‘Go Green Week’ is People and Planets national annual week of Climate Action in schools, colleges and universities. From the 8th – 14th February a number of exciting events and workshops were held throughout the UK in order to raise awareness of climate change and encourage pupils and students to campaign for and protect their environment. As well as organising and hosting their own events a number of institutions throughout the city, including University of Glasgow, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian University and Glasgow School of Art, joined together to host the first ever ‘Glasgow Goes Green Festival ‘ at SWG3. With over 800 free tickets allocated the festival presented the perfect opportunity for a number of different organisations affiliated with these institutes to increase their profile within the city. Featuring music and poetry, food and drink, art and film, as well as Question Time with Scottish Greens MSP Patrick Harvie and Glasgow City Council member Nina Baker, the overall aim of the festival was to showcase to those attending how they can make more sustainable lifestyle choices.
With a stall space secured at the venue, GUCA wanted to come up with something that would really allow us to interact with the public. During a group brainstorming session it was suggested that we could make a tree: a climate tree and upon its branches we shall hang the hopes and dreams of Glaswegians for the planet in 2016. The seed had been sown: it was time to make a tree! The tree began its short, but nonetheless, productive life as two sheets of recycled cardboard. In one evening the tree was drawn on and carved from the two sheets of cardboard which could then be slotted into one another to create a self-supporting structure. The following week, GUCA split into teams of two; one group continued working on the tree and the other set to work on making the leaves on which people could write their wishes for the planet. The tree was painted a more bark-like brown and > 300 individual leaves were cut from green card and threaded with string. There was a mass of green card left over from cutting out the leaves which we decided that we could sprinkle around the bottom of the tree as grass.
On the day of the festival the tree was marched down to SWG3 where it was assembled and propped up with some kindling. We whipped up a cute little sign, stuck some kindling around the branches and the tree was ready to be decorated with leaves branded with Weegie wishes. Yay.
We wanted to know how Glasgow felt about climate change; what issues are important to you, what worries you about climate change, what would you like to see change and how can we change it? Now that’s a really vague question and, as we found at the festival, it’s actually really difficult to answer. However, as the venue filled up so did the branches of our trees making the tree not only beautiful to look at but beautiful to read as well. All together 115 wishes were left hanging on the tree and when divided into broad categories this is what Glasgow wished for;
The most common wishes for 2016 were those related to ‘Climate Action’ and ’Global Unity’. This is encouraging considering that in order to properly tackle climate change we need to ACT now and do so TOGETHER. Then and only then will we be able to make a significant impact. The current political climate in Scotland and indeed the rest of the UK has left us pretty divided, whilst the ongoing fight for money and power is splitting the international community. This is all happening at a time when there couldn’t be a greater demand for the planet to come together and face the biggest threat to our survival. It is no wonder that the people of Glasgow were wishing ‘for the World to pull together and help each other’ and for people ‘to think globally for everything you do’.
Another important concern for Glasgow was ‘nature’. People wished that others would not only show greater respect towards nature but greater interest, wishing ‘for people to enjoy nature in all its forms’. People wished to save the bees, trees and whales and hoped that ‘we wouldn’t ruin it for all the animals’.
With the event being held in Glasgow, we expected to see a little humour on these leaves. We were not disappointed with around 10% of these leaves saying something that would make you lol! There were calls for ‘gay tree marriage’ and to ‘free the herb’ and one poor soul even wished ‘for a date for Valentine’s Day’. As well as their humour, Glaswegians are also known for their friendly nature and many left beautiful messages of peace and love; ‘peace and love to everyone, for everyone’, ‘harmony’ and ‘a lot of love for everybody’. Aw, Glasgow, ya wee cutie.
Changing people’s attitudes was also top priority for Glasgow. Unfortunately, not everyone is so green-minded and if we really want to make a difference then issues relating to climate change need to sit higher on people’s agenda. Somebody wished ‘for the power we have to truly force our responsibility’ and ‘for governments to consider environmental issues as important as they actually are’. Looking for a solution, somebody suggested that the best way to change attitudes was to start young and ‘encourage individual actions and environmental awareness in school’. 2015 was one of the wettest/warmest years on record. Although scientists generally try to avoid attributing extreme weather events to global warming many have agreed that the severe flooding and unusual weather seen throughout the year were directly linked to global warming (as well as the occurrence of El Niño, which exacerbates the effects of climate change). Although devastating, such events may convince the population that climate change is real, it is happening and we need to do something about it.
Sustainability was also a common theme with 8% of people wishing for more sustainable food and 8% for renewable energy. As well as polluting water and land, the livestock industry is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. There is an ongoing debate on exactly how much the industry contributes to emissions but it is thought to be more than the entire transport sector put together. Being a super vegan-friendly city it’s no wonder that there were several wishes for more people to turn veggie or vegan as well as wishing for increased food security for nations plagued by hunger and thirst. In addition, several people wished for more investment in renewable energy including solar and wind power and argued that it should be made available for all. The UK government is currently considering large areas of the country for fracking; a process which pollutes the air and surrounding landscape, weakens the structural integrity of the Earth’s crust and poses a severe threat to public health and local wildlife. When you consider the benefits of renewable energy it’s frustrating that the government is investing further in this highly unsustainable and toxic form of fossil fuel exploitation when divesting from such industries should be our top priority. Another 8% of people’s wishes were related to waste; one wish perfectly summarises the way in which we need to change our attitude towards it in ‘that we should no longer see it as waste, but as a resource’. Several people also called for ‘supermarkets to donate all food waste’ and to ‘stop throwing away “ugly” fruit and veg”. The fact that a vast amount of global resources are piled into the livestock/agricultural industry in order to produce a surplus amount of food that is then thrown away is ludicrous. The value of out of date food was perfectly demonstrated by the GSofA’s organisation ‘Throw Away Gourmet’ who produced a delicious feast for the whole festival that was prepared entirely out of donated food.
Glasgow also wished for a number of other things including ‘clean air, clean water’, ‘stop TTIP’, ‘more car sharing’, ‘no floods or droughts’ and for a ‘Green Revolution’. It was really interesting to read through and type up all the wishes made at the festival and my pet chinchilla certainly found it very entertaining.
GUCA wishes that all of Glasgow’s hopes and dreams for the planet are fulfilled and not least of all that that person got their date for Valentine’s Day.