The fight to save our climate is certainly no new battle. As globalisation, access to information, technology and its accessibility have inevitably increased in modern times, with all the positive aspects it has brought, has also created suffering and detrimental elements. One of the largest negative impacts, brought on by numerous factors, is to our natural environment. Often, the state of our climate leads back to causes found simply in the habits of people’s daily lives, even by those amongst us meaning to cause no harm, and not meaning to induce global warming or break a hole into our ozone layer. We contribute by simply enjoying long, hot showers, driving alone in personal cars to work, or eating those delicious, yet very well-travelled, Argentinian steaks.
So what would be our approach in attempting to make a difference in this? Firstly, we wanted to reiterate and feed through our stream of ideas that this battle cannot simply be about telling people to stop using their home comforts and small ‘pick-me-ups’. Whilst they often do provoke climate issues, not only has recent history proven this approach to fighting climate change results in little success, but the point is that there are people and organisations with far greater responsibility, whose influence and power hold much greater ability to make change. And so we would place our focus there: we would go to the government. Our second important factor is that it must be realised that the ‘climate issue’ is not a radical idea. We wanted to draw away from this perception that seems to have built up. The problem is simple, so let’s keep it that way.
At the time our project started out, we noticed that the Flemish government had very little policy regarding environmental issues. Their goal for 2030 was behind the goal set by EU standards, and there were no sections of policy with an environmental focus. Whilst there has been some improvement on this since October 2019, it is certainly not enough (forgive us for thinking that reducing a speed limit from 120kmph to 100kmph on a usually slow-movement highway -due to traffic- is the most productive way to save this world). Our group questioned how we can expect people to make small changes, if the central government is not leading by example and implementing the changes that can have a big impact? So we decided to make it our goal to bring this to the attention of the Flemish government, with a focus on Flanders: on a small area, where we can make a big impact. And who knows, with the involvement of media outlets, perhaps our story could inspire others all over the world?
The idea was to fuel a letter campaign, to gather as many people as possible to ask the government for change. To do this we looked to two main sources: by utilising our student position in Leuven, and through involving members amongst Flanders’ influential and famous.
After carrying out research of our own and reaching out to organisations with expertise in both campaigning and environmental issues, we drafted the letter that we would use to approach a list we had collated of famous and influential people of Flanders, who we hoped would get involved. We were fortunate that our commissioning organisation, 30CC, held a number of links and contacts within the arts and cultural sectors to provide us with a starting ground.
Throughout the process, we thought long and hard about the best way of involving our fellow students. We planned to engage with student groups and use social media at its fullest force. We continued with these ideas throughout, but somewhere along the line we had a light bulb moment (a little later than we would have hoped, perhaps). We realized that one thing that so many students love is beer (or an iced tea for some), and enjoying each other’s company. With this in mind, we went about planning an event that would provide this social aspect, while adding to the impact that we wanted to make. The event was to take place in April at Fak Bar Letteren. The idea was that if people wanted to join in with our campaign, or at least find out more, we would be in Fak Bar Letteren, with music and beer, to tell you more and provide the writing equipment should you choose to join us. Our task and goal remained simple: we want the government to take action, something to help our climate. We want them to utilise the power and responsibility they have, and our voluntary participants could write this in whatever way they wanted. Participants during this event, would have a beer on us. “Save the world, have a beer”, as the saying goes (or as we say, anyway).
Social media was going to be a great friend to us throughout this event, Not only to communicate that our plan to help the climate crisis need not be difficult nor scary or overwhelming, but to also share the web platform where example letters would go. This was to be a section on the website of 30CC, and would hold the example letters written by our famous supporters. On top of this, social media would allow the influence of the influential people to grow exponentially, both by increasing engagement with our pages and contributions, and by finding engagement among their fans and following, those who we may not have the chance to reach otherwise.
We were just about ready to go with these plans; the preparations were in place. We had contacted the influential figures, and the responses and letters to the government had begun to return to us. Fak Bar Letteren was booked, and the drink tokens were ready for our guests. Our web page was in the making, waiting for the letters to be uploaded and to be shared across Instagram and Facebook feeds. And then… well, we all know what happened next.
Even though our project cannot go ahead, in some ways it is not all bad. Research is showing that this tragic epoch may actually do some good for the environment; a silver lining if there is to be one, perhaps. And whilst we cannot host our event now, and it is certainly not the time to be asking anything from the government (we think they certainly have enough on their plate), we will pass on our research, plans and ideas to 30CC, so that they can be carried out, or at least be inspiration for related projects in times ahead.
We have, as a team and as individuals, learnt a great deal in this time, especially that the process of brainstorming and fixing ideas may take longer than expected, even if the solution, the bright idea, appears to have been there all along. And that’s okay. We’ve also learnt that the energy needed for making a project a success often comes from within the team, and whilst it may drop at times when the progress seems small, it will no doubt return fuller than before. And we have, without doubt, not given up the fight to change climate policy to be treated more importantly by authorities. This plan might not go ahead now, but who knows where its inspiration will take us in the future, and what small parts of it that we will each take away will grow to become in future times and settings.