Going In Circles – Time to Break the Cycle? #COP26
It was a real privilege for me to be Chair of the Eco debate ‘Going in Circles’ organised by Engineering Today and After the Pandemic. My academic background is English Literature, and my teaching of the subject has always included the concept of social and moral responsibility. In recent times, my knowledge and expertise in environmental issues has grown, mainly through leading the very successful community campaign Say No to Consett Incinerator. As a result of the campaign, I have realised that there is an appetite for change and that if we can get every generation in every community on board, we can be a collective force and make a real difference. An essential element in driving this change, is to ensure that our young people have a voice.
In support of giving young people a voice, Paula McMahon from Engineering Together is using her influence and passion about the environment to develop a sustainable pool of Engineers with a diversity profile that ensures they can solve society's problem's, now and in the future. Paula firmly believes that young people are the key to achieving her key aim.
As part of the 'Going in Circles' debate, we had three young people all representing a variety of eco issues. Subarna Sivashanmugam, a PhD student at Teesside University, Greg Walker, the Co-President of Engineers Without Borders University of Strathclyde & Master’s Student of Renewable Energy Systems and Sustainability and Kate Allen, a sixth form student from Stockton, preparing for university.
A Circular Economy
Subarana’s research focuses on managing waste in construction projects by enhancing the digital communication between Building Information Modelling (BIM), and environmental platforms like LCA databases and EPD's (Environmental Product Declarations). She mainly concentrates on waste reduction at first instance through preventive measures, the most preferred step in the waste management hierarchy. Subarana believes that to achieve sustainability we need to shift towards the circular economy and away from the linear approach. She believes that in addition to the legal standards and policies, the awareness among the stakeholders, public and the whole world, is critical for its application. She believes that debates such as Going in Circles is key to the success of the green initiatives. She is inspired by the following approach: “Waste management is not just part of professional lives and legal standards; it is an integral part of our daily lives. Less consumption and less waste are vital to helping future generations live in a healthy environment. The output nature gives us is based on the input and pressure we give in. So, let’s take care of nature, and nature will take care of us”.
- Cross company engagement where everyone works together to improve sustainability
- Reduce waste and reuse products
- Work towards a Circular Economy to replace our current Linear Economy.
Greg believes that it is imperative that we focus our attention on to the most pressing challenge that humanity currently faces - Climate Change. He believes that holding debates such as Going in Circles raises awareness and creates an open-minded approach to what should be an inter-generational, and educational debate in which people of all ages and experiences can have an impact. He believes that we must learn from our past mistakes and work together to improve everyone’s attitude to sustainability.
He firmly believes that the After the Pandemic’s mission “to RETHINK, REIMAGINE and REDESIGN the world around us to be greener, more resilient and more vibrant”, as well as inspire more young people to get involved with STEM subjects. One of Greg’s main professional objectives is the area of renewable energy and the development of all alternative energy solutions to fossil fuels. His academic background is in wind, but he is currently learning about solar, hydrogen, and smart grids, amongst others. The need for a holistic and realistic analysis of the best ways to provide energy, with the least impact on the climate, is his aim.
Energy storage is important to Greg, he wants to figure out a way to cheaply and efficiently store large quantities of excess energy generated by renewable means and use this as a dispatchable energy source (the largest of which is currently gas). This could be called upon in times of high demand. Greg has lots of brilliant ideas and the future is looking bright when we have such talent at our disposal.
- Raise awareness about how we use energy with a focus on preventing waste
- Welcomes new initiatives and is particularly interested in encouraging the increased use of batteries as energy storage
- Create a holistic a[approach to how we deal with the energy crisis where everyone works together.
Individuals CAN make a Difference
As a sixth form student from Stockton, preparing for university, Kate Allen believes that it is up to her generation to make the change needed to save our Earth. She believes that everyone can make meaningful changes in their everyday life to reduce their carbon footprint and leave the planet intact for future generations. She believes that we need to change our attitude towards fast fashion and beauty products, and that the young can lead the way in rejecting our wasteful approach to fashion and beauty and reshape the future.
- Educate young people about plastic free products for makeup and beauty – as well as encourage the use of refillable
- Encourage ‘vintage’ fashion to reduce waste
- Have a new attitude towards ‘fast fashion’ wear outfits multiple times.
As for Paula and myself – we were hugely impressed with the maturity and the young people involved in our debates. Our young people should not be ignored or underestimated. We have some independent ventures and some joint ventures. Our issue is that we have spent years listening to the same excuses and heard promises from all levels of business and society that they are supposedly working towards a brighter future. BUT with this approach we are going in circles. It is time for a change.
Young people are growing restless, they don’t trust the older generation to do enough to save the earth. They have a real appetite for change, and we are going to work with them to do everything we can to ensure they can secure the very best future for them and for the planet.
- For people to understand and work towards a circular economy
- For people to understand the difference between what they need, not what they want.
- To mobilise a youth army of eco warriors.
Together, we are going to break the cycle and stop going in circles.
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