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Students from across the region gather to tackle the climate emergency

Students from across the region gathered at Life Science Centre on 31 January 2020 to discuss the climate emergency.

Two sixth form students were sent from 45 schools and colleges to attend the event, with their emerging ideas and questions captured throughout the day in a visual format by local illustrator Katie Chappell. The discussion is the first step towards producing a Young people's Climate Change Manifesto.

A hot topic amongst the students was the carbon footprint of food. Many students discussed the importance of adopting a plant-based diet and said this requires promotion at a local level, education in schools and government intervention to incentivise vegetarianism. Other students, meanwhile, argued for the rationing of red meat and to eat locally-sourced food.

Tom Bartles-Smith, a student at St. Bede's Catholic School and Sixth Form College in Lanchester, said: "We all know that action is needed, and on a personal level there are also lifestyle changes you can make. It’s important that people are more aware of the impact of things we all do and understand that the effects don’t just happen to other people.

“It’s easy to dismiss young people and say that their opinions don’t matter. But we’re the ones who will be dealing with these issues, so it’s good that this is getting people together to discuss them.”

The event was organised by Noel Jackson, Head of Education at Life Science Centre.

Noel said: “I think the students valued meeting other young people who care about the planet as much as themselves and having the opportunity to have their views listened to and acted upon – too often they feel that many politicians and decision-makers only pay lip service to young people’s opinions.”

Morrin Conchie, a student at Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham, said: “This sort of event is a good opportunity and something that’s needed more… sometimes it feels like you’re shouting at nobody. Someone like Noel [Jackson] is able to make our views heard and it’s more likely to work than screaming into the void.”

The students also discussed controversial solutions to the climate emergency, with ideas including financial incentives for people to remain childless, eating insects for a sustainable protein source and limiting air travel for everyone to one flight per year.

Morrin said: ​​​​​“There have been times I’ve broken down crying because I know we’ll have to live on a planet that’s damaged. It won’t be ethical to have children in that situation, and I’m not going to be able to do things I’d love to do with my life because of things that people are doing now. And we can fix it. But we can’t do it alone. You have to do some things for us too.”

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