The following is the first of a four part journal about organising a Community Media Expo at De Montfort University. The Expo will take place at the university’s Mill Studios, where three rooms and a lecture theatre are available. There is literally no budget for this event except free printing of any size provided by the university. It will therefore need much creative thinking, initiative and improvisation, whilst at the same time striving for professionalism and quality. The Expo 2019 took place at the same venue and had the theme ‘It Takes a City to raise a Child‘. Apart from a number of other creative activities students produced a documentary on the theme and a logo for their social media campaign.

Expo 2019 Logo – Photo G. Haas

At this first meeting on 7 January 2020, week 15 of the academic calendar, a theme for the Expo 2020 was discussed and agreed upon. It was established that Climate Change and Plastic Pollution should be the topic for the Expo in April. A number of areas of involvement were marked out such as the making of a documentary, a podcast, event organisation and management, photography, music, the role of the presenter etc. They are expected to be formalised at the next meeting. It was also clarified that there was no budget except for free printing of any size at DMU’s own facilities.

It was mentioned not to jump on the bandwagon of climate change. The question could be asked ‘why not’ and what does it actually mean. The concern could be raised of how much teeth the Expo would be allowed to have, after all a radical and climate emergency situation needs radical and emergency measures to counter it. The UK government has officially declared a climate emergency in 2019. Again, the question could be ask, what does this actually mean? What practical steps have been undertaken beyond words?

The government prides itself of being one of the countries with the most advanced climate measures, however, as Greta Thunberg has pointed out, it all depends how you are counting. Is aviation, for instance, included in the CO2 count along with goods coming and leaving the country via air freight? The answer is no. Moreover, aviation fuel is tax free, which means aviation is subsidized by the government, even though it is well established that it has a huge CO2 footprint. All these questions will have to be asked. Climate change or better climate breakdown is a hot potato, much more than poverty, because it effects us all, especially the younger generation. However, the most resistance comes generally from the older generation, because it would mean that we have messed up the world and it’s climate, and more seriously it means we have to change. All these questions are relevant and need to be asked before we even attempting to plan and organize an event such as the Climate Expo 2020.

Another point was raised that we should not shame people. However, it could be argued that we all share some form of guilt and responsibility for ‘raping’ Mother Earth and her resources in our seemingly inexhaustible hunger for consumerism. This has to change. We need a new paradigm or as the climate activist Greta Thunberg puts it, we need not only climate change, we actually need system change. How can we continue in the same old paradigm of eternal economic growth and an ever growing GDP when there is only one planet earth with limited resources?

The other topic selected for the Climate Expo is plastic pollution. One may ask what plastic pollution has to do with climate change and how these seemingly diverse and different environmental problems are linked, if at all. The answer is that oil links both of them because oil is also the source of plastic, which is destroying our natural environment. Therefore the slogan and hashtag #KeepTheOilInTheGround and #TurnOffThePlasticTap are quite appropriate. The next question might be, where is this plastic tap? A recent research on this topic discovered some horrendous facts. It is therefore no less an emergency than climate breakdown.

The Expo 2019 arranged for a view into a child’s bedroom. The exhibit was set up by Communication Arts students and depicts poverty with a single room to live in, a mattress on the floor, the baby cot at one side and an empty fridge on the other. This is reality for poor families in Leicester, which puts the local government to shame. One could easily ask why poverty and also homelessness can’t be sorted in the world’s fifth richest economy. The Expo was setup to highlight the issues surrounding poverty in Leicester and further afield. It will be up to students for the Expo 2020 to come up with a similar display on climate change and plastic pollution, showing the realities of climate change in 30 years time, in 2050.

Expo 2019, Recreation of a Child’s Bedroom – Photo G. Haas

The 2019 CommArts students did a very impressive Twitter campaign. What seems to particularly of interest is how the managed their Twitter Cards and how they were able to embed a short version of their documentary directly into a tweet.

There is movement in Leicester on the climate change front. The Leicester City Council has declared a Climate Emergency. Furthermore, the council is holding a public consultation on climate change. The consultation can be done online. A group called Climate Action Leicester and Leicestershire is running a drop in event about this consultation in the city centre on Sunday 2 February from 1pm – 4pm at the Quest Gaming Café, 45 Belvoir Street. It might be a good idea to attend, meet new people and network with them. This could prove useful for the Climate Expo 2020. CALL is a newly formed group of local people who want to act to tackle the climate crisis and support global climate justice.

Climate Consultation Drop-in

On 14 January at the second meeting of the Climate Expo 2020 it was put forward that plastic had no effect on climate change. A study from the University of Exeter was citied in support. Unfortunately I was unable to locate this study, however, I came across solid research by the Center of International Environmental Law (CIEL) which confirmed just the opposite. Besides plastic and climate having both their root in oil extraction, plastic has also a large environmental and climate impact by itself. Researchers estimated that by 2050 plastic will contribute 10 to 13% to the total “carbon budget” – which is the amount of CO2 we can emit globally and still remain below a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise. Furthermore, Charli Shield points out in his article The plastic crisis isn’t just ugly – it’s fuelling global warming, that micro-plastics in our oceans could impact the oceanic carbon sink by disturbing the life cycle of phytoplankton and zooplankton. For further information see my blogpost, The Plastic Tap.