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Lead academic: Dr Caroline Keenan (Law)
Lead academic: Kate Holtaway (Law)
UN Sustainable Development Goal
UN Sustainable Development Goal
UN Sustainable Development Goal

The Case for Earth: Designing unprecedented action in speaking up for the planet

Challenge overview

More than ever the Earth needs good advocates to challenge the harm that is being done, campaign for change and demand action from government and large corporations in the future. This challenge will give you the skills to do this.

In Our Challenge ‘The Case for Earth’, we have defined the problem as the lack of advocacy and representation for the Earth, both to galvanise people and produce coordinated change. So whilst the vast majority of us recognise a wealth of environmental problems, some may feel overwhelmed or apathetic. Many people don’t know how to start; what works in terms of campaigning for change, either in politics, business, organisations or society; or how to be the change by creating a different kind of business model, environmental campaign or way of communicating.

The week began on 10th June with a full day of inspiring speakers and workshops, giving students the tools to work on the challenge. On the Friday afternoon, there was a showcase where all the work the students produced in the week was displayed together in the Environment and Sustainability Institute, with a final reception.

Grand Challenges 2019 speakers and workshops

Keynote speakers for the 2019 Challenge included Hugo Tagholm (Chief Executive of Surfers Against Sewage); Shane Holland (Executive Chair Slow Food UK) who spoke about creating a grass roots movement for social change; and Stella Bell (from the leading environmental profit for purpose company Climate Care) who spoke about pitching sustainability to business.

Students also attended panel discussions: one with artists on highlighting environmental harm and one with students from this campus who are ‘being the change’ in either journalism, setting up businesses, direct political action, or in organising grass roots environmental work. Students on the Challenge also attended workshops - details of these are below. 

'If we want a world that is beautiful, kind and fair shouldn’t our activism be beautiful and kind and fair ?’

Recycling, repurposing, creating, making, bookbinding.

Artists Melanie Young and Emily Juniper will facilitate and inspire you to create a thing of beauty, a series of books to carry a difficult message.

Using craft skills, old books, discarded images, text and collage to tell the Earth’s stories, you will make something that can affect change, provoke conversations and intrigue.

You will harness the power of craft, making something with time and skill and care – a small act with a big impact!

The journey from inception to delivery of these ‘book gifts’ will be documented and you will film each stage to be edited into a finished ‘Short’ to be shown on the Friday. Film maker and dancer Gil Ratcliffe will give you the tools you will need and he will edit your clips to make the film.

The film (also on vimeo) will be pivotal in revealing the destination of your book gifts as well as creating a legacy encouraging others to create and become part of the powerful movement of gentle protest.

Externals within the current economic model are undervalued or are not even included in the thinking of most business people, this is slowly changing as we approach the natural limits of the environment.  Often it is up to independent volunteers or pressure groups that understand the vital importance of these ecosystems to represent them, most of the times with limited marketing and communication skill sets and financial resources.

As environmental campaigners and scientists have found, simply pointing out the issues and information about negative consequences and asking businesses to stop does not drive behavioural change.

This workshop led by Angelo Spencer-Smith, is designed to explore where we are now and where we want to be in the future. You will learn how to turn your ideas into a practical plan to drive change and develop a narrative of communication.

Leaving Uni can be a daunting time- you want to make the most of the knowledge you have acquired, but perhaps don’t have all the skills to really tackle some of the giant environmental issues we are facing. Experience in the field is invaluable and often the best way to learn. However, as these issues become more imminent, you are urgently needed on the front line more so than at any other time.

Gemma Turner and Jess Channing are both environmental campaigners working with the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Communities campaign. They both realised that their past experiences have equipped them with the tools needed to encourage change within councils, businesses and community groups. Communication can not be undervalued. It is not just about spreading an eco-message, it is about connecting people together who can help tackle our shared problems. It is about realising that acting locally really can have positive global impacts.

This workshop will start you thinking about the ways to connect with people at a grassroots level in order to overcome our environmental challenges as part of a wider community.

Enquiry groups

Enquiry groups are the subtopic of the challenge that you will focus on during Grand Challenges Week, providing you the opportunity to concentrate on an area that you are most interested in. These are the enquriy groups that ran in 2019. 

Just as Planet Earth 2 brought the problem of Ocean Plastics to the fore, this enquiry group will focus on raising awareness of environmental harms. The harm on which you focus and the way in which you decide to raise awareness is entirely your choice as a group. You can for example choose to produce a documentary in any media; an exhibition which can be set up in different places on and off Campus; or an education pack for schools. By the end of the week you will have created a product which will be showcased on campus when Grand Challenges takes over the Penryn Campus on 14th June 2019.

You will develop a political campaign about your chosen environmental harm. Whether it is deforestation, air pollution or fracking, you will create a campaign which grabs people’s attention and makes them want to sign up to your cause. By the end of the week your group will have produced a political campaign which you will ensure appears all over the Penryn Campus on Friday 14th June.

You will create a pitch suitable for a particular business or corporation you have identified, to explain how they can act sustainably and reduce and repair a particular environmental harm. For example if you decided that you wished to pitch sustainable field courses to the University of Exeter you would identify what interests of the University of Exeter your pitch would need to satisfy. By the end of the week on 14th June your group will pitch your proposals to representatives of business and other corporations.