Shared Planet is an annual conference, run by student campaigning network, People & Planet, and is the largest of its kind in the UK. People & Planet are behind potent campaigns focusing on climate change and corporate power, translating into tangible success, especially with their 'Transition Unis' project, taking positive practical action to make university education more sustainability and their 'Green League', ranking universities by their level of sustainability. When the Youth Advisory Panel were invited to run a workshop at Shared Planet, we were therefore quick to take them up on the offer! We used the opportunity both to gain feedback on our work and to hear other points of view on the various topics covered in our upcoming report.
The conference was opened by leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas MP, who delivered a powerful speech covering many issues of interest to the Youth Panel. Of particular interest was her use of the phrase 'intergenerational fairness' - which is very similar, if less binding, to the phrase we have considered key during when carrying out our activities, 'intergenerational equity'. Her assertion that 'you can't have infinite economic growth on a finite planet' was a key theme throughout the conference. Other notable speakers included Nick Dearden of the Jubilee Debt Campaign, Amanda Starbuck of the Rainforest Action Network and Aaron Porter, NUS chairman, who featured on the conference's closing panel.
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This closing panel was of particular interest. It comprised five accomplished activists, including Aaron Porter, chairman of the National Union of Students and ex-People & Planet members, such as Jess Worth, co-editor of the New Internationalist. The panel spoke powerfully and managed to rally the attendees well - but at times seemed overly negative. To me the environmental movement is a very positive one that can bring much benefit to the world, and the importance of taking positive, practical, sustainable action cannot be over-emphasised. This was not something the panel discussed at all - even when I raised this issue of outlook with them - and it may limit the attraction of the movement to new people. Unsurprisingly the debate turned very quickly to the cuts to tuition fees, which Aaron Porter spoke very strongly against - even in the face of criticism to NUS' approach to negotiating when Labour brought in tuition fees for the first time. We will see whether he keeps the promise he made that NUS would support direct student action and occupations against the fee rise.
|Kirsty opening our open space session.|