Speaking Up for Our Future: COP15 Draws Student Demonstrations
Trent students take action at United Nations biodiversity summit in Montreal championing effective change for future of Earth’s ecosystems
Just metres from where ministers hash out the details of the next decisive treaty about the future of biodiversity on Earth, a group of Trent University students raised their voices to challenge the approaches and benchmarks being considered in COP15 negotiations.
Eight students travelled to Montreal as part of the International Development Studies course Post Carbon Futures and Radical Hope (IDST 4150Y), a full-year course that analyzes the root causes of the climate crisis and explores possibilities for post-carbon futures, and COP15 was an appropriate space to transform learning into action.
“In class we confront myths related to green capitalism and new climate denialism, and how government policy solutions to ecological crises feature market solutions prominently,” said Davis Standfield, a fourth-year International Development Studies student (Otonabee College). “We went to COP15 to take part in civil society action and remind governments and decision makers that the biodiversity crisis is not an inevitable forgone conclusion, and there are different ways of achieving change.”
Dr. Kirsten Francescone, a professor in International Development Studies at Trent and the instructor for IDST 4150Y, said it’s important for students to be able to contribute to solutions and take part in community action in meaningful ways.
“The climate crisis is the biggest threat that our students are facing in their lifetimes, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed or helpless when we continue to witness government and corporate inaction, and representations of our own imminent extinction,” said Professor Francescone. “Throughout our course we have been learning about how to come to grips with the gravity of the crisis without becoming subsumed emotionally by it. Travelling to Montreal to attend some of the COP15 demonstrations is an essential part of this process in that students came to see themselves not as a class, but as part of a bigger movement with shared objectives and multiple strategies to move forward.”
Spreading hope and navigating media
With a focus on sharing a message of hope, students in the course organized communications campaigns for a course-related Instagram account and for various protests about alternative future possibilities.
“So much of what we learn in class about climate change doesn’t do much to inspire people because it can seem pretty bleak,” said Davis. “This project was a great skill-building exercise, offering an opportunity to work collaboratively, mobilize, and take direct action. COP15 was really energizing, and for many of us, it was our first protest so it was an experience to be remembered and we were able to develop some skills that could be used in future action.”
The messaging and action by activists at COP15 drew the attention of media, and Trent students were interviewed by CBC News, Radio-Canada and le journal de Montreal.
“This was a totally new terrain to explore the issues we learn about in class,” said Davis. “Going out and participating was great, but we learned that to build an action and mobilize other people is a lot of work. There are internal discussions to navigate and we really needed to be prepared, but we also just needed to get out there and do it to learn and understand what it takes to show thoughtful intent and be effective. Students are already saying ‘what else can I do?’ ‘how else can I be involved?’ I could see immediately on the drive home how influential the experience was.”
Explore the communications campaign develop for Instagram and follow the International Development Studies program.
Learn more about International Development Studies at Trent.