Living through a global pandemic, it seems almost impossible not to feel fully consumed by Covid-19. But after watching the 2020 Ashden Awards, the idea of this pandemic functioning as an isolated issue to be tackled, set apart from the urgency of the climate crisis, seems a potentially dangerous oversimplification.
The Ashden Awards are dedicated to supporting sustainable solutions and initiatives by spotlighting the most exciting climate action around the world, insisting that ‘the solutions to the [climate] challenge already exist but need urgent support to grow rapidly’.
The organisation has adopted a holistic approach to bolster these sustainable initiatives. It offers winners specifically tailored support to allow these solutions to flourish and grow into a decarbonised reality.
This holistic approach was fully expressed in their 2020 Awards, as they not only discussed climate issues across the world on a community level (representing ‘climate heroes’ from Brazil, India, Bangladesh the UK and more), but also effectively adopted the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic into focus.
It’s uncomfortable yet undeniable that the climate crisis is multifaceted, complex, and (most importantly) urgent. These are facts that despite our anxieties being diverted elsewhere, remain facts.
This sentiment was echoed throughout the 2020 Awards, as the celebration of a wide range of sustainable organisations was balanced with insights into how we weave rebuilding a post-Covid society in with a decarbonised future. As CEO Harriet Lamb put it: ‘Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty’.
Although a swift recovery from this pandemic may be a principle objective for many of us, the necessity of this recovery being a ‘green’ one was highlighted by Ashden as a once in a generation imperative.
With the online award ceremony bringing in speakers such as Zamzam Ibrahim (the President of the UK National Union of Students), it’s clear that although the awards do have a celebratory function, they are also deeply grounded in exposing the systemic issues underlying the climate crisis, which (as Ibrahim eloquently noted) force ‘sustainability into becoming a niche subject’. Now that we are faced with the rebirth and rebuilding of society, we must more than ever consider the value of dismantling these systemic barriers.
The hopeful thread of the Awards was heightened by the enthralling poetry of Rakaya Fetuga, whose poem ‘Enterprise’ encapsulates the need to act in the present for a green future:
‘flailing limbs of blue and juniper green dropping into the jaws of a hurricane […] mitigation and money are sisters, together they will nurse the world mending the cracks.’ – Extract from Fetuga’s ‘Enterprise’
Although online, the 2020 Ashden Awards fully embodied their holistic and hopeful approach to the climate crisis. With current anxiety consumed by Covid, it’s vital that this message of hope mixed with action remains at the forefront of the ongoing climate battle.
Ashden’s reminder that global issues such as Covid-19 are not in fact separable from the fight for our planet is echoed in the recent words of author Arundhati Roy: ‘This pandemic is a portal from one world to the next’.
Perhaps by actively encouraging the ‘green recovery’ suggested by Ashden, we can use this ‘portal’ to gain entry to a brighter future.
Written by Clemency Scott – currently an A level student based in Cornwall with an interest in art, writing, and environmental issues.