Bingley Grammar School

Mr Atkinson's Friday Update 03.12.21

Normally every 2 weeks, Mr Atkinson sends out his Friday message. However he has asked me this time, Finn Risdon in Year 11, to write about my experience at COP26 in early November, which I travelled to as part of the Send my Friend to School campaign. This campaign, run as part of Oxfam, aims to attain quality education for all children around the world. I was one of the youth campaign representatives for this, and over my 2 years being involved in this role I have talked with politicians from all around the UK and the world, as well as activists from many different places and with many different causes. 

Our aim at COP was to highlight the impact of the climate crisis on global education, and how global education is an effective tool to tackle climate change. The experience was nothing short of incredible, in more ways than you’d think; whilst the experience of talking to politicians was very inspiring (particularly in the case of Shirley-Ann Sommerville and her keen words about amplifying the youth voice in democracy) perhaps the most long lasting memory I will take away is the disparity between inside and outside COP.

Inside, we were expecting to find an abundance of like-minded activists exchanging ideas, an ever more powerful collective pushing for change. Whilst some of this was happening, the change supposed to happen at COP was dwarfed by multinationals on corporate green-washing ventures. Meanwhile, outside the security fences were the likes of Greta Thunberg, rallying the youth into mass protests and trying to do her utmost to elevate the youth voice onto the world stage. 

Within the Green Zone, we were incredibly fortunate to hear the story of Margaret, a small-scale farmer from Uganda who is currently working with the Oxfam delegation at COP. Her story of how life has already changed from her parents and grandparents generation was shocking. She detailed how she is living with the effects of climate change right now, and how things need to change immediately if her children are to be able to grow and harvest the food that they rely on. Inside COP, her experiences felt lost within the stalls highlighting corporate ventures and seemingly in the negotiations in the detached Blue Zone over the river, which was sadly out of bounds. This lack of discourse between the negotiators and change-makers creates a division that hinders the ability for solutions to problems and causes to be realised - this is something that I would like to help bridge in my campaigning. 

We also met Pushpanath Krishnamurthy, who gave an assembly at Bingley whilst on his walk from London to Glasgow in October, who seamlessly manages to be so positive in the face of the climate crisis that he fights against. Along with Push’s positivity and Margaret’s experiences, we took what we had learnt into our conversations with Shirley-Ann Sommerville, Helen Grant and Alicia Herbert. 

I don’t think the full impact of what visiting COP has done for me has really registered yet; I feel ever more determined to fight, especially in the field of amplifying the youth voice onto the agendas of politicians and decision makers. I want to make sure that to the best of my ability I can do justice to the experiences I have had at Send my Friend, hence why I am planning more activism into the future. 

First and foremost, I would like to give a massive thanks to the amazing Miss Shah. She has given life to my passion to fight, given me knowledge and insights I will never forget, and has given me experiences which will shape my life in years to come. I would also like to thank the amazing diligence of the team at Send my Friend who have organised these opportunities.

Finn Risdon, Year 11

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