First UK school eco-council set up in Cambridge
The first-ever schools eco-council has been set up in response to the threat of climate change on future generations.
Cambridge School Eco-Council held its inaugural meeting in the chapel at Michaelhouse Cafe on Saturday (March 9).
The establishment of the eco-council comes ahead of the global school strike for climate on Friday (March 15), which - for the second time - will see children across Cambridge walk out of school in a bid to speed up the political and economic response to the climate crisis.
The Cambridge pupils issued a 'Declaration and Eco-Plan on the Climate Emergency' this weekend which highlighted the drastic action now required to stabilise climate change. It said: "If we continue burning fossil fuels, building unsustainable infrastructure and degrading our environment, children like us all over the world will hurt or even die" and outlined action plans on three fronts:
- Schools: To educate about lifestyle choices, adopt an eco-code including "an eco-audit and act on all its recommendations, so that all schools are eco-schools".
- Town & Country: To "commit to carbon neutrality well before 2030", to "declare a local climate emergency and mean it", "support local renewables" and impose carbon taxes "to be spent on carbon sequestration and climate change programmes".
- Country: to "make national and international transport sustainable", "stop fossil fuel subsidies", "start energy rationing" and "change food and agriculture systems".
The meeting was co-chaired by Helena Davis, 18, of Hills Road Sixth Form College; Samaya Hone, 14, of Chesterton School and Nico Roman, 10, of King's College School.
Samaya set down the guidelines: "Hands up to speak, two hands up if we agree on something, no interruptions of people when they're speaking."
Also present were Jona David, 13, King's School; Ella Hone, 11, Chesterton School; Snaedis Fridriksdottir, 14, of Coleridge School; Junayd Islam, 15, with sister Aarifah Islam, 12, of Parkside School; Elliot Dunmead, 8, of St Paul's, plus sister Ginny Dunmead, 13, of St Bede's; Arthur Pledge, 12, of Perse School and Tommy Harris, 16, from The Leys.
The group took turns to read out sections of the declaration before turning to the items on the agenda.
The council got through a lot of talking points at this historic meeting - the first-ever schools eco-council in the UK.
The upcoming event is very much at the front of their thinking. The route for Friday's march is different from the first one on February 15. It starts at 9.30am at Shire hall, with the campaigners moving out towards Guildhall at 10.30am. But instead of turning into Market Square from Trinity Street the march will go down King's Parade and then round and back along St Andrew's Street towards Guildhall.
"Do we want speeches at Shire Hall?" asked Samaya. After some discussion the answer is yes, but only younger speakers. The main speeches will be at Guildhall.
"How do we prevent what happened last time which was pretty much people standing around shouting things?" asked Jona.
"One person has the microphone," says Helena. "If there's any problems someone can turn it off - and keep it away from politics."
There's some concerns about timing.
"If the police arrive we need to say we're going to stay here till 10.30 because the last time it got broken up," said Ella.
Helena: "That's on the agenda."
Ella: "At Shire Hall we could do a sit-down or a lie-down, which would mean we'd refuse to move."
Nico: "That would attract the police's attention, we can't end up doing what we did last time, which was moving off too quickly."
Samaya: "If we can possibly get to the point where the police are threatening us to comply with the law - that's when we move."
Another decision that needed to be made was whether to allow adults on to the council. This followed a request from a teacher at a local school to be able to joint the council to assist with decision-making and provide some legal expertise where necessary.
Samaya: "I think we decided we'd start afresh. It's better is the kids do it, and the teachers can be there as support."
Jona: "We are going to try and keep this council student-run so that it's our voice when we raise important issues."
Samaya: "And then kids will turn to us when there's an issue, not the adults. We don't want people to think it's the adults leading this. We're not excluding adults but we want it to be as much in the hands of kids as possible."
Even six months ago the idea of school children going on strike as unheard if in Europe. That changed when Greta Thunberg, now 16, began to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament building. The movement insists that the current generation of adults is failing to address climate change with the rigour required to halt the effects of catastrophic climate change, species extinction, plastic pollution and the continued investment in fossil fuels.
The schoolchildren are inviting all schools across Cambridge to join the eco-council to work together to learn about, and find solutions to, the climate and ecological crisis. The next meeting of the Cambridge Schools Eco-Council is at Michaelhouse Cafe, March 23, at 3pm.