In conclusion to a fantastic week of debating, discussing, and exchanging knowledge during UEA’s COP26 festival, UEA Green Society hosted a Climate Vigil in The Square on Friday 29th of October. Despite the autumn showers and chilling breeze, a modest yet powerfully passionate crowd turned up to share their thoughts, personal experiences, and most of all, solidarity, over the impending climate crisis ahead of COP26 the following week.
When asked about her expectations of the evening, Green Society President Gemma Polley commented: “I hope this event will help to raise awareness of climate change on campus by bringing people together ahead of COP26 in an open and inclusive environment”. Gemma and her colleagues also wished to “highlight the university’s own shortcomings, including their poor biodiversity targets, the biofuel scandal, and previous and current financial investments in the Barclays banking group”.
Gemma went on to initiate the events proceedings by welcoming the crowd and giving a brief but highly impassioned summary of the current state of both the scientific and political situation facing COP26, as well as the university’s “inadequate” record. A series of speeches followed, including one from PPL student Koteka Wenda who used the opportunity to share experiences of how climate change affects her own people and other tribes across Papua New Guinea, from where she originates.
This perspective particularly captivated the audience, with Koteka highlighting the often “silenced” or “unheard” narrative of indegionous peoples across the Global South regarding climate change and international environmental policy, despite them being the people who are experiencing its most substantial and immediate effects. She called on the audience to highlight this to their friends, politicians and governments. The intimacy of her account seemed to unite the audience in the highly personal and intricate reality of the climate crisis, creating an empathetic and hopeful atmosphere. Following this, Green Society delegates made speeches before the floor was opened up to audience members.
The UEA COP26 Festival director, Ekaterina Dudacova commented after the event: “I’m really pleased with how the week has turned out overall, and despite the fact we weren’t able to fill the whole square today, this event has been a great conclusion through providing an open and inclusive platform for people to share and communicate their knowledge, ideas and perspectives on the climate crisis… This kind of very personal engagement shows just how much people care and recognise this issue as one that affects every single one of us.”