A lot of Wageningen students want to help make the world a better place. But how do you do that? Alumnus Nine de Pater, the Friends of the Earth campaign leader in the climate case against Shell, gives us her tips.
1. Think carefully about what you see as the heart of the problem.
Where should you go to tackle the problem ? Who has the power, who is in control? Those are the people your actions should target. The issue I focus on is the climate crisis. I target policymakers and companies because between them, they are keeping the problem of CO2 emissions and environmental pollution going. But maybe what you want is more vegetation in your neighbourhood. The question is still: which parties control the switches and could make that happen? You can find that out by doing some research, reading up on it and talking to people.
2. Choose tactics that suit you.
Are you good at writing? Then write stories about your issue. Are you good at public speaking? Then present your action points. Do you like being physically active? Then join in demonstrations. Choose a tactic you enjoy, that you can persevere with and that you feel comfortable with. I’m highly analytical, for example, and good at communicating complex issues. That’s why I’m a researcher and campaign leader in the climate case against Shell. But there are many ways of addressing societal problems. You could also become a lobbyist or an artist in order to make your point.
3. Don’t act alone.
There are already lots of activist groups. Join the movement that matches your objective and chosen tactic. There are numerous student groups that want to change the university, but there are also local activist groups outside the university, and broader ones such as Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion. Join the group that’s the best fit for you.
4. Be bold towards people with more power and experience than you
As a young person, you have a right to speak up. After all, your future is at stake. Be daring. I really had to learn that when I started out. I am critical and unconventional, but it’s not in my nature to seek out conflict. What’s the right moment to make a stand? Sometimes, if you want to make other people think, or to confront them, you have to step out of your comfort zone and engage in conflict.
Be bold towards people with more power and experience than you
5. Celebrate your successes.
Reformers always set the bar high and are not easily satisfied. So specify your intermediate goals and celebrate when you achieve them. For example, when I was a student at Wageningen, we ran a petition for making the university more sustainable. When we had gathered the first 200 signatures, we went to the pub together to celebrate that. And we went again when we reached 2000 signatures. Such celebrations help campaigners to keep up their spirits. A lot of activists forget that, because you do experience setbacks as well. You can’t always be positive; there’ll be sadness and frustration as well. Don’t ignore those feelings, channel them into action. Don’t give up: change is possible.’