Last week we held our annual Go Abroad Homecoming reception, where we celebrate all of our Go Abroad Fund recipients and get to hear about all the amazing things they’ve done this summer. As part of this, we held competitions for best written word, best photo, and best video, and we are happy to present our winners!
The winners are:
Best Written Word – Heather Milligan
Best Photo – Gergana Daskalova
Best Video – Rhiannon Tambini-McGee
Read on to see each of their entries.
Heather travelled around the eastern United States researching the social effects of climate change. Her piece is a defence of the marginalised communities feeling the brunt of its effects.
Exploring Energy Politics: Two Months in the USA
Our research trip had a simple premise: to investigate the politics of energy transition in the USA.
At home, public and cross-party support has enabled Scotland to become a world leader in renewable energy, on-track to generate all its electricity from renewables by 2020. But Scotland is a small, sparsely-populated country. Its efforts are exemplary; they will not change the world.
It is in America – history’s biggest carbon polluter and champion of convenience and commerce – that change must occur. America’s energy decisions have momentous climate impacts that will reverberate long after our lifetimes; the choice between a future of mutual sacrifice or mass extinction is already being made.
Armed with a Prius, a video camera and two lapel mics, we drove 4,500 miles from Michigan to Florida, and up the east coast to New York.
We attended a political rally in Flint, where water supplies have been contaminated with lead since 2014. We spoke to a family in Kentucky about their nostalgic attachment to the local coal plant, and interviewed student activists organising against white nationalists and a hostile police force. In Florida, we met a meteorologist fleeing the precarious coastline; in Atlanta, a cancer survivor protesting her million-dollar treatment bill.
At its core, we were hearing the same story of disempowerment, subjugation to corporations, and a lack of safety and security. The more people suffered the consequences of a carbon capitalist economy, the less time, money, and power they had to combat it.
Climate change inevitably formed the backdrop of our journey. In July, California’s Death Valley endured the hottest month ever recorded, whilst wildfires raged north of the Arctic Circle, and a spike in mortality ignited speculation that India may soon be too hot for habitation.
The planet has so far warmed by just 1°C; our trajectory is between 3-4 degrees of warming by 2100.
Political reluctance to address environmental decline dangerously exacerbates the problem. As Florida suffers annual hurricanes, as carcasses line its beaches and its coastlines disappear under toxic waters, government officials remain barred from saying ‘climate change’ publicly. Despite being third in the US for solar potential, the ‘sunshine state’ derives less than 1% of its electricity generation from solar. Off-grid energy production is made expensive and difficult to install, or banned outright.
Whilst the President endorses fossil fuel companies and denounces climate change as myth, emission reduction cannot be achieved. Whilst governments and media outlets deny the urgency of the climate emergency, the possible triumphs of grassroots movements are extremely limited.
But many in environmental and activist circles are unifying nonetheless. From professors to students, accountants to psychologists, those we met told us how climate motivates their work—how now is the time for change.
We ended interviews by asking participants what kept them optimistic. They told us about communities they had found and grown, or young political candidates taking strides against the status quo. Some told us nothing; they kept going because it was all they could do.
I found hope in those we spoke with, who reiterated again and again a shared commitment to life over death, to planet over profit. Even if their voices are a minority. Even if they are scattered and scared. Even if some disasters are now inescapable.
You can read more and see her photos on Heather’s blog.
Gergana, a PhD student, travelled to the Canadian Arctic to conduct research on the change of vegetation due to climate change, and in the process she caught this stunning image on camera.
See more of her pictures and learn about the project here.
Rhiannon volunteered with Operation Wallacea taking part in one of their marine conservation projects in Indonesia. She captured her experience in this beautiful video, complete with white sand beaches and tropical sunsets.
Read her story and see more pictures here.
Thank you to all of our entrants, and congratulations again to our winners!