea Challenge (organised in collaboration with 4 other London universities).

Find them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

KCL Vegetarian and Vegan Society

KCL VegSoc brings together like-minded people interested in vegetarian and vegan food and lifestyles.

They are hosting their first event of the year on Sunday, September 26th: KCL VegSoc x What the Pitta. Join them to meet the society and enjoy some great (discounted) vegan food! Follow VegSoc on Instagram for more information and updates.

Hear from Bethan Spacey, outgoing president of the society, on her experience with VegSoc – “My first year in KCL VegSoc was brilliant. The year began with a What The Pitta social and I got to meet lots of people. Regular socials/food outings were held, as well as events like a sushi-making class, film screenings and talks. My favourite event was a volunteering trip to Friends Farm Animal Sanctuary, where we got to spend time with the animals. Last academic year, because I had enjoyed my experience with KCL VegSoc so much, I decided to apply for a committee position and ended up in the role of President. Unfortunately, this year was online, so we were very limited in what we could do, but our goal was to approach vegetarianism and veganism from a number of different perspectives: looking at the ethical implications, the environmental ramifications and the how it effects your health. Being online, however, meant that we were able to get some massive speakers for events such as Gene Stone and Carol J. Adams.”

King’s 4 Change

King’s 4 Change aims to encourage the King’s student community to act together for power, social justice and political change.

Recent campaigns run by King’s 4 Change include Just Transition, which focused on thinking about how we can make climate action more inclusive and attentive to the experiences of all people. Their Energy Campaign aimed to combat both climate injustice and economic injustice by encouraging people to switch to cheaper, fairer and more environmentally-friendly energy prodivers.

As put by King’s 4 Change co-founder Abigail Oyedele, “our aim is to train students in community organising methods […]. We want to give students the tools to get involved in community organising on a larger scale and make a change at King’s.”

Find out more.

Students for Global Health KCL

Those of you who are familiar with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will know that sustainability encompasses much more than environmental concerns. Specifically, SDG 3 “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” focuses on global health.

The King’s branch of Students for Global Health UK aims to empower students to envision a fairer and more just world in which equity in health is a reality for all, as well as take action on these issues. Last year, they hosted an incredible range of events covering themes such as Decolonising Healthcare, Global Mental Health, and Social Determinants of Health. Follow their Instagram for updates, resources and other informative posts, and sign up to their mailing list.

Fetch Ur Veg

Fetch Ur Veg is a student-run cooperative providing weekly veg bag deliveries. Their overall goal is to encourage a healthy and sustainable lifestyle for students.

“Our main goal is to offer a more sustainable way of getting your vegetable groceries and maybe stepping out of your comfort zone and encouraging yourself to cook with different ingredients. Each bag comes with a leaflet with recipes and cooking tips. Contrary to the supermarket, the vegetables you get are still covered in dirt. So you get an overall healthier diet, with a diverse set of vegetables that are not stripped of their nutrients or chemically processed and cleaned, and it just really makes you appreciate the food a lot more!” – Mia Lewis, outgoing president of Fetch Ur Veg.

In addition to delivering weekly veg bags, Fetch Ur Veg offer volunteering opportunities to interested students and staff. Join them if you’re looking for a break from coursework and want to spend a couple hours outdoors, packing vegetables with a lovely group of people in Kentish Town. Follow them on Instagram for updates!

KCL Women and Politics Society

The Women and Politics Society aim to promote and enhance women’s leadership and influence in politics. Through discussion panels and conferences, the team hope to inform and inspire young women and others to participate in politics and engage in advocacy. Follow them on Instagram for more information.

The society also runs its own online magazine, The Clandestine“a platform to lift those who have been forced into secrecy, up into that which is public.” 

King’s Think Tank

King’s Think Tank is Europe’s largest student-led policy institute. It aims to provide a platform for students to engage with the world of policy and organises policy workshops, panel discussions and lobbying trips.

KTT run a blog with critical analyses of past and current issues, as well as publish their annual policy-recommendation journal, The Spectrum.

With seven policy centres, including the Education, Energy and Environment or Global Health centres, students interested in sustainability can write for the blog or policy journal.

KCL XR

The King’s branch of Extinction Rebellion. Their long-term goal is to combat the climate crisis and they collaborate closely with the broader XR Universities network.

KCLXR is still a relatively young society – join them to help them grow and meet like-minded individuals.

Sustainability Stories: Liza and Mia from Fetch Ur Veg

Fetch Ur Veg is a student-run vegetable bag cooperative at King’s. If you would like to sign up, volunteer or join the committee, follow @FetchUrVeg on Instagram.

Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and your background?

[Liza] I’m a third-year BSc Nutrition student, and I’m originally from Belarus.

[Mia] I’ve just graduated with a BA in International Relations. I’m from Osaka, Japan and the UK.

What does sustainability mean to you?

[Liza] Sustainability is about maintaining a balance. It’s about how long and beautifully we can live and coexist with nature and maintain the diversity of the natural world.

[Mia] Sustainability is about caring about where things come from, how you’re using them, how long you’re using them and not taking them for granted. Also, remembering that the Earth doesn’t belong to us, but we belong to the Earth.

Is there a specific turning point you can identify that sparked your interest in sustainability?

[Liza] It started quite early on for me because I was in a school in Moscow that was incredibly sustainability-driven – which is quite funny to think about now because Moscow was and is not a very sustainable city. We were taught about recycling even though there weren’t any recycling systems in Russia, and everyone was encouraged to drop the personal drivers and use buses instead. So, I was conscious of it but never really cared that much. I really started caring because of my mother’s friend. She started promoting a healthy lifestyle from a food perspective, and I had terrible acne when I was younger, so eating healthily became a way for me to deal with my skin. And eventually, I caught onto the impact of food and the importance of eating sustainably.  So yeah, I didn’t like see a picture of a seal with plastic and think, wow, poor seal. It was probably more of an egotistical way of getting into sustainability, hahaha.

[Mia] I think I started noticing sustainability after I went vegan. I decided to become vegan because it seemed fun and interesting, and then a friend told me about the sustainable benefits of a plant-based diet, and I was like, wow, that’s a great addition to this new diet.  And from there, it was like a domino effect.

Could you tell us a little about Fetch Ur Veg?

[Mia] FUV was founded by two alumni of King’s, inspired by a similar initiative at a French university. I think students can find it difficult to find good quality vegetables or cook sustainably, or they’re just put off from cooking because it seems expensive to buy all the ingredients at once. But what the veg bag does is you don’t have to choose the vegetables – you get seasonal vegetables from local farmers which is more sustainable and at a discounted price. A weekly veg bag costs around £7.00 a week. If you have a small appetite, it’s just enough for two people, but if not, it’s perfect for one person. And if you volunteer, you can also get some extra veg on the side for free, which is always quite nice!

Our main goal is to offer a more sustainable way of getting your vegetable groceries and maybe stepping out of your comfort zone and encouraging yourself to cook with different ingredients. Each bag comes with a leaflet with recipes and cooking tips. Contrary to the supermarket, the vegetables you get are still covered in dirt. So you get an overall healthier diet, with a diverse set of vegetables that are not stripped of their nutrients or chemically processed and cleaned, and it just really makes you appreciate the food a lot more!

[Liza] Coming from my nutritional science background, I’ve been reading a lot about gut health and the importance of diversity in your diet. Experts recommend eating 30 different plant-based foods a week… and because FUV’s offering really follows the seasons, you’re guaranteed to get a larger diversity of veg.

Why did you decide to get involved and volunteer?

[Liza] I keep trying to remember how I found FUV… I remember really wanting to find a way to buy local veg that didn’t involve travelling to a farmer’s market (which aren’t always close by or accessibly priced).  So when I saw this wonderful scheme (which I thought was a genius idea), I bought a veg bag and then signed up as a volunteer, and it sort of kicked off from there. I also thought it would be a great way to meet some cool fellow vegetable lovers! So I guess it’s like my love for vegetables that piqued my interest. I don’t know how many people can relate to that, hahaha?

[Helena] You touched upon an aspect of the community, and I think that was the strong pull for me. London is such a big city, and I feel like we’re very disconnected from where our food comes from – you know, it just lands in our supermarkets all cleaned and packaged. But other options aren’t necessarily as accessible. So FUV was just an obvious yes for me. But the other thing I was drawn to was the opportunity to volunteer and spend a couple hours each week, outside, just packing vegetables with a lovely group of people. It was always such a great way to get away from coursework, to feel the fresh air, feel connected to others, to the food I’ll be eating, to get my hands dirty. It’s very –

[Liza] – meditative and calming.

[Mia] I agree. It’s very therapeutic.

In what ways are you taking action on sustainability?

[Mia] A lot of me being sustainable comes from actually being quite frugal. So there are certain things I haven’t bought in years, such as kitchen towel or clingfilm – I’ll just use a cloth or cover it with another bowl or plate. When I’m in London, I use apps like Karma, Olio or Too Good to Go. Karma and Too Good To Go allow you to buy leftover produce or goods from stores at a reduced price, so they’re great if you live in a busy city with lots of surplus food. Olio lets you give produce you won’t use to people in your community. For example, if you buy a bottle of cordial and try a little but don’t like it, you can put it on Olio, and someone from your community will come and pick it up. So those are great ways to shop more sustainably, tackle food waste and save money!

If you’re an international student, your friends will probably move around a lot. Everyone always has awkward bits of salt or some cling film or soap, etc., things that they don’t want to take with them. So you can always help them out by taking those, and it’s a perfect way to just keep things going around. I really think the best thing is to just try and make do with what you have and see how far you can go with one product.

If you make one change, it inspires you to make another one, and another one and it keeps going. Take it slowly, and don’t bash yourself for using one piece of plastic sometimes because it will not be perfect. It’s the same with being vegan. I don’t think anyone should be forced to be vegan 100% of the time, and in many places, you just really can’t be vegan 100% of the time. So I just suggest that people be maybe 5% more sustainable than they were last week and then just keep increasing that number, in ways that are convenient for you.

I would add that with FUV, our goal is not to make people become vegan. We just hope that the bags will inspire you to have one plant-based dish a week and try new recipes. And when you try plant-based foods, don’t focus on how/if it’s similar to meat; approach it with curiosity and awe that we’re able to make some really creative foods. Like how on earth did someone think to mix tapioca starch and three flavourings together and make it taste like fish? It’s insane. Being curious and enjoying the process is the most important thing.

Can you recommend a resource (book, activist, documentary, social media account) for people who’d like to learn more?

[Liza] Ooh, ok, I have to say Ottolenghi. I mean, he’s like the God of vegetable cooking. So his recipes have been hugely inspiring for me and have allowed me to discover how to cook so many different vegetables.

[Mia] I really love the Zero Waste Japan account – it’s run by a mum of two young kids, and it’s quite wholesome. Everyone probably knows Max Lammana, Alice Aedy and Jack Harries – they’re all really great activists. But I tend to prefer Japanese resources in English because while it’s crucial to be bold and make really clear statements about how we can be more sustainable, I personally think that taking a more gentle approach encourages many more people to make small changes. Whereas activists can sometimes be quite daunting because they’re so passionate about the subject, and even if it’s for a really great cause, I think it can create a barrier for people who are sceptical about this subject. If you’re looking for Asian vegan recipes, @okonomikitchen and @chez.jorge are great!

What is something that currently gives you hope for the future?

[Mia] From the time I moved to London, which was only three years ago, I think the amount of vegan options has quadrupled.  People I know are huge meat eaters, people who you didn’t expect will be like, oh, that’s interesting. My grandma recently bought regular lasagna for everyone else, but she saw all the M & S plant kitchen options and bought me 6 different things to try over the weekend. Living sustainably has become integrated into many aspects of our lives. It’s so easy to focus on the negatives, but many little changes really add up to a lot.  I think we just need another big push, and I believe sustainable lifestyles will become the norm. I think that everything is moving in the right direction, considering that people who probably had no idea about sustainability a few years ago have at least a small idea now.

[Liza] I’m a bit more pessimistic… Maybe renewable energy will have a breakthrough, or a miracle kind of battery for electric cars that isn’t bad for the environment will be invented that isn’t also bad for the environment. Yeah, still waiting for a miracle, I suppose.

Thank you, Liza and Mia! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.

 

King’s Energy: The Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

We’ve all wondered if it’s possible to cover the Sahara Desert in giant solar panels to resolve our renewable energy issue. No doubt you will have seen utopian constructions of what this could look like. For instance, David Attenborough’s A Life on our Planet provided an example of how a future powered by renewable energy could look. But in Morocco, that future is already here, and they’ve taken that interest in Sahara solar panels seriously too. Check out this image of the world’s largest concentrated solar power project, the Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex:

When was it built?

Construction began in May 2013. There have since been two expansion productions also commissioned, one in 2018 and one in 2019. It was funded by the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy at the cost of a cool $3.9 billion, though this funding came from several investors, including the World Bank.

How does it work?

Here’s the cool part! Noor I uses Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) to produce energy. Essentially, this means that a series of mirrors divert sunlight into something that retains that energy to be used later. The unique part about Noor I is that it uses molten salt to store energy, meaning that energy collected during the day can also be released at night.

The complex has upgraded on this for Noor II and III, which can store energy for up to 8 hours. Noor II uses a slightly different technology: parabolic troughs, or concave mirrors to the rest of us, to reflect the sun’s rays. Noor III, meanwhile, has a solar tower that collects the energy reflected from the mirrors (pictured).

Finally, Noor IV, which has not yet been commissioned, will use photovoltaic panels as we know them, so we will be one step closer to finding out what will happen if we fill the world’s hottest places with solar panels.

How much energy does it produce?

Noor I alone produces 370GwH per annum, with Noor II producing 600GwH and Noor III 500GwH and combined, they cover 6,178 acres. To put that into context, global energy usage was 171,240TwH in 2019. It would seem then that Noor is just a drop in the ocean, but consider that the Sahara Desert is 2.273 billion acres. It would take 116.5 Noor’s to supply the world with renewable energy based on 2019 demand, which would require 719,674 acres of the Sahara… Now, that really is just a grain of sand.

A couple drawbacks and limitations include the need to regularly clean the solar panels (even more so because of the sandy environment), which requires large amounts of water and the challenge of transporting power over great distances and political will.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

Sustainability Stories: Anna Peran

Hey guys! My name is Anna and I’m here to talk about my views on sustainability and my experience of it at King’s. Originally, I’m from France and moved to London in September 2018 to start my BA in Geography. I’m now graduating from King’s, and these past three years have been such a time of growth for me. There are so many things to be said, but here’s a short selection.

When I first got here, I knew as much about climate change as your average French high schooler, that is to say: not much, and not nearly enough to start caring. That said, I was already vegetarian, and had made that choice for environmental reasons, about a year prior to coming to London.

In my first semester at King’s, I took a compulsory module on the changing natural environment that ended up changing the academic and career path I had envisioned thus far. Learning about the science of climate change, its societal causes and consequences, and the intricacies in between simply became fascinating to me. The more I learnt, however, the more the lack of political action surrounding environmental issues became frustrating.

I went to an event at the beginning of the second semester, where the guest speaker was a representative of COP24 who came to discuss the decisions that had been taken in Warsaw that year. I expected a lot from this event. It was after all about the institutions that were meant to actively be solving this issue. I distinctly remember the emphasis that was put on the framework developed and agreed upon at the COP for ‘future policy-making’, introduced as perfect to tackle the ‘future realities of climate change.’ To say I was disappointed would be the least. I remember thinking to myself, what about present realities? I realised how inadequate our current institutions were to answer the environmental challenges we now face. For one, they worked on different time scales and levels of complexity. From a mainstream perspective, climate change sounds simple: too many carbon dioxide emissions cause global warming with downsides to nature and society. That simplicity is deceptive. Reducing emissions is a given, how to do so is another story. Socio-economic and political dynamics must be considered, touching upon so many other issues, and making it all the more complex. Questions asked by a worried audience that day remained unanswered.

From this point on, making sense of governance to solve our contemporary challenges, especially from an environmental perspective, became the focus of my human geography degree. One thing about me though: I am deeply passionate and simply cannot let go of the causes I care about. I get that from my mum, who always reminded me that my voice matters, by listening and using her own. When it came to climate change, the situation was and remains so pressing I could not learn about it in class without taking any action in return. My thought process was simple: who am I to complain about people not taking action with the platform they have if I myself do not use mine, however small it is. I also thought: how am I going to react when I’m 50 and teens ask me if I knew what was happening and if I did anything to prevent it? I chose to take action so that one day I could say, no matter the outcome: I did everything I could. And that’s how KCL Climate Action society started, with the help of my wonderful friend Poppy who also studies Geography.

I believed that like me, once people would get a better understanding of climate change, they would start to care, and take action. Climate change remains very abstract for many people, as a global issue that expresses itself in local ways, as a natural phenomenon that results from societal doings, as human-induced but not human-controlled. The idea behind the society was thus to provide a platform for students to take action, in a context where we often feel powerless as individuals. The two courses of action were (1) organising events to be more aware and knowledgeable when it came to the many facets and issues related to climate change, from food and energy production, to fast fashion and waste pollution; and (2) campaigning at King’s to make and see some actual changes within the institution. As founder and president, it required a lot of work, motivation and organisation to start and get the society known, among students, academics and staff members alike. It taught me more than I had hoped for and in a year, KCLCA’s community grew from a couple of people to 900 students, with guest speakers from all over the world. Seeing so many people coming together and ready to put in the work gives me hope for the future.

I must say, however, that my vision of taking action has changed between the start of KCLCA and now. When I was president last year, I poured all of my energy into the society, but things take time and sometimes the results weren’t there, because not many people showed up to events at first, and there were many small initiatives here and there from other groups but it was hard to rally everyone and join forces. Halfway through the second semester, I was exhausted and let’s be honest, a bit depressed. I was drowning under alarming news, reports, and documentaries and I felt like things were staying the same, that our species was simply running to its end. And taking so many others on its way. I looked around me, looked at London, and how everything seemed so unsustainable, everywhere. It was a very oppressive feeling, and one I still get often.

I think there is a point, for everyone that cares about the situation and tries to do something about it, where you ask yourself: what’s the point? You don’t eat meat, you buy second-hand clothes or from sustainable brands, you buy local, you cycle everywhere. You look around: nothing has changed. That’s when community matters. That’s what KCLCA is here for, and so many other groups elsewhere. You can rest, and you need to. And if no one has told you yet: you’re doing a great job. We cannot change the past, we can only do something about now and the future. But this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Yes, the situation is pressing, but sacrificing your health and wellbeing won’t help. And that’s true of any other situation.

I think in these moments where things get overwhelming, it’s important to focus on the present reality, on what you physically have around you rather than everything happening elsewhere. Put your phone down, try and have a chat in person with a loved one, pick up a book you like, have a nice workout, take care of yourself in whichever way you can or like. Sometimes we need to anchor ourselves for a bit in order to stay afloat. That’s what I did this year and the committee did such an amazing job. They got things done, they made the events happen, they got the campaigns going, kept our social media active. And I am so grateful for this. Sigrid, our president this year, has been fantastic. The whole team really. I wish I could have done more, but I did what was best in that moment. The society will keep on going, and that’s quite something. Because so many students are going to learn so much from it and take it to the ‘real’ world after that. I intend to do so now, as I graduate.

In short, it’s about balance and community. That’s the essence of sustainability. For ourselves, for our society and for the environment.

That is one of many things the Western world notably needs to understand from Indigenous communities at the forefront of climate action.

 

For anyone interested, easily accessible resources include:

On our relation to nature:

Readings:

Videos and Documentaries

On the natural world itself:

Documentaries

  • Our Planet (2019). Available on Netflix.
  • Chasing Coral (2017). Available on Netflix.

On the science of climate change:

 

Thank you, Anna! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.

Sustainability Stories: Abigail Oyedele

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I’m Abigail, and I have just finished my BSc in Global Health and Social Medicine.

My journey here was a bit unexpected. I originally wanted to study Medicine, and Global Health was my backup choice. Not getting into Medicine was a huge disappointment, but I realised pretty early that I was meant to be in this degree programme. I really enjoyed learning about global health and social challenges, and more generally, I was excited just thinking about the possibility of learning something new.

My journey to more practical engagement with social issues started when I joined the Civic Leadership Academy (CLA) in my second year. Before that, I had read a lot about historical issues and social inequality, but I always felt like there was nothing I could do. These problems were simply too significant for any of us to solve – it was quite a depressing view of the world! But through CLA, I heard about community organising and all the practical ways people are bringing about change in their communities. This was a pretty profound shift for me – to see that you don’t have to be passive about things. So I joined Citizens UK and founded King’s 4 Change, and my time at King’s became pretty much all about community organising.

What does sustainability mean to you?

My thinking around sustainability definitely didn’t start with the environment or climate change. Climate change was actually relatively low on the list of things I cared about because there are so many other pressing issues.

Initially, I was drawn to sustainability in the context of development, specifically the progress of lower to middle-income countries. I am interested in improving the sustainability of their institutions and services and disrupting cycles of dependency on foreign aid. My dream is for these places to have more sustainable institutions and be able to stand on their own feet and show the world that, in fact, they can provide for themselves.

This links to why I love organising. In organising, we talk a lot about agency and power – feeling that you can bring about change and act for yourself rather than depend on other people to do things for you. This is what I first think of when I think about sustainability.

Could you tell us more about King’s 4 Change?

We’re now an official society at King’s! Our aim is to train students in community organising methods and act as a bridge between them and the wider Lambeth and London Citizens alliances. We want to give students the tools to get involved in community organising on a larger scale and make a change at King’s.

One of our campaigns was called Just Transition. In the first stage, we did a lot of listening. We wanted to hear about people’s experiences of climate change and the main problems impacting their lives. When you hear about global warming, it can seem quite abstract, especially in London, where we’re not experiencing floods or extreme weather. But it is impacting us in various ways. For example, people living in poorly insulated homes waste a lot of energy, which is obviously bad for the environment, but they also spend more money on energy bills. Through the work that I’ve done around climate change, I’ve realised that the solutions and options to become more sustainable are often catered to people who are maybe quite well off. So, a big part of our Just Transition Campaign was thinking about how we can make climate action more inclusive.

The campaign we’re currently running is called Fair Energy. The aim is to combat both climate injustice and economic injustice by encouraging people to switch to cheaper, fairer and more environmentally-friendly energy providers. This is what really brought me into the environmental side of sustainability – realising that many of these issues aren’t just the big sensational ones we always hear about in the news but are actually really close to home.

We’re now working on a mental health campaign with the aim of understanding the impact of COVID-19 on students’ mental health and improving services at King’s, so stay tuned for more on that.

During your time in community organising, what has been your greatest learning?

I have learned about the power of relationships. I used to think of relationships solely in the context of my family and friends. But you can have relationships that are meaningful, effective and useful that go beyond your circle of friends. Through organising, you get to meet so many people from so many different backgrounds and find common interests with people you never expected. For example, the life of an older white, middle-class person feels so far from my lived experience. By just talking to them and getting to know them, you realise that, in fact, we do care about the same thing and we can work together. This is something I’m going to take forward because it shows you should never assume that you will have nothing in common just by looking at someone. You just have to take that first step and talk to them.

Where are you hoping to go next?

As I mentioned, I’m really interested in development. I have an offer to do a masters in Development at LSE but have deferred it for a year.  I would like to pursue development as a career, and from what I’ve learned, it is the kind of career for which you can gain experience in lots of different places. So I’m pretty open – maybe I’ll work in government or for a charity, in policy, research or consulting. Nothing I’m doing now was in my original plan – plans change, but you always end up in a good place! Development is what I’m most passionate about, so hopefully, I’ll end up there.

What gives you hope for the future?

In the same way that I fell in love with organising, when we do teaching or workshops, people are like, “Wow, this has been so great, this is the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to do”. Knowing that there are students and staff at King’s who have really enjoyed learning about organising and will take King’s 4 Change forward when I leave King’s gives me hope. As long as people want to organize and want to deal with the issues that affect their communities and not admit defeat in the face of these substantial problems, then hope is not lost.

Can you recommend a resource for people who would like to learn more?

I recently read Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington. Washington was born into slavery in America, but emancipation happened when he was quite young, and he made it his life’s work to educate and bring up the black race in America. I found the book hugely inspiring! These days, the political divide can be full of friction and quite tense, and people aren’t very willing to listen to the other side or think through their ideas. However, I found his perspective on race relations between black and white Southerners very harmonious. He really considered the point of view, needs and thoughts of white Southern Americans. I found that really inspiring – for someone born into slavery to be so forgiving and so patient – and it very much applies to our current situation and reaffirms the importance of organising and listening.

Thank you, Abigail! The ‘Sustainability Stories’ series seeks to highlight the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you would like to get involved, get in touch with us.

King’s Energy: The Climate Change Committee 2021 Progress Report – Findings and Recommendations

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

Welcome back to the King’s Energy blog post! Last week the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published their 2021 Progress Report to Parliament – read on to see what they found and their recommendations for the future.

Energy Use in 2020

Global energy use fell by 4% in 2020 compared to 2019 levels, mostly accounted for by significant declines in more “advanced” economies. In addition to this welcome decline, the energy we are using has become cleaner as we are also becoming gradually less reliant on fossil fuels as an energy source. According to the report, oil use has fallen by 9% – predominantly due to less demand for oil for transport. Electricity demand also decreased, meaning coal consumption fell by 4%, while gas usage also fell by 2%. However, these figures do not tell the full story. Not only has electricity demand fell, but 29% of the electricity used derived from renewable sources – that’s a 27% increase on 2019 levels. To put that into context, that is the largest growth rate on record, and it means that the total low-carbon generation share is now 39%.

Forecast for 2021

All of that sounds great, so what’s the catch? Well, these figures have been impacted in no uncertain terms by the pandemic and, with the effects of that expected to die down (fingers crossed) over the next year, the CCC are not so optimistic for 2021. They expect energy usage to bounce back, rising 4.5% in 2021, which would bring it 0.5% above 2019 levels. Equally, CO2 emissions are expected to rise by around 5%, falling just short of 2019 levels. However, there remains significant uncertainty about these predictions as it depends on the course of the pandemic and how countries recover from it.

Future Recommendations

Among their 32 pages of recommendations, the CCC advise Parliament of the following when it comes to energy:

  • Consult on reforms to electricity pricing to remove disincentives to electrification by 2022.
  • Consider the introduction of a carbon tax aimed at curbing rising emissions from energy from waste by 2022.
  • Create a clear incentive for manufacturing facilities to switch to low-carbon energy sources by 2023.
  • Improve the collection and reporting of industrial decarbonisation data to allow for progress to be monitored more effectively, particularly on energy and resource efficiency by 2022.
  • Provide a stable long-term policy framework to support sustained energy efficiency and heat pump growth as a priority.
  • Implement improvements to the Energy Performance Certificate by 2022.
  • Improve the consumer charging experience and making smart charging accessible, appealing and cost-effective for as many electric vehicle users as possible as a priority.

So there you have it. In short, progress has been made over the past couple of years. Still, we have a duty as individuals to build back from the pandemic in a more energy-conscious way. At the same time, we are also reliant on the authorities to commit to the changes listed moving forward. Read the Climate Change Committee’s 2021 Report to Parliament here.

 

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

Refugee Week 2021 – Climate Refugees  

This blog comes from Bethan Spacey, Sustainability Engagement Assistant and BA English student. 

June 14th – June 20th is Refugee Week. This is a week that occurs annually and throughout the UK to increases awareness of the plight of refugees and the socio-political shifts that incite displacement and inspire action to help people and change systems that hinder those who have been forced to flee their homes.   

This year’s theme is ‘We Cannot Walk Alone,’ inspired by the Martin Luther King quote, “They have come to realise that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom… We cannot walk alone.” It is a theme intended to promote togetherness, with the official website proposing it as “an invitation to extend your hand to someone new”.   

The last century has seen a series of refugee crises: starting with World War II and continuing with conflicts like the Somali Civil War, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, the Syrian Civil War, and sadly, numerous more. The UNHCR estimates that there are approximately 80 million refugees globally: that’s the equivalent of London’s entire population almost nine times. Some of the predominant factors forcing people to leave their country are persecution, war and violation of human rights.   

Unfortunately, there are even darker days on the horizon, with the worst refugee crisis we have ever seen being anticipated. Except for this time, it is not because of any war or conflict; it is because of the climate crisis.   

Experts estimate a potential 1 billion refugees by 2050, with the predominant reason shifting to the climate crisis. A staggering figure, accounting for 13% of the world’s current population. What’s more, the individuals and groups dislocated by this environmental disaster may not receive the same benefits and legal perks (that are already lacking) that refugees receive because they will not qualify as ‘legal refugees’ under current Refugee Law. This calls for a rapid expansion of the definition of refugees, with concrete legislative follow-up.  

This is not a crisis that will occur in the decades to come, but one that has already started. Between 2008 and 2016, over 20 million people per year were forced from their homes by extreme weather, such as wildfires. There are already climate refugees. There are entire countries already at risk of rising sea levels; in 2014, the President of Kiribati, an independent island in the Pacific Ocean, bought up land in Fiji in fear of the island’s submersion. Farmers in Kenya are struggling to maintain their livelihoods with volatile climate stressors, such as droughts and floods, destroying crops and killing livestock. It is an issue that disproportionately affects marginalised groups of people. 80% of people presently displaced by the climate crisis are women, and people of colour are most likely to be exposed to toxic levels of pollution and unclean water. As much as what we all have in common is the Earth, we are not in the same boat. We are in the same ocean, perhaps, but some are in cruise ships and others in splintered paddle boats.  

Acknowledging the disparities between different groups of people is key in our process of “extending a hand”. We may only practice effective altruism and successful activism after first educating ourselves on the facts and nuances of the issue. We cannot address social justice issues without addressing the climate crisis. We cannot address the climate crisis without addressing social justice issues.  

Whilst the message of community is critical, ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’ enters a whole new context when the catastrophe that looms calls not only for the unity of people but also living in respect of and in harmony with nature; we cannot walk at all without the oceans and the rainforests – our collective lungs. Our freedom is, as King expanded, inextricably linked, in this case, to the freedom of the planet: freedom from resource depletion, soaring fossil fuel emissions, and unsustainable levels of destruction. It is these things that have caused the climate crisis, and it is these things that are exacerbating the refugee crisis. Where this is not an equal fight, it is also not one of equal blame; whilst the local and generational residents of the global south remain victims of the consequences, the global north has been responsible for 92% of all emissions since 1850and just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all emissions. Systemic change is pivotal in addressing both crises, and we will not achieve our goal without it.   

However, yes, we cannot walk alone. We must lend a hand to one another and foster our interconnected humanity. We must also lend a hand to nature: perhaps by getting our hands dirty and participating in regenerative agriculture, or perhaps by litter-picking on the beach. Overall, this year’s Refugee Week calls for the celebration of the synergy that is the foundation of life on Earth and the correlative actions and reactions of people and the planet.  

 

#TakeAction this Refugee Week by seeking out initiatives near you. KCL STAR is a student-led society at King’s, which hosts several voluntary projects. You can also get involved at King’s by supporting King’s Sanctuary Programme and King’s refugee sponsorship scheme

 

King’s Energy: Some good news – Sale of halogen bulbs to be banned in the UK

This guest blog comes from Mason Cole, MA Politics and Contemporary History student and Sustainability Champion Assistant (SCA), supporting the King’s Energy Team.

Okay, this story was run a few days ago so it’s technically not breaking news.

You may remember our article about lightbulbs, namely incandescent, halogen, fluorescent and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. Last week, as part of a series of climate change plans, the UK government announced that halogen bulbs will be banned in the UK from September, and fluorescent lights will follow shortly thereafter. This new ban builds upon EU-wide rules in 2018 banning old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs.

Why are they being banned?

While halogen bulbs are one of the cheaper options on the market, costing on average £2, they do not compare favourably to other market alternatives in terms of energy. A halogen bulb uses 70W to produce 1600 lumens. That is 30W less than traditional bulbs, but around 6 times the energy usage of LEDs. Further, they have an average lifespan of just two years, so you can imagine the amount of waste generated.

Overall, halogens are no longer the most energy-efficient bulb on the market and this change will go towards helping the UK achieve its environmental goals. In fact, according to Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy, this move will cut 1.26 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year – equivalent to removing half a million cars from the UK’s roads.

What about Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL)?

CFL lighting will also be phased out in the new plans, by September 2023. While these were heralded for their energy efficiency when they were first introduced on the market (they are more energy-efficient than halogens, using just 25W for 1600 lumens), LEDs quickly swept in and took their place as most energy-efficient lightbulbs.

Keep an eye out when you return to the office as the CFL strip lighting may just have been replaced. Can you notice the difference?

How does this affect me?

The ban refers to the sale of the bulbs, not the owning of them – so don’t worry, your kitchen spotlights will not suddenly become illegal. Overall, the shift away from traditional lightbulbs will also save households across the UK money on their energy bills.

What is the alternative?

Our preferred alternative, and seemingly that of the UK Government, are LEDs. They use just 16W of energy to produce 1600 lumens, while they have a life span of 20+ years. Therefore, although the initial cost of LEDs can be high, they tend to save between £45 and £75 in energy over ten years. And if you’re saving money, using less energy and producing less waste, we at King’s Energy are happy.

As always, if you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch!

King’s Energy: Grant funded – ‘Mapping the Food Waste-Energy-Water-Emissions Nexus at Commercial Kitchens’

This guest blog comes from Julie Allen, Energy Manager at King’s.

In June 2020, KCL (along with Arizona State University, Dublin City University and City University of Hong Kong) submitted a grant application to GCSO (Global Consortium of Sustainability Outcomes) for a proposal to create a Certification for Sustainable Kitchens – and we got the grant!

In March this year, our interim findings were published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, in a paper entitled ‘Mapping the Food Waste-Energy-Water-Emissions Nexus at Commercial Kitchens: a systems approach for a More Sustainable Food Service Sector.’

I’m a published Author!

To break it down, here is a little background.

I have many years of experience in the commercial catering sector. There are always efforts to address food waste, OR energy consumption, OR water consumption, but never anything to look at the whole life cycle of the food going through a commercial kitchen. So that’s what we did. Our role at King’s was to provide energy consumption data from King’s Kitchen (which is excellently managed!). We also had to manage the expectations of our colleagues in other universities, as there can be a huge difference between theory and practice.

The paper looks at the impact of food on the climate – from the water used to grow the food, the transportation carbon miles, the energy to grow and prepare it, the amount of waste generated (not only from food preparation but also packaging) – and an analysis of a particular meal from field to fork. It’s been a fascinating journey looking at how different countries, organisations and sectors produce and sell food, even down to expectations around metering (we were asked to meter each tap until I explained it would take the whole grant!).

It’s been a fantastic journey, which isn’t over yet – we’ve had an extension until December 2021, so watch this space for further developments!

If you have any further questions or want to get involved with King’s Energy, get in touch.

Climate change, sustainability and narratives

“The truth about stories is that’s all we are.” (Thomas King, 2003)

“Data and factual information are crucial, but not enough to bring down the walls of numbness and indifference, to help us empathise with people outside our tribes. We need emotional connections. But more than that, just as we need sisterhood against patriarchy, we need storyhood against bigotry.” (Elif Shafak, 2020)

Climate change is often constructed as a purely physical phenomenon defined through metrics and targets, and requiring that we all reduce our emissions and limit global temperature rise. While understanding the physical processes of climate change is undeniably crucial, in the 60+ years we’ve been measuring atmospheric CO2 levels inaction has remained the norm, and many people continue to resist caring about an abstract and intangible phenomenon (particularly those who remain largely un-impacted by climate change). Indeed, these framings simplify complex realities by telling only half the story: climate change has both physical realities and cultural meanings and, to better engage people around this issue, we need to reframe it as such.

Climate change is an issue through which a plethora of “values, discourses and imaginaries are being refracted” (Mahony and Hulme, 2016: 395). Not only is it a manifestation of patterns of development and particular socio-environmental relations, but how we respond to the crisis is intimately linked to perceptions, understandings and ideologies. It is a social justice issue, linked to questions of gender, race, inequality, power and health (and the list goes on). It is therefore critical that we ask who creates mainstream knowledge (and by extension, who does not) and “what sorts of realities they aim to engender” (Castree, 2005: xxi). As with many crises, the climate crisis is destabilising the status quo and creating space for transformation and we must harness it as an entry point to understand and address this host of implications.

These ideas have long been echoed by activists, communities and social scientists around the world. Climate researcher Mike Hulme (2020: 311) argues that climate change “governance […] emerges best when rooted in larger and thicker stories about human [experiences].” Indeed, stories have the power to convey culture, history, values and emotions, and forge connections between people. Through storytelling, we have an opportunity to engage in wider and deeper conversations, to make sense of and reconcile differences, and to “[search] out meaning in a conflicted and contradictory world” (Cronon, 1992: 1375). Stories can also “counterpoint […] totalising, ‘grand’ narratives” (Cameron, 2012a: 580) and “re-situate hegemonic habits of mind” (Magrane, 2018: 167). In this sense, stories offer agency. Finally, as put by climate activist Alice Aedy, “storytelling can […] paint a picture of a better world [and] we have to visualise the world that we’re moving towards.”

Let us use this ‘wicked problem’ as an opportunity to question how we relate to each other and how we relate to the natural world, to consider which stories we choose to tell, as well as to recognise the stories of others and what we can learn from them.

Building upon these ideas, we will be sharing  ‘Sustainability Stories’, highlighting the work and passion of individuals from across the King’s community. If you are passionate about any aspect of sustainability and would like to share your story, get in touch with us.

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