Creative Climate runner up – Afolakemi Ogunnubi

Sustainability- what do we really need to do?

As I got down from the plane, waiting for my host to pick me up; I looked round in enthusiasm to the beauty of organisation, the structured buildings, the way people queued at the shops. First time I was going to see a lot of “oyinbo” people around me, as they were often called back in Africa where I come from. On a good note I was prepared to enjoy my one year programme, try and mix with the people and understand the culture even more. I said a word of prayer for safe arrival. Few minutes later my host arrived and we got in the car. So he was to drive me to Leeds where I spend a few days with them and finally get a train to Aberdeen to start my programme.

As we drove on, I couldn’t but observe the scenery, the views, the traffic lights , malls and shops. After about 1hr 30mins we stopped to take a break; what I now understand to mean “StopOvers” . Well I wasn’t so familiar with the kind of snacks such as burgers, sandwiches with vegetables in contrast to the “Dundun and Akara” which is equivalent to fried yam and bean cakes made by the woman by the road side near my house in Africa. For the rich families who had the opportunities to get to the malls situated in some parts of Nigeria- probably must have had a taste of the burgers. 5 years down the line; I happen to hear we now have burgers and sandwiches but am still not sure about the health and safety.

Anyways, I was delighted with the beauty of the malls and how fun filled it will be to shop for clothes and food stuff. As we walked in , my host kept walking and we got to a place named Burger King (never heard about it until then). Interestingly, there was a queue; I sat down watching everyone pass and people eating in such an orderly manner. Oh I noticed the bins even in strategic places compared to the pile of rubbish usually found by the road side, Even if there were bins people hardly noticed them. The bins where built in such a way that you cannot miss it with inscriptions such as: “I am a bin”, “Use me” “Litter Bin” how thoughtful- I thought. It was our turn and we bought the meal. I observed the way the customer service personnel said thank you after she was been paid and my host said thank you after been served; that in itself was amazing for me. We rarely get such compliments as a customer back home neither do we pay gratitude for getting the products we paid for.
While eating I could see the attendants clean tables as people left their seats. People take their rubbish to the bins and the attendants just had to clean the table and make it ready for the next customer. We finished eating and left to continue our journey.

As my host drove, he kept telling me about the beauty of the night, the security structure, the ambulance pick up in case of emergency – the fines for dropping litters , the fine for driving carelessly, the recycling bins. By the time we got to Leeds it was 8pm and the whole area was lit up like it was 4pm. My host explained that during summer, which I now realize is my best time of the year; may be for you too; the day is longer. Interestingly, the whole area was lit up- no black outs, like there was going to be a party or something. The beautiful roundabout with water falls and structures made it more exquisite.
We got to the house and I entered with so much joy to meet the family and then I went into the kitchen, there was a microwave, washing machine, dish washer. I thought wow. I do not need to bend to wash anymore; my hands are finally free from brushing clothes together. As I laid to rest; I reflected on all that happened and I wondered if I was in paradise; how I crave my country to be like this.
5 years down the line; I now understand that my experience on my first arrival to a place largely called developed Country; my outlook reflected where I was coming from. My Country Nigeria, commonly described by Economist as a developing country needs Sustainability.

Yes we all need Sustainability but we have to start where we are. We cannot change the world if we have not changed our homes, our neighbourhoods, our environments, our Streets, our country.
The various people I met on my first day of arrival influenced my experience greatly. The extra efforts the people make to sustain the environment cannot be underestimated- the “thank yous” after been served is a form of appreciation to the staff and encouragement to keep doing the good work. The “queue” is understanding the concept of orderliness and Organisation, a form of respect to the stranger and neighbor we happen to meet at the shops. That in itself is Sustainability. Obeying the laws as stated, respecting that not dropping a litter on the floor and dropping the right product into the recycled bin; taking just what we need and avoiding wastage; goes a long way.

The words of Sharma, A. et. al (2010)
” The starting point for sustainability is simple: if everyone recognizes that ecosystems and natural resources are limited, economic decisions can be so oriented that the end products of economic actions are environmentally sustainable as well” (Sharma, A. et. al. 2010, p. 331)

Sustainability is an action we take to make other people have a better experience whether we know it or not. It is the responsibility of everyone to be sustainable; only then can we have a sustainable environment.Sustainability- what do we really need to do?

Creative Climate runner up – Jenny Barlow – ‘Paradise Lost’

Ko Tao, Thailand

Jumping off the boat into the warm azure ocean water, I was so excited to experience the magic of diving my first ever coral reef. I imagined all the weird and wonderful images from nature books that I’d read over and over as a child, of rainbow coloured tropical forest kingdoms of the sea teaming with every kind of life. It was hard to believe when growing up that places like this really existed in the world and I was finally getting to bring those images of nature’s paradise which were engrained in my mind to life.

As I swam down, what I actually came face to face with through the crystal clear waters was the full scale effect of human destruction, a physical embodiment of the catastrophic consequences that we are having on the planet’s most complex and priceless ecosystems. Spanning as far as the eye could see lay the white ash like embers of past beauty forming a vast underwater desert of bleached dying coral reef, with all of its vibrant colour and ability to support a vast array of life just drained away. A few sparse sponges and molluscs desperately hanging onto existence; lit up this barren sea desert with the odd splash of colour, acting as an isolated refuge for several lonely tropical nemo fish and reef sharks.

When looking upon this inhospitable bleached coral desert, I thought about what this once biodiverse underwater world must have looked like in all its colourful glory. I wondered what had happened to the magnificent shoals of beautiful tropical fishes, molluscs, turtles, crabs, barracudas and reef sharks that used to animate these waters as their coral homes had slowly died. Did they go and find another surviving reef nearby to seek refuge in or did they also slowly cease to exist like just this coral, becoming yet another depressing statistic, yet another victim of climate change and man-made environmental destruction?

As I dived through this coral graveyard, I thought about how something so complex that probably took thousands of years to form and develop can be trashed within a few decades of irresponsible human activity. How could we be so short sighted in our treatment of the environment which we rely on for our very existence?

When it is starkly laid out before your eyes it becomes very real that the scale of human damage on the earth is destroying some of the most beautiful and irreplaceable natural wonders. Do we really want to create a future where children can only learn about these magical places through a history book? I read once that there are some Amazonian tribes that put the environment so centrally to their existence that not only do they think of preserving it for the next generation but they think of how their actions may affect the next 7. I often think that our actions and of our society as a whole has a tendency to barely consider what will be happening tomorrow or next week, nevermind 7 generations time. I wonder what these unknown future people would think of us right now trashing their heritage? That destructive past society that had so much yet knew the true value of so little.

I think the age old saying that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone has never been so true for the human race today. Will it be when all of these precious ecosystems have disappeared from the face of the planet that will mourn their tragic loss and ask why on earth nothing was done sooner when we knew what we had to do? Or will we decide that the time for action and safeguarding the irreplaceable is now …

Sustainability Architects 2015/16

Amy

Hello – I’m Amy, one of the four new Sustainability Architects here at the University of Leeds. My role as part of the Sustainability team is to encourage and promote student and community engagement with all things sustainable!

As part of this I hope to continue to develop the role of a “Sustainability Representative” within each school.  Their role would be to put sustainability on the agenda by integrating knowledge of it into teaching and assessments, promoting sustainable practice within their school and departmental society encouraging other students to get involved, share their ideas and help to develop new initiatives for both environmental and social sustainability.

Being from Leeds, I understand how important it is to integrate students with the local community. There is no better way of doing this than through sustainability! I aim to do this by promoting  volunteering and community engagement projects within the University and Union setting – bringing to the attention of students what is available for them to get involved in around Leeds.

I hope to create an environment where students feel they are able to get involved with sustainability and make a difference!

 

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Hey I’m Will, a second year Environmental Science student at the University of Leeds. I am planning to take a year out of University during my third year, hoping to gain more valuable experience in sustainable roles. As well as representing the sustainability service at events, I hope to increase student engagement in sustainable practices, particularly focusing my efforts on halls of residences and sport societies.

 

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Hi I’m Shara, I am currently studying my masters in Sustainability and Consultancy here at the University of Leeds. My undergraduate degree was in International Relations and my dissertation looked at environmental change and energy security in the European Union. After taking a break from University to work and travel, I started to look into sustainability in a wider context, which lead me back to higher education.

This year I hope to increase the range of individuals engaged in sustainability; moving it out of traditional circles and into mainstream discussions so it’s accessible for everyone.

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My name is Ileyas Mogeh and I am a student sustainability architect. I am currently on my second year of BA Politics. Being a sustainability architect is an exciting way to make a positive impact in your community. As an architect, you are able to do this through your area of interest, for example in my case this is democracy. This ensures that the role is enjoyable, whilst also challenging and developing your knowledge of sustainability within higher education . By August, I hope to have helped embedded sustainability in the student community through increased participation in democratic activities.

Creative Climate runner up – Lauren Quinnell – ‘The Snowboard Way To Engage’

I guess engaging with climate change can be a daunting prospect, due to its huge and complex nature. But if we pause, no matter the place, we can identify one way our surrounding is connected to climate change.

The moment I paused was when I stood atop Mt. Fort’s glacier in Switzerland, a pristine place surrounded by beautiful towering mountain peaks. Peaks so huge that humans seemed insignificant to their gigantic size. But as I traversed the glacier on my snowboard it dawned on me that this natural phenomenon was in fact battling a fight, a fight with humanity and losing.

Insignificant as it may seem, but it was when I noticed a ski lift weirdly out of action that encouraged me to ask questions and discover a new understanding on climate change. So what I thought was an unused ski lift due to an on-going fault, turned out to be functional but unusable due to the retreating glacier un-stabilising the pylons. I initially couldn’t understand why anyone would build infrastructure knowing it would be unusable after a short time, but as I continued to explore my newfound interest in the glacier it was clear that this ski lift never intended a shelf life so early. As it turned out the glacier was retreating at an unprecedented rate due to temperature rise, resulting from climate change.

I did not need to be a climate scientist to acknowledge that whatever was going on at Mt. Fort was a problem, but it certainly inspired me to study the science further. Today, I am more intrigued, surprised and astonished by climate change and how it brings nations and individuals together. Therefore, what captures my interests the most is engagement with the issue, and one community that continues to do this well is the snowboard community.

This community, though relatively small and unassuming, have been tackling climate change in a motivating way, reaching and educating people of all ages on the topic. Organisations such as ‘Protect Our Winters’ are just one group who have helped lobby climate policies in the US and here in the UK we have seen riders demonstrating their skill outside parliament without snow… the future they fear most. What is more on the 5th December 2015 individuals from the community, together with other pioneers from ‘Sustainable Innovation in Sport 2015’, visited COP21 to share the message that their community is creatively increasing climate change awareness through sports.

I’m glad I took that moment to pause atop Mt. Fort so to find my own way of understanding climate change and reasons to protect the destruction wrought by it. It was an experience that helped me understand that engaging with the global problem is not a one size fits all, but less daunting when you find your own niche.

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Photo courtesy of Lauren Quinnell.

 

IntoUniversity visit

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The Sustainability Service recently hosted a workshop for students from IntoUniversity (http://intouniversity.org/) on the importance of biodiversity.

The session started with an introductory activity on biodiversity and its importance, then the students were asked to become landscape designers for the day and design new flower beds for our campus, encouraging them to use their knowledge of different species and their role in the ecosystem. They were also given some guidance before designing the flower beds such as examples of plant species that could be planted on campus and incest species that could be attracted to the flowers.

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The workshop not only allowed the students to embrace their creativity, it allowed them to work in teams and make decisions together about the design of the flower beds.

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The 3 final winners will be picked soon and they will be planted at the entrance of the Parkinson building in spring to enhance biodiversity on campus. Don’t forget to follow our blog and social media accounts for updates on the designs.

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