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A line in the sand

Students and staff join climate strikes

On Friday 20 September 2019 students and staff stood side-by-side with school children, activists and local residents to join international climate strikes.

Together everyone formed a line which stretched out of sight, along the West Sands beach, falling silent for five minutes as they reflected on climate change.

"Whose planet? Our planet!"

Student organizer and activist Léa Weimann, who is in her third year studying International Relations and Sustainable Development, said:

"We had 1,200 people who went on strike for Climate Action in St Andrews. It's the biggest strike about climate change that has ever happened in St Andrews! Quite possibly one of the biggest strikes about anything that has happened here.

"We were expecting hundreds but the fact that we had 1,200 people is mind-blowing: one thousand two hundred individuals who drew a line in the sand for climate change in just one little sea-side town in Scotland.

"Enough is enough – this is a climate emergency and we need everyone to act that way. We made history in a 600-year-old university town. If that is not a mandate for change then I don't know what is."

"We are at a crossroad in history that will decide the future of our civilisation and life on Earth."

Line of students on strike one holding a sign reading
The wall of staff and students protesting for climate action

Léa continued:

"I am not the kind of person who strikes because it's a 'fun' thing to do or because I don't want to go to classes. My whole life I have been committed to my academics, work and learning. I would only ever miss a class or lecture if I am very sick or have another serious commitment. My education is never something I would take for granted. I enjoy my studies and going to tutorials and academic discussions.

"But despite all of that I am participating in the climate strikes because I know that my future depends on the actions and decisions that are taken today. We are at a crossroad in history that will decide the future of our civilisation and life on Earth."

Léa Weimann holding sign reading
Photo courtesy of Léa Weimann

"No coal, no oil, keep your carbon in the soil!"

Deputy Principal and Master of the United College Lorna Milne said:

"While we don’t encourage our students to skip classes, we do encourage you to be active, engaged, and politically-minded, committed to making a difference in the world – and sometimes that does require sacrifice and protest. All of us are here today because we recognise that this is an issue that cannot be put on hold. The Climate Emergency is real, it is scientifically verifiable, and only when we all demand change will we achieve it.

"Please know that we as a University are proud that you are already making a difference in the world – but also that you do not need our approval."

Lorna Milne addressing the Climate Action protestors
Lorna Milne addressing students and staff attending the Climate Action event

"...due to the unwillingness of older generations to adapt, it is you who are setting an example for how we all must change to ensure a civilised future."

The University has signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals Accord and is undertaking a range of activities, including supporting the work of world-leading researchers who protect the oceans, develop new carbon reduction materials, increase access to clean energy sources, and study the effects of climate change on peoples and cultures around the world.

Most recently an international team of researchers from the University of St Andrews, with Norwegian, Dutch and British colleagues, found that barnacle geese have shifted their migratory route in response to climate change.

Dr Thomas Oudman of the School of Biology at the University of St Andrews said: "What surprised us is that it is mainly the young geese who have shifted. The youngsters are responding to a trend they could not have experienced during their short life."

Addressing the Climate Action protestors the Deputy Principal continued:

"You are all responding to a trend that you should not be responsible for. You should all be happily studying in a classroom, guaranteed a safe and secure future free from a potentially devastating climate emergency, but due to the unwillingness of older generations to adapt, it is you who are setting an example for how we all must change to ensure a civilised future."

"I stand up for what I stand on!"

Newly arrived Visiting Global Fellow at the University’s School of Geography and Sustainable Development Professor Glen MacDonald said: 

"It was simply an incredible honour to march with St Andrews and my colleagues from the School of Geography and Sustainable Development on this historic day – when all of St Andrews came together and added its voice to an historic global chorus calling for real action on climate change.

"Feeling the energy here in St Andrews, and seeing that same determined energy repeated at strikes in thousands of other places around the world, I really think we are at a turning point in the battle against climate change – and it is clear that a new generation is leading the way."

Glen is pictured (fourth from the left) with other protesters on the East Sands beach in St Andrews.  Pictured with Glen (left to right) are Torsten Matzke, Rachel Cripps, Elana Ewence, Keith Bennetts, Matt Sothern, Ali Macleod and Tansy Torkington.
Glen is pictured (fourth from the left) with other protesters on the East Sands beach in St Andrews. Pictured with Glen (left to right) are Torsten Matzke, Rachel Cripps, Elana Ewence, Keith Bennetts, Matt Sothern, Ali Macleod and Tansy Torkington.

In her podcast series, Eco-Activist Journeys, Léa argues that we need to break down ontological division between activist and non-activist. Deep down we all are passionate about something. In that way we are all activists.

The St Andrews Climate Action Day was organised by the Climate Action St Andrews group as part of Greta Thunberg's global #AllForClimate movement.

Credits

Drone photography by Ben Markey (@benmarkeyphotography)

Video content by STAR: St Andrews Radio; Ed Broughton, Corporate Communications; and Climate Action St Andrews.

Photography by Ed Broughton.

Graphics and design by Lewis Wake, Digital Communications team.

Thanks 

Thanks to Léa Weimann, Professor Glen MacDonald, and Climate Action St Andrews.

Contact

Email: proffice@st-andrews.ac.uk
Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 7323