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People and Planet Society Roundup by Asini Liyanage

Throughout the past year, the People and Planet Society have been attempting to sway our university to take measures in order to minimize the negative impact it is having on the environment as well as to people themselves. This is a taster of what we’ve been up to…

Over the past two years, we have been focusing on two big campaigns. Firstly, we have been campaigning to encourage the university to wholly divest from the fossil fuel industry. Two years ago, the People and Planet Society worked with the Centre of Environmental Sustainability to obtain 1,000 signatures. These were from individuals who agreed that the university should follow in the footsteps of universities such as Oxford, Edinburgh and Sussex who no longer invest any stocks and shares into companies that are directly or indirectly related to the production of fossil fuels. This petition aimed to convince the university to remove its shares from the fossil fuel industry and instead, invest into green industries. However, when a representative from the university was presented with the case, they excused their involvement with the fossil fuel industry by arguing that the investment accrued to a very small percentage of total investments anyway. At this point we were left with little other choice but to drop the campaign. However, now, 2 years on, we have once again been contacting individuals in an attempt to try push our university to commit to what others already have. We hope to kick-start the campaign fully at the end of September in order to do what has been successfully achieved before by convincing our university to completely divest.

The second campaign we have been focusing on is the Sweatshop Free Campaign. This is aimed at ensuring that the university buys its products from ethical organisations. The university buys and sells products that have been produced in sweatshops, where staff are not provided with the working conditions they deserve. In order to prevent this from taking place, we have been discussing with the procurement team the affiliation of the university with the organisation, Electronics Watch. Electronics Watch are a regulatory body that will ensure workers in developing countries, who are involved in the production of goods for the university are able to protect themselves from human rights exploitation. This means we can be assured that the factories in a contract with the university maintain ethical working conditions. In countries such as China where factory workers are heavily exploited, many workers are threatening to commit suicide by throwing themselves off the rooftops of the company buildings and consequently the factories are having to install safety nets to prevent this. The factory workers could no longer cope with the dusty conditions that choked them and the production lines that left them with blisters and black hands after one day’s work. As consumers, we must take responsibility for this and help to prevent it from happening as widely as it currently is. We will know by October at the latest whether the agreement between the university and Electronics Watch will still be going through so keep your eyes peeled for further news.

Furthermore, every year, the People and Planet Society hold a climate change week at the university in order to increase awareness for environmental issues, whilst encouraging individuals to become more hands on with helping to prevent their impact towards it. Last year, we hosted various talks including ones on how cities, culture and morality need to evolve to suit the demands presented by climate change. We also held debates and a film screening of an Inconvenient Truth 2. This November, Surrey has had the fortune of hosting the People and Planet regional gathering. This will take place over the space of a weekend where we will host various workshops discussing green and societal issues before ending the weekend by undertaking some impactful activism which will hopefully result in direct action within Guildford. This weekend will be open to anyone who is interested, everyone is welcome so come along and show your support!

Credits:

Created with images by American Public Power Association - "untitled image" • Patrick Hendry - "Pollution 500" • Parker Burchfield - "Throttle Roll - Swap Meat Market"

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