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Student Blog: Visit from Protect Our Winters Switzerland

18 February 2019

Last term, the Surval Sustainability Club contacted Protect Our Winters Switzerland to invite them to Surval in order to deliver their “Hot Planet / Cool Athletes” presentation, which aims to inform students about the issue of climate change and empower them with a sense of how they can be part of fighting it. On Friday 8th of February, the visit from POW took place. Sustainability Club member Rubi, G9, Mexico, writes about the powerful impact that it had on staff and students.

Last Friday the 8th of February, we had the honour of receiving Caroline George and Luc Heering from the organisation Protect Our Winters. They came to talk to the students and staff about the extremely important topic of climate change. This was done mainly through a presentation, in which they exposed the issues involved, explained how the POW campaign works, and shared their personal views about the deteriorating condition of our planet and the need to motivate the mind of society into positive and meaningful change. 


Luc and Caroline both gave some personal anecdotes, especially Caroline, who shared with us that, in the last few years, she has really started noticing changes in the environment around her. Caroline George is a professional mountain guide, with one of her main areas of expertise being ice-climbing. Caroline has been shocked, not just by witnessing glacier retreat in the Alps, but also by the impact warmer and shorter winters are having on ice-climbing. Ice-climbing involves scaling frozen waterfalls, a dangerous sport which becomes more dangerous if mild temperatures mean the ice is less stable and more likely to break. Caroline has also found that waterfalls are freezing for less time, or not freezing at all. Witnessing and being personally affected by such changes was the reason why she joined POW. The other key reason why Caroline has joined POW is because of her daughter; she wants her daughter to be able to enjoy the natural world and winters full of snow, just as Caroline George does herself. It was interesting to note that, after the presentation, several students said that they felt hearing these personal anecdotes allowed them to relate more strongly to the issue of climate change, whereas others said that it was the scientific facts that had the strongest impact on them. 


Later on, Luc introduced us to the actions that POW is taking to fight climate change, such as their partnership with Andermatt-Sedrun ski resort, which, among other actions, includes offering discounted lift passes for customers who travel by rail rather than car; their climate education, in the form of their “Hot Planet / Cool Athletes” programme, which is what brought them to Surval to speak to us; and climate protection through educating people about the carbon footprint of their diet (for example, the meat and dairy industry is one of the leading contributors to climate change) and helping resorts to implement change in this area by offering more vegetarian and vegan menu options. Luc also gave an overview of the scary facts about the impact climate change is already having on our world, such as the 35000 deaths as a result of the European heatwave of 2003, and the even more devastating effects that will come as the global temperature rises. Envisioning this frightening future really motivated the audience to want to stop it becoming a reality, and so it was good that Luc then went on to educate us on how we can each make a positive difference.


One of the most important actions that we need to take is to reduce the amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) that we release into our atmosphere, because the more CO2 we produce, the hotter we make our planet. Luc explained that we can cut our carbon footprint by using public transport (both Luc and Caroline had travelled to Montreux by train), maintaining a sustainable diet (not only by reducing our meat and dairy intake, but by eating locally produced food and in-season fruit and vegetables), and, ideally, by flying less. We were also powerfully affected by the shocking fact about how much water is needed to create plastic and clothes. This is something that each of us can change immediately, by reducing how much plastic we use and how much we shop for clothing.


Furthermore, Luc showed a very striking video in which we could observe how thin and sensitive our atmosphere really is. This produced strong reactions in the audience, who were amazed and upset by how much damage humans are doing to it, with several students saying after the presentation that they felt remorse about this. Throughout the presentation, Luc and Caroline encouraged the staff and students to ask questions and share their observations. Alejandra asked an interesting question about whether climate change was having a negative impact on animals, and we were all saddened to hear that it is. At the end of what was a very successful presentation, I asked what POW could do to help change the ideology of those people who claim that humans are not contributing to climate change; and, after a few moments of reflection, Luc answered that he thought that POW’s school programmes to raise awareness, provide information and encourage student-led projects were effective ways of showing reality to people. Luc concluded by urging each of us to “join the fight”, as if we try to change as individuals, we will have more power as we work together to win the war against climate change. It was an inspiring end to a powerful presentation…

 

WHAT THE STUDENTS HAD TO SAY…


I was very inspired and motivated by the POW presentation. I decided that I’m going to spread the voice and inform people about what is happening, and encourage them to make simple changes. I will also realize these actions and hope to have a positive influence on my friends and family, e.g. turn off electronics and the light when they are not needed, recycle EVERYWHERE, take my own bag to the supermarket, try to use public transportation more often, plant a garden outside our homes and volunteer in general. 
     As a school, we could try and do some of these actions: instead of using a lot of paper, we have the great opportunity to have electronic devices so let’s make them count; even if these action are small in themselves, if we all do them with frequency the impact could be really big and we will have the ability to inspire even more people and the difference will be bigger.
GRACIELA, FY, MEXICO AND CROATIA


I really enjoyed the presentation on Friday. It was very inspiring and I hope to become more sustainable and reduce my carbon footprint. Firstly, I will try to stop buying water in non-reusable bottles, stop taking plastic bags to carry my things, and cut back on screen time (using less energy). I think that if the school had recycling bins in the classrooms, it would help to be more sustainable. At home, I will try to take the car less or if I do take the car, I will try to carpool with some friends so there is less carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere.
ANNABELLE, WINTER CAMP, USA


I was very moved by this POW presentation, and it made me think of how selfish I am when I do whatever I want and do not consider the world around me. I will do my best to try and change my lifestyle to be more sustainable and not to damage the environment. I will not buy plastic bottles very often, if ever at all, and I will definitely stop using plastic straws. One or two days a week I will not consume meat. If I have to buy something, I will make sure it is locally produced.
ANASTASIIA, RUSSIA


After the presentation from POW, I was determined to try being more sustainable, such as always turning off the lights and taking faster showers so I don’t waste any water but use only the amount needed so I can have a fast and sufficient shower. Finally, I will try to minimize my use of plastic and say no to plastic as much as possible. I will also try to inspire the people that are close to me to do the same as I was really affected from the pictures that were showed in the presentation and I was left in shock.
MARIA ALEXANDRA, LIBERAL ARTS / SWISS GAP PROGRAMME, GREECE


The Friday talk from POW really made me think and understand that climate change is really affecting us and the planet. Knowing that we can do something to help makes me happier. First, I really want people to see this like me and understand that climate change is real, and that humans are contributing to it. This will inform people and change the way they act. For me, I am going to reduce my use of plastics, buy and eat locally sourced vegetables and fruits, and when I go back to Mexico, I want to start a school garden. 
FLORENCIA, G10, MEXICO