“one of the greatest challenges of our time…”
on monday 1st april, the whole school attended a presentation about careers in climate change by former surval graduate student, jess wright, who is in the final months of her masters in climate change at the university of copenhagen. this visit was arranged by the surval sustainability club.
as part of surval’s careers programme, which aims to provide information and guidance to our students about choosing a degree subject and university, surval was delighted to welcome former graduate student, jess wright, to speak to the whole school about the issue of climate change and careers in this area. jess is from the united kingdom and read for her bachelor’s degree in geography at oxford university in england. she spent five months working at surval in the autumn term of 2015, before moving to denmark the following summer to begin her masters in climate change at copenhagen university.
at surval, the sustainability club offers students with a particular interest in the eponymous topic the opportunity to learn about issues involving global warming, climate change and pollution on a weekly basis, with the club’s goal being to raise the whole school’s awareness of these issues and educate everyone on how they can be part of positive change. earlier in the year, the club arranged a visit from protect our winters switzerland, which focused on the issue of global warming and its ramifications from the perspective of the winter sports industry. the intention with the visit from jess was to build on this presentation by looking not just at the steps that students can take in their lives currently to live more sustainably, but to open their eyes to the possibility of devoting their future career to this.
of course, the topic of sustainability is not confined solely to the sustainability club: “human influences on the environment” is part of the igcse biology curriculum; and, in the model united nations club, the students regularly debate issues relating to a range of the un sustainable development goals – when surval hosts its mun conference on june 6th, the environment assembly will be focusing on sdg goal 11: sustainable cities and communities. in their english lessons on the art of persuasive speech, two of the students chose topics related to the environmental aspects of sustainability, with iya, russia, speaking about the need to stop plastic pollution and ana fer, mexico, giving her speech on the need to prevent global warming. having delivered her speech to her english class, ana fer was then invited to present it at the whole school assembly on the morning of jess’ visit, thus establishing the importance of sustainability as the theme of the day. you can read ana fer’s speech here.
one of the advantages of having a speaker who is comparatively close in age to our students is that they understand the importance of ensuring that their presentation is accessible and their delivery understandable. the girls very much enjoyed the recent trip to cern, but said that even their physics teacher agreed that some of the scientists’ explanations were hard to understand! jess was extremely successful in communicating an intimidating and complex issue – the causes and effects of global warming and climate change – to the whole surval audience. her colourful, clear and uncluttered power-point presentation enhanced what she was saying, without overwhelming any of the younger girls with too much text. jess first clarified the difference between global warming and climate change, explaining how the two are related, with the former causing the latter (this provided a link to ana fer’s speech, in which ana fer told the audience that some people misguidedly deny global warming due to the fact that the resultant climate change can be in the form of extreme cold), then went on to provide an overview of the causes, and an outline of how we can fight it on a personal, political and business level.
jess concluded her presentation by talking about what inspired her to choose a career in climate change and giving her audience an idea of the many different career options available to them in this area. jess quoted the un scientists who state that global warming is “one of the greatest challenges of our time”, revealing that her personal interest was first piqued studying climate and weather as part of her a level in geography, and consolidated by choosing modules related to climate change as she read for her degree. jess then stressed the point that, if we are unable to prevent global warming of more than two degrees celsius, which looks increasingly unlikely, then the consequences of a warmer planet – water shortages, the loss of homes, climate wars – will strongly affect the lives of our girls and, even more so, the lives of their daughters and sons. as jess said, reflecting ana fer’s words earlier in the day, and the words of pow speaker caroline george back in february, “this will powerfully affect my children, and their children.”
it is too easy to do nothing in the face of a daunting challenge – to shut our eyes and ears to it and passively wait for “someone else” to fix it. but this is not the reaction we want to see in the students of surval. we want to empower them with a sense of their own capability to be part of the solution. today, jess wright showed the girls how to be part of positive change, not just in their lives today, but as they make choices about their future career. environmental consultant, climate change researcher, sustainability / climate analyst, climate change politician, working in the renewable energy sector, working for the unfccc…it is exciting to think about the doors of possibility open to the students of surval who are passionate about protecting and preserving our planet for generations and generations to come.
note: following the visit from jess wright, the surval montreux sustainability club donated two trees to the uk organisation trees for life to help off-set the carbon emissions of jess' visit to surval. if you are interested in supporting trees for life, click on this link: //treesforlife.org.uk/support/donate//stage1/