Tag: Community (Page 1 of 4)

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.

KCL Cycling Club

This club is for everything bikes! From city cruiser commuters to weekend warriors and lycra-clad bike lovers, this club is for anybody who likes to get on two wheels.

The KCC is much more than a cycling club, it is a cycling community.

Bethan’s experience living in one of our Sustainable Living Communities

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

My name is Bethan and I’m an (about to be) third-year English Student. For my first year at King’s College London, I lived in Wolfson House in one of the Sustainable Living Communities (SLCs).                                                                                            

The SLC I lived in was one of the zero-waste flats, and I was lucky enough to get to do this in its pilot year. In this blog I will talk a bit about what SLCs are, the ones that are on offer, and my experience. 

SLC is an initiative being run by King’s Residences and King’s Sustainability to facilitate the sustainable education, living and community of change-makers. The programme works alongside ResiLife to bring sustainability-focused events, themed around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into King’s halls.  

For 21/22, they’ll be running vegan and zero-waste SLCs. The vegan or zero-waste SLC members live in a designated flat in one of King’s residences and will have support and specific events and activities to complement the respective lifestyle choices.                                              

My experience with SLCs began when I received an email about a zero-waste project that they would be running in a small number of flats in my allocated student accommodation, Wolfson House.  I had been interested in a zero-waste lifestyle for a while – even giving it a go in my hometown – but I had never been successful. At that time, I was living low waste: I’d massively reduced my plastic usage and was purchasing more consciously, but there were still major factors that were inhibiting my progress, such as money, living with my family and resources (living in a small village in South Wales).  

This was one of my concerns: that I’d enter one of the zero-waste flats keen, but not quite good enough. I was worried that I’d make mistakes and be reprimanded or fall out with my peers, or that I wouldn’t be able to fulfil the requirements of complete and total zero-waste. I applied anyway and was quickly allocated a place. 

When I arrived at the flat, I discovered that the other people that had opted into the scheme were just like me – some with even less experience living a zero-waste lifestyle. This was reassuring. It was also, to my surprise, a mixture of people regarding backgrounds, genders and ages. This I was also glad about, as I was worried that choosing to enter one of these flats would be choosing to pigeonhole myself and only interact with a certain kind of person.  

I attended the first SLC event after settling into the flat and was gifted a bag of zero-waste goodies, such as a reusable cup and a mason jar. I have these things to this day, so it is sufficient to say that they have helped me out on my zero-waste journey. In between SLC events, leading the lifestyle of our choosing within our flat was up to us; staff were not sent to police if we were living ‘zero-waste enough’. This made me feel like I had the space to learn and grow without judgement. Luckily for me, Wolfson House was right next to King’s (now sadly closed) zero-waste store, Nought! This was perfect: not only could I get zero-waste products near my accommodation, but I could also get them at a student-friendly price. This store has since shut, but I’ve been surprised at how many zero-waste or bulk food stores you can find in London that aren’t insanely expensive. Some of the bigger Lidls even have sections where you can buy nuts in bulk! 

I attended several SLC events before an early covid-related departure in March. My favourite was the Vegan Christmas potluck, an event at GDSA where everyone brought their own dish and we all shared food. I got to chat with quite a lot of people from the different residences hosting SLCs, as well as eat some yummy food. Meeting people in the other residences was great because although I ended up in a zero-waste SLC, I would have happily partaken in a vegan one, so it meant that I got to meet more people with similar interests.  

As I mentioned, my year got cut short when the UK went into its first lockdown, and we were all sent home in March. However, I loved my experience in Wolfson House and more specifically, in a zero-waste SLC. I would recommend the experience to anyone already living attuned with either one of the zero-waste or vegan lifestyles, but also just to anyone interested. For me, it was a great way to officially begin my zero-waste journey with someone holding my hand and giving me useful advice and insight. 

Applications to join one of the Sustainable Living Community flats are now open. Join the SLC Facebook group for updates on how to apply!

 

 

 

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.

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

 

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.

Mental health and sustainability – what’s the link?

Trigger warning – this blog discusses mental health and suicide.  

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16th May 2021) and we’d like to use this opportunity to discuss some of the ways mental health and sustainability intersect.

#1 SDG 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all 

 One of Sustainable Development Goal Three’s (SDG 3) targets is to “reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being”. Awareness of the importance of addressing mental health has increased in recent years, and rightly so: depression represents one of the leading causes of disability, suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst 15-29-year-olds, and people with severe mental health conditions are at risk of premature death due to preventable physical conditions (WHO, 2021). Additionally, individuals with mental health conditions may face stigma, discrimination and human rights violations. 

While SDG 3 focuses explicitly on mental health, achieving this target requires progress across all 17 SDGs. Mental health and wellbeing are intricately linked to challenges such as poverty, inequality, work, education, gender, infrastructure, air pollution, access to quality green spaces, peace etc.  Not only do these factors increase the risk of poor mental health, but they also impact the accessibility and quality of mental health services. 

One example is emergency contexts, including natural disasters, conflict and forced migrationduring which many individuals will face temporary distress. In the longer term, the prevalence of common mental disorders generally doubles in a humanitarian crisis due to increased poverty, lack of security, separation from family, community and home, and trauma. Overall, it has been estimated that 1 in 5 people living in an area affected by conflict will have a common mental health condition. Finally, it is important to note that climate change is expected to exacerbate many of these issues, thus causing greater and wider distress, which leads us to our next topic… 

#2 Climate change and mental health 

When you think about climate change, mental health might not be the first thing that comes to mind. We often discuss climate change on a global scale, in terms of physical processes and tangible, measurable impacts. However, it both, directly and indirectly, impacts individuals’ and communities’ mental health and psychological well-being. 

Indeed, climate change and its associated impacts (rising sea levels, changing temperatures, extreme weather patterns, wildfires, droughts, food and water insecurity, etc.) put at risk a  range of phenomena that people and communities value and rely on in their daily lives, both material and non-material, from homes, landscapes and ecosystems to cultural traditions, livelihoods, identities and social cohesion… From forced displacement to gradual changes in an environment, feelings of loss – loss of place, loss of identity, decreased sense of self – can arise. And, as mentioned above, these impacts are more acutely felt in communities and populations where climate change intersects with pre-existing health conditions, socioeconomic inequities and unequal power dynamics. 

#3 The rise of eco-anxiety  

 As with many crises, the climate crisis is causing (justifiably) strong emotional responses, in people and communities around the world. Amongst inspiration and hope for change, feelings of anger, hopelessness, guilt and fear are common and natural. 

Eco-anxiety refers to the stress caused by “watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold” or the “feelings of helplessness, anger, […] panic and guilt toward the climate and ecological crisis”. Force of Nature has been studying the occurrence of eco-anxiety amongst youth globally. They found that amongst 500 respondents, over 70% had experienced feelings of hopelessness in the face of climate change. 

Circling back to this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week’s theme of Nature, it is important to recognize the interconnectedness between the health of our minds, bodies and planet. Indeed, sustainability refers not only to environmental sustainability but also to social sustainability.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the immensity of the climate crisis, be kind to yourself, and connect with your loved ones and your community. However, if symptoms of anxiety are interfering with your ability to function well and feel good,  we encourage you to seek professional help. Here are some ways you can find support at King’s: KCLSU’s wellbeing eventsPositive PeersCounselling and Mental Health supportBlack Students TalkOut-of-hours counselling. You can also find resources here and here

Some further reading on the topic

Tackling social inequalities to reduce mental health problems: How everyone can flourish equally

Mental Health and our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance 

The case for systems thinking about climate change and mental health 

Caring for the environment helps to care for your mental health 

Mental health and the environment 

Mental health and wellbeing in the Sustainable Development Goals 

The Lancet Commission on global mental health and sustainable development 

This Must Be the Place: Underrepresentation of Identity and Meaning in Climate Change DecisionMaking

Place identity and climate change adaptation: a synthesis and framework for understanding

“From this place and of this place:” Climate change, sense of place, and health in Nunatsiavut, Canada

Examining relationships between climate change and mental health in the Circumpolar North 

 

Appreciating our local green spaces

This guest blog comes from Abbie Russell, Engagement Officer and Sustainability Champion at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN). With contribution from Louise Bolderstone, James Hollands, and Annicka Ancliff.

With this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme of ‘Nature’, we couldn’t not talk about our local green spaces – the value they bring. For some of us, visiting the local park has been a highlight of the day or the week during lockdown. There’s a lot of research, including IoPPN research, that suggests that exposure to trees, the sky and birdsong in cities is beneficial for mental wellbeing. 

One thing I do miss about working on campus is going for lunchtime walks through the park (shout out to Ruskin Park near Denmark Hill Campus!) with colleagues. It was so nice, that the Bee Team (aka IoPPN Main Building Sustainability Champions) organised regular lunchtime walks, the Ruskin Park Appreciation Walks, and we would be joined by colleagues from all over the faculty. It was a great chance to network, share ideas, research, and meet new people.

When lockdown hit – we decided to keep the conversation going online, with Teams meetings and a refresh of the Yammer group. We changed the name to Local Park Appreciation. This allowed us to open up this space to the entire King’s community and it now has 111 active members.

In this blog we explore some of the groups favourite local green spaces.

Hilly Fields, South East London (Abbie Russell, IoPPN)

My favourite thing about South East London is the number of great parks and amount of green space. I’ve recently discovered Hilly Fields since moving to a new house and it’s my new favourite sunrise spot. From the top of the hill, you can see for miles – trees in one direction, and city in the other.

Hilly Fields is in Brockley and is surrounded by lots of other green spaces: One Tree Hill, Ladywell Fields, and Peckham Rye Park.

Beckenham Place Park (Louise Bolderstone, Research Management and Innovation)

In the last year I have got to know Beckenham Place Park even better as it has been the focus of my weekends and I have walked in it with a friend most weeks, although prior to that I was a regular visitor. My appreciation and knowledge of this wonderful place has expanded in an equal proportion to the contractions of my horizon.

The park has benefited from additional funding in the last few years contributing to a place that provides a variety of activities for everyone, from open water swimming to exploring the ancient woodland to relaxing with some food or drink from the onsite café. However, its true value lies in the space afforded to everyone to enjoy by virtue of it being the largest park in the borough and at times, it feels like the entire borough is trying to squeeze in.  That does not detract from enjoying its beauty though because there is always a way to find a solitary path. I get a sense of calm from walking around and seeing all of the different plants, trees and greens offering a counterbalance to the craziness of the world during these last months. I love the twisted trees that have stood there for so many years and I have comfort knowing they have been there through many trials and continue to stand.

I have witnessed a transformation in the park’s popularity in the last year but its natural lifecycle has continued regardless.  The bluebells are nearly out again, after the carnival of daffodils.  Snow has surprised everyone and covered the open greens and settled gently in the woods. The parakeets continue to reign supreme and the wild meadow areas have sprung up and down again hosting kaleidoscopes of butterflies and hardworking bees.  There is peace and life co-existing simultaneously in this place and it brings me joy to see the old and the new living in harmony.  No matter what the next year brings, I know that Beckenham Place Park will be there.

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Greenwich Park (James Hollands, Registry Services)

During lockdown, the importance of getting outside and seeing green spaces has never been more important – both for our physical and mental health.  As I live in Woolwich, one of my favourite walks has been walking along the Thames Path to Greenwich, and then walking along around Greenwich Park.

Located near to the River Thames in South-East London, the park is open all year round and is listed as Grade I on the Register of Historical Parks and Gardens.  During London 2012 it was used for Olympic equestrian events as well as the Modern Pentathlon.  The park has a large sweeping green space which means even when the park is busy, you can walk around it easily.  The park is home to several tree and plant species, which means that even in wintertime, there is something out in bloom, and it also has lovely clean fresh air.

The park is on 2 levels, and at the top of the hill in the park is the Royal Observatory, which the prime meridian passes through.  There is also a beautiful view at the top of the hill from which you can see Canary Wharf and the National Maritime Museum.  I love to be able to sit and look at these views, whilst enjoying the tranquillity of the park.

I would recommend giving the park a visit.  It is a short walk from Greenwich railway station, Greenwich Pier, and multiple bus routes.

                                 

Southwark Park (Annicka Ancliff, Research & Development, IoPPN)

In the last few months, Southwark Park has been my favourite walking/running spot. I used to follow the Thames Path on walks but since there are more people out and about I have preferred the park to avoid the crowds.

There was one run in particular which will always stay in my memory and that was the other day. It was so sunny and the park was buzzing, I saw a few runners and other people either using the outdoor gym or doing other fitness activities. In the course of my run, I was greeted by a tiny puppy which was an absolute delight and then a little girl offered (or possibly showed) me a flower I kept running past her but shouted my thanks at her.

It has been so nice to see people enjoying the parks more as the weather has improved and the lockdown has been eased.

What about your own local parks? Let us know and get involved online.

All King’s staff and students are welcome to join the Local Park Appreciation group on Yammer.

 

Sustainability Month 2021 – Round-Up #3

This blog is the third in a series of four posts on Sustainability Month 2021. 

 

LONDON STUDENT SUSTAINABILITY CONFERENCE 

King’s had the wonderful opportunity to co-host this year’s London Student Sustainability Conference (LSSC) with City University. Over 30 students presented their sustainable research through presentations, posters and performances. 

The diverse range of presentations covered the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and we left the conference feeling inspired by the many students choosing to engage with the complexity of sustainability through their studies.  

Here are some highlights:  

‘Dust Fertilization in Terrestrial Ecosystems: The Sahara to Amazon Basin’ 

Globally, wind-driven dust plays a major role in biogeochemical cycles. Robyn’s presentation discussed the crucial role of Saharan dust in the Amazon Rainforest – it acts as a fertilizer and provides important nutrients that contribute to the ecosystem’s overall productivity. But how will these processes be impacted by changing weather patterns and climate change? (Robyn Lees, BSc Geography).

How to Promote Sustainable and Healthy Food Consumption in University Students? 

Recognizing that our dietary choices sit at the nexus of human, planetary and economic health, this student-led vegetable bag scheme explored how we can promote sustainable and healthy food consumption in university students (Fetch Ur VegLiza Konash, BSc Nutrition and Mia Lewis, BA International Relations).

Climate and Cake: What can you do?  

Climate and Cake is an education program for sustainable living. Its goal is to create a space for and support open discussions on sustainability and offer realistic ways individuals notably, students can act on climate change (Ana Oancea, BA International Development).

If this is something you’d like to get involved in next year, keep an eye out for news on LSSC 2022!  

 

Recordings of the events can now be found on our Kaltura.  

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Sustainability Month 2021 – Round-Up #2

This blog is the second in a series of four posts on Sustainability Month 2021.

#TAKEACTION HACKATHON 

King’s Sustainability hosted our first-ever Sustainability Hackathon! 

Hackathons provide an opportunity for a group to work together to discuss and develop real solutions to a problem.  

We presented 4 sustainability challenges we want to tackle at King’s and attendees contributed thoughtful and insightful ways forward: 

  • How can we further support diversity within the field of sustainability (from the education of school pupils, college and university life and into careers)? 
    • Elevate and highlight sustainability role models from a diverse range of backgrounds. 
    • Recognize and discuss the interconnected roots of the climate crisis and racial and social oppression. 
    • Move beyond the over-individualistic approach to sustainability that is largely inaccessible for many, by meeting people where they are and widening the range of ways people can get involved. 
    • Seek to better understand and remove the barriers facing different people from getting involved in sustainability.  
  • What should an online open-access sustainability-focused Keats module at King’s look like? 
    • Make this module part of King’s Experience Awards or offer credit so that the module adds value to students’ educational experience. 
    • Create an interactive module with optional levels of engagement. 
    • Ensure the module includes relevant topics for students across faculties – why should students be interested? 
  • How can King’s Sustainability improve its communications to engage more students? 
    • Better communicate what King’s is already doing and achieving. 
    • Connect to students by relating sustainability to their area of study and creating easy-to-digest and engaging content. 
    • Invite students and staff to share their sustainability stories. 
    • Run campaigns, competitions and giveaways to incentivize more students to engage with sustainability. 
  • How can King’s encourage students to have more conversations about sustainability?
    • Create an environmental series of Campus Conversations, a podcast or a seminar series, open to all and covering a range of topics within sustainability. 
    • Host community get-togethers for discussion and debate around specific topics – “Sustainability Socials. 
    • Collaborate with societies and other parts of King’s to embed sustainability in campaigns and initiatives. 

Do you have any thoughts, ideas or solutions about how to tackle these challenges? Let us know! 

 

CLIMATE ACTION PANEL 

On the 26th of February, we hosted the King’s Climate Education Panel. Climate Education has been a popular topic at King’s for a while – the KCL Climate Action Society has been running an education campaign, the King’s 100 discussed it last year, and the Climate Action Network has dedicated the Students & Education sub-group to the issue.   

This panel was a chance to hear from the experts. Our panel was made up of Professor Adam Fagan, Professor of European Politics and Vice-Dean (Education) in SSPP, Dr Kate Greer, Research Associate in the School of Education, Communication and Society, Sigrið Leivsdottir, President of KCL Climate Action Society and Taimi Vilkko, Vice-President and Treasurer of the KCL Climate Action Society.   

We covered a range of interesting issues during the session: the need to go beyond teaching just knowledge about climate change and instead also teach how to take action and live with climate change, supporting staff if they are asked to embed climate into their programmes, and that we may not need everyone to be on board just yet as long as we have a group of dedicated leaders and followers. There were also a few ideas on actions King’s can take right now, such as reaffirming our commitments to climate change, and even influencing higher education policy on climate teaching as we move towards hosting COP26 in the UK later this year.   

The Students & Education group of the King’s Climate Action Network is excited to potentially take some of these suggestions forward and propose them for the King’s Climate Action Strategy.

 

Recordings of the events can now be found on our Kaltura.  

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