Year 1 Ambassadors

Ruth Cameron's Blog

News Just In: CCC Turns You Into A Troublemaker! - Nov 8th 2006 04:15PM

http://www.holyrood.com/nav/news/stories/story.asp?story=elec1126

 

 


Greenland: coming to a street near you - Oct 30th 2006 04:18PM (Updated)

This is my third attempt at updating my blog...my computer is just not loving it for some reason, so I'm doing a copy and paste job from Word.

Busy busy busy recently - unfortunately I haven't been spending as much time on Climate Change College activities as I would have liked, because Stop Climate Chaos has taken over my life slightly, but hey - we're all trying to achieve the same thing!

The media is continuing to go crazy about climate change, with a new report coming out pretty much every week - and pretty much every one of those making me think ‘Uh-Oh'. When we met Al Gore last March he said that within the next year there would be a huge shift in terms of awareness and engagement with climate change issues, and he wasn't wrong. When you get taxi drivers chatting away about melting ice caps (which I did last week) then you know it is finally piercing the national consciousness. About time, I say...

Up here in Edinburgh we have been running a series of lectures at the Botanic Gardens, with speakers from George Monbiot to Fred Pearce to Martin Parry. They've been really well attended (just as well given that my review period at work is coming up!!) and we're hoping to have a similar burst of activity a couple of times a year.

Stop Climate Chaos UK have been equally busy with the launch of the I Count campaign (check out www.icount.org.uk) if you haven't already. They've released a nifty wee book full of top energy saving tips, and you might have seen in the papers that they staged a stunt in London; unveiling a 4ft ice sculpture of Tony Blair.

The November 4th demonstration is fast approaching too - unfortunately I won't make it, as it's the same weekend as Scottish Green Party council, but I've been keeping up to date with the plans and I'd definitely recommend going because there is an amazing line-up of speakers...more than a few surprises in store!

Ben, Hayley and I have all been keeping in touch, and it sounds like they have been doing a lot of talks, which is amazing. I've only had time to do one at Edinburgh University Freshers' Week, and another a couple of nights ago about the climate change bill. About 350 students turned up to that though, which was very impressive for a Friday night!

Oh, and some of you may have seen us in the cinema trailer for this year's college. I gave it a bit of a wide berth I'm afraid - didn't fancy seeing myself 20ft tall onscreen. Thanks to everyone who emailed and texted to say they'd seen it though!

Green Party stuff is also going well - I've been doing a few wee interviews, and I'm sure that Conference will be hugely eventful as it is our last one before next year's election so the eyes of the Scottish media will be upon us.

Hardly a day goes by when I don't think about Greenland - it was such an incredible experience - and I'd like to wish everyone who applied to this year's College the very best of luck. We got a sneak preview of your curriculum and it looks amazing!


Eek! - Sep 4th 2006 09:56AM

Some news, which I have known for quite a while but had to keep schtum about... I've been selected by the Green Party as a candidate for the Scottish Parliament elections next May. Slightly scary, but pretty exciting stuff!

In my view, the Greens are the only party that take climate change as seriously as they should do, so when I first became interested in politics it was a pretty easy choice of which party to join.

Check out http://www.scottishgreens.org/ for more info on their policies.

Work is still going really well. There is a special Stop Climate Chaos screening of An Inconvenient Truth in Glasgow tomorrow, which I will be introducing. We have also been distributing huge numbers of pledge cards, and drawing together the programme of events that are taking place in Scotland in October.

I will be having a Climate Change College stall at the Edinburgh University Charities and Volunteering Fair on September 13th, so do come along and say hello.

And finally, our online campaigns are still going really well, but if you haven't yet signed the petition to Tony and the online personal pledge, please check out www.climatechangecollege.org/ruth

Sorry for such a rushed blog entry, but work calls.

Keep in touch ([email protected])

Ruth xx


Sunday Herald Article - Aug 14th 2006 09:52AM

Just a quickie - thought you might be interested in seeing this profile that the Sunday Herald did about my time in Greenland.

http://www.sundayherald.com/57195

As ever, if you haven't signed the petition to Tony yet, it would be lovely if you did by visiting www.climatechangecollege.org/ruth - it's all getting a bit competitive among the ambassadors because we get weekly updates of how many people we've signed up. Fortunately WWF have agreed to do all the data entry from Sundae for us. Didn't much fancy sitting typing in 4000 names...

More soon... 

Ruth x 

 


Hayley Bear - Aug 7th 2006 11:44AM

So.

I only just noticed that Hayley spent most of her last blog entry slagging me off for signing up more people than her to the petition!

I wasn't smug at all...honest...I didn't even mention the fact that I was whooping her tiny little petition ass by absolutely miles...but still I got an unprovoked email calling me a teachers pet.

Really, is it my fault that I have so many more friends?!

I take back all the nice things I said. She made a terrible panda. And an even worse polar bear.

Go chew bamboo, girl...

(P.S. We all love each other really. We are Team UK and we are unbreakable...)


Been a while... - Aug 7th 2006 11:32AM

Well hello climate fans!

Many apologies - it has been far too long since I've updated you on life as a campaigner, but rest assured the time away from my blog has been time well spent.

After numerous conference calls, emails and hair-tearing moments, the three UK Ambassadors finalised their campaign plans, and we've been hard at work signing people up to the petitiion and encouraging personal pledges. It's one of those times when my membership of numerous online communities (Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, goodness knows how many email lists...) has finally come in handy as I've been getting the message out there and forwarding the website link onto hundreds of people with just one click.

Far more fun than sitting in front of a computer though is actually meeting people, and talking through some of the issues surrounding climate change. We all attended Ben and Jerry's Sundae festival, which was enormous fun (even if I did get a little sunburnt). The Other Ben (TM) did a fantastic shout out from the stage, and Hayley did the college proud by dancing round in a WWF Panda outfit for most of the weekend. It was great to catch up with all the team who have put so much into the college (especially Philippa, Matthew and Jerry - thanks guys!), but also fantastic to meet so many of you, and see how much effort you're prepared to go to in your own lives to reduce carbon emissions.

(Having ticked a load of the boxes on a pledge myself earlier this year, I was delighted to see the results financially as well as environmentally - my last gas bill was less than £2 - isn't that crazy?!!)

I have done a few bits and pieces of press work recently - an interview with the Sunday Herald, a piece for the Scotsman, and some other articles for various student publications. They should all be appearing soon, and I'll add the links to my blog when they do.

Also planning a few talks over the next few months - for the Edinburgh Green Party, a local school, and the Edinburgh branch of People and Planet. Please also come and say hello to me at the Edinburgh University Freshers Fair in September...

Work is going really well too - can't remember if I mentioned this in the last blog entry - but I've ended up as the Scottish Co-Ordinator of Stop Climate Chaos, which ties in pretty perfectly. Keep an eye on the website www.stopclimatechaos.org for details of all the exciting events happening in Scotland in October, and the plans for London in November.

And if you needed any further encouragment to become involved in climate change campaigning, just look at how much it has been in the press recently. Arnie and Blair getting down in the States, Al Gore popping over for the Edinburgh Festival and launching An Inconvenient Truth in the UK (go see it, it's ace...), the hottest July EVER, 75% of Scottish households recycling, and MPs calling for higher taxes on planes and cars, congestion charging and lower speed limits across the UK, and even personal carbon emission allowances... Wow! There's never been a better time to take action. If you haven't yet, then please check out my website www.climatechangecollege.org/ruth and sign up now!

More soon,

Roo x


Back to reality - Jun 22nd 2006 01:07PM

Hey everyone!

Sorry for the lack of blog updates - as expected life has become very busy since our return from Greenland. When I was sitting out there in sub-zero temperatures, facing another rehydrated chicken curry, I never imagined that I'd miss the place, but I often do. Sitting typing away at my computer in Edinburgh I quite often find myself drifting off and dreaming about the peace and quiet and the beautiful skies that we were lucky enough to see for two weeks.

I've done a few wee bits and pieces of press work since getting back (am supposed to be writing a piece for the Scotsman newspaper this afternoon, had better get on with it soon...) and we have all been in close contact with WWF to finalise our campaign plans. The most difficult thing for all of us has been being realistic about what we can achieve. We all still want to do so much. I guess that even saving the planet has to be done a little bit at a time though!

I'm really excited about coming down to London for the Ben and Jerry's Sundae event - hopefully we'll meet a lot of people who are as enthusiastic about climate change as we are, and they'll be happy to sign up to the petition.

The other exciting thing is that I've finished my job at the Students' Association, and have been appointed Scottish Co-Ordinator of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition. It's going to be a huge job, and a massive challenge, but one that I am really looking forward to. I guess a lot of my work over the first few months will be preparing for November 4th and the big events that are likely to be taking place then. It's going to be interesting seeing how my jo with SCC and my work as an Ambassador overlap, but I definitely see it as a positive thing.

As ever, feel free to email me on [email protected] and check out my page on the website www.climatechangecollege.org/ruth where there is a link to the online petition for you budding e-campaigners.

Take care

Roo x


We survived! - May 11th 2006 12:44AM

My last blog entry from Greenland, I think... In Illulisat tonight, Kangalussuaq tomorrow and Copenhagen on Friday night, before we head back to the UK on Saturday.

Just off the helicopter which was bringing us from TO5 back to Illulisat. Have had a hot shower, a cold beer and a great meal (not from a packet, wooh!). It was a bit touch and go this afternoon, as the visibility on the ice cap turned very poor while we loaded up the helicopter with gear, but we did eventually get off the ground, and the views were spectacular on the way back.

Our last few days were pretty mixed. The day of terrible weather that we had to spend in the tent was followed by a day of glorious sunshine. Hayley and I spent the entire day laser levelling (two 30metre transects), before having a quick shot on a skidoo. Brilliant fun. We headed a few kilometres out of camp until there was nothing to be seen all around but snow. It will be so hard to describe the scale of the ice cap to people who have never seen it.

Yesterday was hugely frustrating and disappointing. We were supposed to be doing a live interview by satellite with David Cameron, and had spent a lot of time preparing questions. Unfortunately though, the satellite connection failed about 5 minutes before we were due to begin, so we had to fall back on pre-prepared questions which DC recorded answers to in the office in London, without us ever entering into dialogue. No surprise that the UK team felt a bit low after that - we'd been so excited and well prepared, but I guess if Mr Cameron's commitment to climate change is genuine then he will be more than happy to meet with us again when we get back. Can't let the trickery of satellite communication spoil such an important meeting...

After a disappointing morning, we still had a hugely productive afternoon collecting more data from the ice pits (and developing a pretty interesting tan - pale sunglasses marks and freckly noses all round), and then sat up to watch the sunset and film some final interviews last night.

Quite odd to be back in Illulisat now, after a hectic day of packing. My feet feel very light without huge Sorel boots on, and I'm a bit disturbed by the Popeye muscles that must be the result of a week digging.

Looking forward to getting home, getting my photos developed, and telling you all about it...

Love and hugs xx


Sunday Evening - May 8th 2006 01:30AM

Less evening and more night, really. And it hasn't been the jolliest of days, to be honest. The weather has been so bad again that we haven't been able to get any work done, so we've just been stuck in the tents. It's really windy, but more awkwardly than that, pretty warm as well (by warm I mean about one or two degrees below zero!!) so there is a lot of melt and all our gear would get wet if we tried to work outside.

At least it has given us some time to think about the campaigns that we will be running when we get home.

Yesterday was a really productive day. We dug a huge trench in the snow (about ten metrees long, a metre and a half wide, and up to two and a half metres deep in places) for sampling and mapping. Unfortunately a lot of it had filled it with wind blown snow by this morning, but we still collected some useful data. It's fascinating seeing the different layers of snow (now I know why the Inuit have 38 words for it...), and seeing the layers of ice, which are evidence of warm spells where the snow has melted, percolated down and refrozen. We also did some laser levelling yesterday, mapping out the texture of the snow surface along transects, but that is pretty chilly work because you don't move around much, so we took it in shifts.

On the subject of snow, I love the fact that the snowflakes here are proper starry shaped little things, like a school kid would draw. None of the big blobby nonsense we get back in the UK!

There was a lot of excitment in camp today when a flock of snow buntings descended on us. The bad weather had probably blown them off course, as they looked pretty windswept, and spent some time trying to find shelter around our tents before heading off again. One of the wee things got a little too chilly and died just outside our tent. Sad though it was, it gave us the opportunity to examine its plumage up close, and see just how beautiful buntings are.

Some of the scientists have been taking the skidoos down to TO3 and TO4 and up to TO6 and TO7 - other points on the EGIG line. They've been getting some extra data by coring and sampling. Hopefully we'll be able to continue our work at TO5 tomorrow. Lovely though it is to spend all day sleeping and reading and drinking red wine (with chunks of ice in), it's really not what we're here for, and it gets frustrating ti be stuck inside. It's also much easier to keep warm when you keep moving, so I'm looking forward to getting back to the digging.

Apart from anything else, we definitely need to dig a new Urgh-Loo. There have been a few near misses with the sides collapsing today, and that really would be an experience to remember...

G'night xx


Day Two - Snowed In - May 6th 2006 02:42AM

Not too much to say today, as the weather was so bad that we could barely see from one tent to the next! It meant that the temperatures weren't too low, but the wind was pretty strong so it still felt chilly. It's about fifteen below zero tonight and the sky is beautiful.

The girls tent has been a bit squished, so we have split up into pairs (it was some fun putting a tent up in the howling wind this morning, I can tell you...). Good for space, but it remains to be seen how warm we stay tonight with fewer bodies in the tent.

Pretty glad that we werent digging any more snow pits today, because my wrists ache like hell after yesterday, but we did build a wall around the camp earlier to protect us from drifting snow, so it hasnt been an entirely lazy day. Spent a few hours this afternoon chatting to the scientists about their work. They are all really lovely, and coping remarkably well with having us lot dumped on them. We have developed a trading system of edible goods - they came round for bacon omelettes late last night, and in return we had hot chocolate with whisky at theirs today. Pretty fair deal I say.

 Hopefully there will be more news tomorrow, but the sky tonight suggests more bad weather, so it might be another day spent reading in the sleeping bag. There was a halo around the sun and a vertical rainbow. Very pretty, but apparently not good news.

Still loving it all, but starting ti crave orange juice, chips, and cold beer. Maybe in my dreams tonight...

 Much love x


Here at last - May 5th 2006 03:20AM (Updated)

This is not a thing you will hear me say often, but I am very proud of my wee body. It is doing a grand job of keeping me warm out here. Some of the others are not coping so well. The combination of high altitude, sleeping in a tent in twenty below zero temperatures and “adventure food” is not having a good effect on some of my lovely team mates, but I’m doing grand. Loving it.

There’s so much to tell you about that there is no time for because of limited generator fuel and computer access – our first visit to the Illulisat Ice Fjord and Glacier, a day doing presentations for the press, an evening boat trip, preparation and packing for the ice cap… so much that I will have to talk about when I get home.

It is hard to describe how odd it is to be sitting in a tent, hundreds of kilometres from anywhere, in freezing temperatures, trying to connect with those back home. Slightly surreal to say the least. We were helicoptered out here yesterday, accompanied by numerous journalists and, very excitingly, Jerry himself. Definitely the kind of dude you want to keep you company on your first journey to the Arctic ice cap – full of hugs and smiles and enthusiasm.

We were met by four scientists who have already been out here, and I was delighted to find that three of them are from the Geography department at Edinburgh University. Sitting with them in the tent earlier this evening, drinking whisky and passing chocolate around, felt just like an evening out at home. Almost…

First thing we did on arrival was dig our toilet facilities. Basically a big hole in the ground surrounded by walls on three sides. Less of an igloo and more of an Urgh-Loo. After a night here I have already got used to most things (freeze dried chicken curry, moisture drops freezing in my balaclava and wearing four pairs of socks) but feeling comfortable with taking off layers of thermals and exposing my derriere to the arctic foxes and snow buntings is going to take longer than a week.

That aside, TO5 is just indescribably beautiful. The overwhelming expanse of snow, the light and the silence are things I hope I never forget. When you have spent an hour digging a snow pit and you’re feeling shattered, it only takes a couple of minutes standing up and looking around before you feel inspired to keep on going.

More soon, I hope (including photos), but I believe the pre-bedtime hot chocolate is ready. It is midnight here and still light. The Polar sleeping bags are keeping me toasty, so hope to return with all fingers and toes still attached.

Much love, and shivers. Roo xx


I'm here! - May 1st 2006 08:06PM (Updated)

Thursday 27 April

Apologies for the slightly over-concise writing style, but I’ve only got twenty minutes on the computer to try and fit in four days worth of blogging…. I’ll try and edit all my entries when I get back home and have more time.

So Thursday. The big day has finally arrived. After spending half the night packing, I get a flight out of Edinburgh at the ridiculously early time of 6am. Arrive in Amsterdam at 8am, where I have a five hour wait before meeting up with the rest of the team. Find a corner to sleep in, and the time passes remarkably quickly. Shame that I’ll have a stiff neck for the rest of the fortnight!

At 1pm, I meet up with the rest of the team – the other ambassadors, Philip and Mark who are our team leaders, Philippa from Ben & Jerry’s who is in charge of press for the trip, various family members there to wave off the Dutch ambassadors, and numerous journalists, B&J/WWF Reps and hangers-on.

Our pile of over thirty bags (including three sledges and weighing well over 300 kilos) attracts more than a few curious glances.

We fly from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, where we are staying for the evening. Bit of a disaster at the airport, when Philippa’s laptop bag and purse are either lost or stolen. That’s most of our briefing documents for the trip gone too, but apparently we can be emailed replacements on Friday. Pretty amazing night in a Copenhagen hotel. Hot shower, massive meal and a couple of drinks (Five quid a pint; even worse than Edinburgh!!)… we make the most of it, as it’s the last luxury we’re going to get for a while.

Feel a bit lost without my phone, already…

Friday 28 April - May 1st 2006 08:04PM

Friday 28 April

 

Up early again to catch the flight from Copenhagen to Kangalussuaq. Again, all the gear causes a bit of hassle at the airport, and it takes us so long to get through security that we end up sprinting through the airport to catch the flight. A dozen people laden down with bags - head to toe in Ben & Jerry’s/WWF branded clothing, belting along to the gate – caused quite a stir, and once we were on the flight we had several people coming up to ask us about what we were doing. When people hear about the project they are really positive, so that bodes well for the campaign.

 

We catch our first sight of the ice cap from the plane, and end up shrieking like school kids with our noses pressed up against the window. It’s absolutely beautiful.

 

After a four hour flight we arrive in Kangalussuaq, and with a few hours to spare before the final flight, we get taken out to the edge of the ice cap by jeep. The driver is full of stories about the area – we pass the most northerly golf course in the world (cue jokes about playing with blue balls…), as well as the remains of an American plane that crashed in the area a few decades ago. He also tells us about the Volkswagen test track that is nearby, but no longer used.

 

Again, we’re all a bit blown away by some of the views. I can’t get over how blue the ice is…I know that when you see glaciers on the television they’re always that stunning shade of pale blue, but I’d always assumed they’d been doctored in some way. Nope! They really are that colour.

 

Lots of other firsts today too. We see our first reindeer. And first musk ox. It feels absolutely numbingly cold out on the edge of the ice, but when we check the jeep thermometer, it’s only reading zero. The wind chill factor is making a huge difference though. We’d better acclimatise quickly…!

 

Return to the airport to catch a tiny plane to Illulisat. We all get invited up to peer over the pilot’s shoulder, which is pretty amazing, especially when he takes a detour so that we can pass over a nearby herd of oxen. Can’t imagine that happening in many other places around the world. We also have way, way too much luggage, and end up sitting with bags on our knees, and boots stuffed under our seats…just as well it’s only forty minutes.

 

Arrive in Illulisat, and have a quick chat with the ITN crew at the airport, before heading to the hostel to dump all our bags. The town is really pretty, with all the houses painted different colours, and a great view of ice bergs in the sea. Wow.

 

We are all absolutely knackered, but spend the evening having dinner and talking with Aqqaluk Lynge, who is vice chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) and President of ICC, Greenland. He is really fascinating and inspiring, very good at connecting with people and explaining things in a way that is easy to relate to. I’m really sorry that I’m so tired and not able to take full advantage of such an incredible opportunity; I can’t think of a single thing to ask him… He gives us all a lot to think about though, describing some of the conflicts in Inuit culture between wanting to make use of new technology and innovation, but also wanting to preserve the traditional culture. He says that while there have been many benefits of the Inuit realisation that they are part of a global community, the contact has also brought many social problems like alcoholism and drug abuse.

 

He also makes it clear that it’s important for people to strike the right balance in their interaction with Inuit communities – while you shouldn’t come in with a colonialist attitude, trying to take over, nor should you patronise them and try to ‘save’ them.  He goes on to say that on many occasions, scientists have as much to learn from the Inuit as the other way round.

 

After being awake for more than twenty hours, we finally get to go home to the hostel and crash. G’night.

Saturday 29 April - May 1st 2006 07:57PM

Saturday 29 April

 

Well, Hayley Potter, fellow ambassador… thanks for that!

 

My hostel room mate Hayley forgot to change the time on her phone to take account of the three hour time difference from Copenhagen. We were supposed to be getting up at 7am to shower…except we actually got woken up at 4am. Only noticed when I was about to go down the corridor banging on everyone else’s doors to wake them up, and saw a clock on the wall saying it was 4am. It doesn’t really get dark, so it’s hard to tell what time it is throughout the day. Didn’t stop us from sleeping though. We haven’t had a chance to go shopping yet, so have breakfast in a nearby hotel (fully kitted out in IKEA’s best…!!), before heading to the harbour for a two hour boat trip to a village further north. It’s a pretty smooth journey (although, again, freezing…I don’t know why that still surprises me so much!), and I use nearly an entire roll of film just on photos of ice formations in the bergs.

 

When we reach Rode Bay (a village with 45 inhabitants) we go for a tour round – to the supermarket (where there are energy efficient lightbulbs for sale – now for goodness sake, if these people can do it, anyone can), the fish factory, the school (which doubles up as a church), and to a restaurant for lunch. As this trip is all about new experiences, I swallow my preconceptions and try whale blubber, whale meat, dried halibut, and several varieties of raw and smoked fish. Some of which is nice, some of which I think must be an acquired taste…

 

On our walk we pass a woman cutting up seal meat in the snow and bagging it – I’m amazed by how dark it is. There are also seals hanging up to dry (complete with eyes and whiskers), which will be used as meat for the huskies that are tied up nearby. You need a pretty strong stomach to come here, but I’m finding it fascinating.

 

After lunch I get filmed sitting on a rock and doing an interview about the experience so far. We’re filmed pretty much constantly, and I thought it’d bother me, but I’m getting used to it and learning to ignore it. The dark sunglasses we have to wear to protect our eyes from the glare definitely help in avoiding eye contact with the big lens.

 

On return to Illulisat we head to the edge of the town to where the sled huskies are based, and spend the afternoon out sledding. The dogs are beautiful. I’m not overly fond of the uphill experience – Hayley and I keep being caught by our driver’s whip, and our huskies seem to have a huge fondness for rocky patches, so we both end up being thrown out and skinning our knees – but the view of the ice fjord when we reach the top, and the exhilarating fun of the descent make it more than worthwhile. 

 

In the evening we go out for a meal, and then for a quick drink in a local bar. Possibly one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Pictures of Scottish pipers on the walls, British soft rock playing in the background, a bottle of Carlsberg in my hand, a barman wearing a Manchester United top, and icebergs as far as the eye can see out the window!

 

Unfortunately, the chronic alcohol abuse that Aqqaluk was talking about is more then evident in some of the locals, but they are all friendly and keen to sit and chat with us.

 


We’re all shattered again, after another long day, and before long head home to sleep.

Palestinian Visit - Apr 16th 2006 05:49PM (Updated)

I’ll try not to make this posting overly political or ranty, because that’s not what the CCC site is for, but I thought you at least deserved some kind of an explanation about where I’ve been, and why it has taken me so long to get round to updating my blog!

Last November, at the Students’ Association AGM, policy was passed calling for Edinburgh University to be twinned with Birzeit University in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. The first delegation has just made a visit to Palestine, and I was one of those lucky enough to go.

In many ways, Birzeit is a University just like Edinburgh. There was a wonderfully vibrant campus atmosphere, with girls sitting outside on benches, eating their lunch and reading Chaucer, or Austen, or Shakespeare. Guys stood around in groups, preening themselves and talking about politics; there were posters on lampposts to promote candidates in the upcoming student elections. Our delegation was greeted with smiles, questions and, always unprompted, the phrase “Welcome. Thank you for coming.” In other ways, the students at Birzeit have experienced things that those at Edinburgh never will. The collective punishment of the occupation has inflicted both physical and emotional wounds on the majority of young people. It is easy to make sense of the situation in the Occupied Territories when you think about it in vague political terms and read about it in the papers over breakfast. It is less easy to make sense of when you speak to a teenage girl who has not seen her family for three years, or a second year boy whose house was demolished to make way for a settlement, or a final year student who missed an exam because they were detained for so long at an Israeli checkpoint.

The occupation is not about politicians, or professional soldiers. It is certainly not something vague, or distant, for the students of Birzeit who suffer humiliation at the hands of Israelis on a regular basis. It is a dirty, dusty, choking situation. It is about having a machine gun waved in your face every day, and a seven metre concrete wall built through your garden. It was both heartbreaking, and humbling, for me to see, and it is going to take quite some time for me to process everything I saw.

Education is a basic human right; and one which we have a responsibility to see met not just in our own country but across the world. Where there is access to education, there is hope. Many of the students at Birzeit said again and again that they feel education is the only way to improve the situation in the occupied territories. They do not want to escape their country, because they love it with a passion. All they want is to leave for as long as it takes to fulfil their intellectual potential, and then go back and help solve the situation. The students at Edinburgh, when they voted in favour of the twinning motion, believed that this is where they could help.

The Student Councils at Edinburgh and Birzeit have already twinned. We had rather naively assumed that they would have a lot to learn from us, but it seems not. The Council in Birzeit conduct their elections under the banner “a model for Palestinian democracy”. They achieve voter turnout of 70% (pretty impressive compared to our 10%). The majority of Palestinian political leaders are former members of Birzeit Student Council. Their student population is more than 50% female. Every single person we met was able to quote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. When the university is struggling financially, all the staff work for half-salary to enable the students to continue their education. When the University is subject to closure they hold lectures on the streets, beside the roadblocks, to prove a point. The entire country has a literacy rate of around 98%. Put like that, it sounds like a pretty nice place to be.

What remains to be seen is if Edinburgh University itself will take the bold step of formalising a partnership arrangement. I am in no doubt that such a move would be productive, if we were humble enough to admit that it must be a two way dialogue. I certainly learnt as much in my ten days in Palestine as I did in four years of an Edinburgh degree. Students at Birzeit may need financial support to leave their country and undertake further study but, in exchange for that support, our own students will have their eyes opened to the world and that which exists within it. The trip came at a very odd time – I’d just spent the time in London doing CCC lectures and was really fired up about the campaign, then almost immediately dashed off to the West Bank, so I’ve now returned full of inspiration and rage and passion about what I saw there, but have to change ‘hats’ again, and get back in the mood for climate change. It’s only a few weeks until we head to the Arctic for temperatures of -30, twenty four hours of daylight, and a 500km journey by track vehicle across the ice cap. Wow!

 

 


The Big City - Apr 16th 2006 05:48PM (Updated)

So it was a pretty intense few days in London, but hugely worthwhile. It was great getting to know the other Ambassadors better, and also being able to dedicate time to campaign planning. As we all work full time, it has been pretty hard to spend as much time on the campaign as we would have liked, but now that we’ve had the chance to sit down together and exchange ideas, it should get a bit easier.

I’m really excited about our plans. The UK team have taken a two-tier approach – we are planning to run a national campaign, that we will all work on, but also smaller, local level campaigns that we can each do in our own area and tailor to fit our own interests. It’s all top secret just now (actually that’s not true – we’re just waiting for approval from the high heid yins at WWF!) but we’ll update you when we can.

 

I think we’re all starting to feel the pressure a little, albeit in a positive way. Ben and Jerry’s and WWF have invested so much in us that now we really have to perform, and demonstrate that their faith in us is well founded. The time in London definitely helped though – you’ll see from the list on the website what an amazing list of speakers we heard – and we’ve all come away from it hugely inspired and ready to go. If anything I think we all just wish we could do it full time!

Thursday in London

We started the time in London with Amory B Lovins, who is a really incredible guy. He talked with great passion about climate change and ways of tackling it, and in some ways made me wonder why on earth we are facing such a huge problem. He made a convincing argument that the types of action we can take to tackle climate change make enormous sense on both a practical and financial level as well as a moral one. It is only on a political level that the fight for change really needs to take place. That was a message that seemed to come up again and again during the week…

Following Amory we heard from Jos Cozijnsen about the economics of climate change, and from Andrew Lee from the Sustainable Development Commission, and again, the guys were both great. Unfortunately Andrew was a little short of time so we didn’t get the chance to ask many questions, but he still managed to pack a lot into his hour. He gave an insight into why politicians find climate change such a difficult issue to get to grips with, and I hope that knowing some of those reasons will help us to use persuasive and targeted arguments during our campaigns. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the SDC would support a personal carbon trading scheme - I thought it would have been too 'radical' for them - and just hope now that the government sit up, take their hands out of their ears and pay attention!

Helen Jones from B&J gave us a real insight into the history of Ben and Jerry’s, and why they have decided to run the College. They’re lovely guys, really. You can eat their ice cream entirely guilt free… (Apart from the whole ‘straight to the hips’ thing, but hey, it’s far more fun to be chubby and saving the world than it is to be skinny but burdened with guilt).

No rest for the wicked, we still had two lectures still to go on the first day – Rob van Dorland from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute who gave us a huge amount of really useful scientific knowledge to back up our arguments, and Marcel Knotter, an HR expert, who talked to us about the psychology of change and what we were up against in trying to influence people through our campaigns. I guess I can’t reveal too much about that session or you’ll spot all our tricks when we’re trying to be persuasive…!

Friday in London

On Friday the education continued, with Dr Andrew Shepherd from the Scott Polar Institute, who gave us a lot more information about the relationship between the ice caps and the world’s climate. It was both inspirational and terrifying. We really do have a lot of work to do.

Andrew was followed by Professor Elizabeth Morris – one of the first female scientists to work for the British Antarctic Survey (yay – go the ladies!). Elizabeth gave us a lot of information on the practicalities of being out on the ice cap. Again – both inspirational and terrifying! Hearing what a struggle it is for scientists to get funding to travel to the ice caps was a stark reminder of how lucky we are to be involved in the Climate Change College, and what a truly amazing opportunity the six of us have been presented with.

The other speakers on Friday were all from WWF itself – Stefan Norris from the WWF Arctic Programme, Martin Hiller from the Global Climate Change Programme, Matthew Davis from the Stop Climate Chaos Campaign UK, and Joost Hogeboom from the Netherlands Equivalent. It was great to hear more about the work that the WWF do, and see how they co-ordinate local, national and global campaigns. It definitely gave us something to bear in mind when we were deciding how to structure our own campaigns.

Saturday in London With the exception of a great session with Lucy Siegle from the Observer, who gave us a huge amount of useful press related info, we were pretty much left to our own devices on the Saturday, and it was a hugely challenging and frustrating but eventually rewarding day. We were faced with the task of turning our scribbled notes, and wandering thoughts into a concrete campaign plan.

I think the main problem for us all was knowing what sort of level to pitch the campaign at. Were we supposed to be influencing government policy, or cleaning up a local park? Or both? Bearing in mind what one of the speakers had said - that the main problem is not that people aim too high and miss, it’s that they aim too low and succeed – we decided that we had to try and be pretty ambitious, but practical and realistic too. It would be impossible for us to achieve absolutely everything we wanted in just a few months.

 

I’m afraid though, as I said before, that you’re going to have to wait until our plans have been approved before we reveal them fully. Sorry…!

 


Finally catching up - Apr 16th 2006 03:38PM

Hello everyone :)

I'm so sorry it has taken me forever to get round to updating my blog (and finally getting a picture up on it!). I have been having a pretty exciting and busy time recently. Obviously I joined the other ambassadors in London for our lecture sessions (more about that later!). Following that I spent three days in Blackpool at the National Union of Students Conference (again, very exciting - Edinburgh brought policy that was passed which will make every Student Union in the country serve fair trade tea and coffee by default - yay us!). And then after Blacpool I spent a couple of weeks visiting a university in the West Bank. I have to say that spending time in Palestine was one of the most eye-opening experiences I've ever had. It was humbling, inspiring and deeply frustrating in equal measure. Obvioulsy it's more important to do some writing about Climate Change first, given that that's what I'm here for, but I'll try to find the time to post up something about the visit later.


Roo says Hey! - Mar 7th 2006 07:19PM

Meant to say also, if you want to email me it's [email protected]

Who am I...? - Mar 7th 2006 07:16PM

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I'll start by giving you a bit of background chat on who I am. I am currently the President of Edinburgh University Students Association - an elected post that I will hold until next June. My job involves making representation on behalf of students within the university, as well as making external representation to bodies such as the Scottish Executive. Environmental issues formed an important part of my manifesto - as an Association we are working towards ISO 14001 accrediatation, we have fought for the University to adopt an ethical investment policy, and we have gained Fair Trade University status. We also campaigned in favour of Congestion Charging in the city of Edinburgh. One of my own campaigns this year is lobbying the University Accommodation Services to adopt energy efficiency measures in their buildings, as well as working with Edinburgh Council to promote energy efficiency in the private sector.

I have experience of lobbying MSPs, MPs and councillors. I also deal with the press on a daily basis - both writing press releases and giving interviews about the work of the Association. I am a confident public speaker and enjoy participating in political debate.

Throughout my time at University I was a member of the campaigning society People and Planet, who have a dedicated Climate Change campaign every year. I am a member of the Scottish Green Party.

I also spent a year editing the Student newspaper, and a year editing the Students' Association magazine – experience which led to me being awarded an internship with the Observer newspaper.

I am highly persuasive! I was elected to be President of the Students' Association with the highest number of votes ever; nearly 2000 students believed I could lead them effectively, and provide a strong voice on their behalf. I have experience of campaigning on global issues, but only on a local level, among other students. I also have experience making representation and lobbying at a national level, but on student issues rather than environmental ones. I’m hopeful that after ‘graduating’ from Climate Change College, I will be able to combine these two areas of experience to make an ideal ambassador in the fight against global climate change. In particular, I am keen to lead the campaign in my area against building a second bridge against the Firth of Forth. More about that later…

I am ridiculously busy at the moment with the role of President, so have not been spending as much time as I would have liked on the e-learning modules. In the last month, for example, I have led a campaign trying to prevent Boris Johnson being elected Rector of Edinburgh University (we won, by the way!!), have chaired a General Meeting of 600 students where we passed motions relating to Fairtrade and Research Ethics, have organised the elections for next year’s sabbatical officers, have spoken at a rally of University Teachers who are striking for better pay, have attended national student conferences, and have written a response to a consultation paper calling for students to receive exemption from prescription charges. Phew.

I am hoping to set aside some time in the next week or two to get on with the modules. In terms of Greenland preparation, I did SO well over Christmas. I took up running for the first time in years, was starting to really enjoy it and was getting in great shape… since then the resolve has slipped somewhat and I’ve been in the office until the wee small hours. Again, I will need to get back on track with that. I’ve agreed to do a sponsored run for the Greens in April, so that is acting as extra incentive.

I am also off to Palestine in the first week of April, which I am really excited about. It is as part of a delegation visiting the University of Birzeit – we are trying to persuade the University of Edinburgh to twin with the University of Birzeit as part of a Right to Education Campaign, so this is the first trip over there, and I’m really honoured to be a part of it. April is going to be some month…