The Big Student Debate
11 Sep 2006
After an uncomfortably warm journey through central London, on an unusually hot day for early July, climate change was already a subject on my mind and undoubtedly on those of the delegates attending the Student Summit on Climate Change at the Natural History Museum.
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After an uncomfortably warm journey through central London, on an unusually hot day for early July, climate change was already a subject on my mind and undoubtedly on those of the delegates attending the Student Summit on Climate Change at the Natural History Museum. The Student Summit 2006, jointly organised by The Natural History Museum and the British Council, brought together 140 A and AS Level students from the UK, and 57 international delegates from over 20 countries representing their schools, universities and communities. The summit was linked with the recent Cape Farewell expeditions, which took scientists, educators and artists to the high arctic in an attempt to raise awareness about climate change through creative mediums. Many of the voyage’s participants spoke at the summit, including choreographer Siobhan Davis and project founder David Buckland, whose art was on display in The Ship Exhibition during the event.Entering the Natural History Museum on the conferences’ third day, it was evident that the previous two days had seen passionate input from both participants and speakers alike. This included environmentalist Sir Jonathon PorrittÔ’s controversial speech when he said; “We have a big problem, and the problem is called America.” Each of the conferences’ four days were based around a theme including: Is the evidence for climate change robust? and How can a city and its citizens respond to climate change? The summit brought together experts from a variety of fields to discuss the questions. Key speakers included Ian Pearson, Minister of State for Environment at Defra and green-architect Peter Clegg. All the experts put forward their views on climate change and its’ impacts on humanity. Inspiring and enthusiastic, the speeches and daily panel debates were based heavily on audience participation, in the form of question and answer, and via an electronic voting system. Throughout the summit, the young delegates voted on everything, from whether the brownies at lunch were tasty (for which a majority voted “yes”) to whether or not the UK government has the best interests for the environment at heart (for which the majority voted no).Perhaps the most motivating speech of the conference came from the Deputy Mayor of London, Nicky Gavron, who spoke in depth about the city’s plans for decentralised power production and energy efficient housing developments. “London, like most cities, is going to continue to grow and with continued growth, cities need to change their ways,” she informed the students.The Deputy Mayor also spoke about the dissatisfaction that first motivated her to enter politics. She encouraged young people to challenge the government and to become the necessary “thorn in their flesh” by taking action. “The planet needs you. You have heard the problem. You know what the solutions are and there is not a moment to lose,” she said, adding what became the conference’ s aphorism: proselytise, catalyse and mobilise. Contact: www.nhm.ac.uk/studentsummit
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