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March 8th 2023

Head Student Team blog: driving progress in a sustainable future

To kick off the month of March, students from Year 12 and 13 had the privilege of hosting and attending Blackheath High School’s biannual Women in Leadership Conference, organised by the wonderful Ms Day. With this year’s focus on sustainability, we had the opportunity to hear from 10 speakers, ranging from on-the-ground activists to corporate pioneers. Each explored their specialism within the context of sustainability and how this will be a fundamental element of our futures, a subject which had perhaps not been on the radars of our predecessors. Although I was aware of the environmental advantages of green habits, thanks to eco-warrior Greta Thunberg, I had not considered some of the ways in which this could be achieved, such as local funding requests to the council for solar panels, returning unused medication to pharmacies, and not buying new things unless they were absolutely necessary. From keynote speaker, Professor Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas, we were also made aware of other types of sustainability, including protection of cultures and diversity throughout the globe, and how embracing these practices can be incorporated into our careers. 

On the bus on my way home after the event, I started to think about how prepared I was to face such a large challenge and what behaviours I would need to adopt to become a more sustainable citizen. I was pleasantly surprised at the progress we have made so far within the school. With infrastructure in place such as the eco division of the School Council, Diversity and Inclusion Representatives, recycling campaigns, and biodegradable alternatives, Blackheath High has given us the tools which our generation needs in order to tackle the ever-increasing demand for an answer to climate change. Inspired by Tamasin Rhymes’ break-out session, in which we worked with John Roan students to create buildings out of recycled materials to represent what we hoped our green communities in 2050 would look like, I began to think about what generations of the past would have envisioned the 2020s to be.   

With women’s suffrage kicking off the 20th century and the civil rights movement punctuating the 1960’s, I would argue that people at the time were dreaming of a forward-thinking society founded on equality. Although we still haven’t mastered flying cars like Back to the Future promised, or completely eradicated inequality, we as a global community have come a long way, not only in technological advances but in also our thinking. Last year, I completed an EPQ on the invention of the combined contraceptive pill and how this affected women’s liberation, concluding that it played a role in the normalisation of women’s presence in the workplace, therefore creating more freedom for both men and women within family structures. But the credit must lie with the feminists who fought for the place we have in society today. It is mindboggling that something so commonplace now was unheard of, or even non-existent, last century. Even since the 1990s, we have seen the move away from landlines, chained to the wall using a coiled cord, to 6-inch mobiles which hold every detail of our lives in our pockets. This creates a promising trajectory for the invention of more sustainable technology and the role women will play in it, as long as we learn from mistakes of the past and start to think on the materials we are using to progress. Non-biodegradable plastics which end up in landfill or the ocean, high carbon emission materials, and the throw-away culture we have developed as a result of fast-paced factory production and overnight delivery must be a thing of the past in order for any of this to create a viable future. 

Without powerful female figureheads, from the women’s liberation forgers to our ‘Women in Leadership’ speakers, the progress we have made until this point, and that which will be necessary to secure our future, would not be possible. This gives me a hopeful outlook on the future and fills me with anticipation to see what Blackheath High’s students will do by 2050. 

Written by Eden, Year 13, Head Student Team

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