As part of a monthly online feature, Impact Science will be investigating the latest news, projects and discoveries in the battle to prevent substantial climate change.

Academic institutions are hubs for activism, fostered by their tradition of critical thinking. Nowhere is this more prevalent than at Nottingham, which is rich in groups with a passion for their causes as diverse as genocide awareness, Development and Disaster relief and Palestinian solidarity. This year, the newest member of the issue activist block is People and Planet, the Nottingham chapter of a country wide organisation which champions itself as the ‘largest student support network in Britain’ which ‘takes on poverty, human rights and the environment’. Run by final year politics students Peter Mullard and John Lever, this year their primary campaign is to persuade the University to divest in companies which trade in fossil fuels.

“Students generally want to be environmentally conscious, but give the almost blanket consensus on the topic”

In their online petition they cite the university’s own ambition to act in an environmentally responsible way to demonstrate the changes that need to be made in its environmental policy.  Currently 11.08% of the university’s investment portfolio is tied up in companies such as BP and Total. The campaign aims to commit the university to ‘freezing investments in fossil fuel companies’ and ‘moving to more ethical, lower risk investments within five years’. The model is Warwick University who in July committed to the above after a two year long student campaign. John Lever admits a similar battle will have to be fought and may take time. Their online petition to vice-chancellor David Greenaway currently sits at 800 signatures, but they are hoping to get to around three thousand before presenting it. In discussion with Impact it was bemoaned how students generally want to be environmentally conscious, but give the almost blanket consensus on the topic. Activism is usually not at the forefront of the mind of the average student. Growing the group of activists will be the first step for what is essentially a brand new society.  Collaboration with other interest groups is another aspect which they are considering and believe may help accelerate progress. This is especially due to the fact that disenfranchised groups are likely to suffer most from climate change.

The plight of minority communities was dedicated a whole chapter in the best-selling Naomi Klein book ‘This Changes Everything’. This month the film of the book was released in over fifteen countries with more screenings to come. Klein, the Canadian economist-writer and activist has spent the last few years campaigning for changes in climate policy across the globe including talking last month at the Vatican after the Pope’s well documented encyclical on the topic. The new feature is a combined narrative of people from seven areas from across the globe, who are all affected by climate change.

“Climate activists are hopeful this is just the start of huge momentum shift away from the fossil fuel companies”

On the 28th of September Shell announced its plans to abandon drilling in the Alaskan arctic. Increasing public opposition combined with lower than projected volumes of oil recovered thus far has caused them to move away from the area for the ‘foreseeable future’, as announced in a statement. Hailed as an ‘unmitigated defeat’ by Greenpeace UK, the move is also seen as a blow to the company’s image as a whole, as they chose to continue drilling in one of the planet’s final areas of wild natural beauty. Along with the continuous tumbling of oil prices, climate activists are hopeful this is just the start of huge momentum shift away from the fossil fuel companies. This particular event has provided John and Peter with inspiration, given that action to move away from investments in high-risk, high-carbon industries is not just necessary for the planet but also for the university to not lose money and it’s hard earned reputation as an environmentally conscious institution.

 Stephen Kenny

Image from Michael Gwyther-Jones via Flickr

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