The deputy leader of the Green Party, Amelia Womack, visited Lancaster University Campus to chat with students. SCAN caught up with her to discuss student politics, the need for environmental action, and rising tuition fees.
How can students adopt a green lifestyle?
There are a number of different things, but the reason why I am in the Green Party is because I don’t just think it is about lifestyle choices. We need to have policy and political change, so the green lifestyle becomes the easiest choice. The green lifestyle can in fact be the cheapest option, ensuring that you always have a refillable bottle of water, and things like the Refill app that highlights where you can get free water refills from, this greatly helps reduce your individual environmental impact.
But I’d much rather the government did things to ensure that we have better community energy, as a result of the change in feeding tariffs in government policy that has gradually dismantled the opportunity for community energy on a large scale. Also, seeing new ways of innovation to ensure that we are tackling continuing issues, such as out Green councillors in York who are tackling issues like coffee cup waste, they are using a cup return scheme like at festivals, where you put a small amount of money on your cup, so you return it and get the money back or exchange it for a clean cup, meaning that we’re not moving from plastic to another product and continuing the cycle of waste but addressing the issue head-on.”
Have you been to the Cuadrilla fracking site near to Lancaster, and what was your experience there like?
“I’ve been there a few times and what I find interesting is how actually as tax payers we are subsiding that site with the strong police presence there, as a result of the activists’ campaigns. Seeing so many inspiring people who understand that this is curing the environment for future generations.
One of my favourite campaigning groups is the ‘Nanas Against Fracking’, where they consider it about the stake of generations, not just about the dangers of fracking as a result of what it can do to the local environment in terms of potential geoseisemic activity and the pollution of drinking water. These are CO2 emitting fuels that are being extracted that could lead to catastrophic climate change, probably not at the time that [we] will still be alive, but for generations to come.”
What can be done about the rising tuition fees?
“This is such an important question, and on top of this, there has been a lack of support on bursaries which enable the poorest to be able to sustain themselves whilst at university. Political parties can change this, and voting for a party that stands up for this is a strong way of helping, but never forgetting that things like lobbying, petitioning, demonstrating and campaigning can cause change, so students should get involved in anti-tuition fee campaigns.
Also, make sure that you make your friends and family aware that this is something politicians have put into legislation, so it’s something they can take out of legislation! In addition, you can help by just by challenging the commercialisation of education, some universities are bringing in external coffee shops from corporations into their campus rather than using their own independent shops, where profits would go straight to the accounts of the corporations, many of which are not necessarily in the UK. We need to challenge the commodification of universities through supporting independent university shops and cafes, where your money is going back into the university to help you.”
Now that Labour has moved to the left, what does the Green Party still have that is unique?
“The fact that a political party can completely change with its leadership is something that doesn’t reflect Green values, our party remains consistent. We have the conviction on our environmental policies and social justice, which give us a clear ambition on how to tackle the issues of climate change, its about tying the two together. Like our work by councillors in Kirklees, where members of the community experience fuel poverty, the community had to choose between heating their homes or putting food on the table; so the councillors put in solar panels to tackle the two issues at the same time.
As well as the tying of environmental and social justice, we are very clear on our position on nuclear weapons, our position on HS2, our position on fracking, there are so many individual green issues where we go above and beyond what is being said by the Labour Party.
Who are you politically most inspired by, past or present?
“That’s a tough one because there’s been so many incredible campaigners. People like Rosa Parks, I feel like lots of people forget, by her sitting on the wrong seat of the bus, that was an organised act of campaigning and breaking the rules in that way to make such a strong political statement showed the simplicity of the act and how it completely changed the rights of black people in America.
Also, I hate to say it because it sounds so cheesy, but Caroline Lucas is such an inspiration to everyone. I hear people from all political parties say she is almost like the peoples’ MP, people have so much faith in her. She has such a strong moral conviction in Parliament and I’ve met very few people who have not been inspired by her and how she stands up for what’s right on every single occasion.”
And finally, as a previous member of the Young Greens yourself, how do you think students can get into politics?
“It’s really important that politics is a part of our everyday lives. Politics isn’t just about voting every time there’s an election, it’s about getting involved in campaigns, signing petitions, going to demonstrations. Getting involved is easy through joining a young [political] group or getting involved with your local political party. There’s real opportunity to develop your skills and knowledge, you could be helping with campaigns or organising social nights. But remember the only party to get involved with, is one that you truly believe in.”