Decolonize, Decarbonize! Solutions, Not Pollution! London Students Stage a Climate Justice Parade as COP26 Wraps Up

As pledges and agreements began to emerge from COP26 in Glasgow yesterday, dozens of London fashion students staged a climate happening of their own. Billing it the Carnival of Crisis, students from the University of Arts London’s seven campuses—including Central Saint Martins, the London College of Fashion, and Wimbledon—came together for a vibrant, high spirited parade for climate justice. Hundreds of current students, alumni, staff, and friends walked through the city in their own designs, with banners that read “solutions, not pollution”; “keep it in the ground”; “decarbonize + decolonize”; and “don’t COP out!”—a plea for governments to leave Glasgow with real, actionable plans in place. (So far, the agreements we’ve seen are ambitious, but lack firm deadlines or meaningful policy changes.)

On a call last week, students and organizers from UAL made a point that this was a parade, not a march or protest. Jeremy Till, the head of Central Saint Martins and pro-vice chancellor of UAL, described it as a model for “how the arts can—and must—respond to the climate and ecological emergency. Creative practice, including fashion, should be at the heart of reimagining, designing, and making these new worlds,” he said. “Our students have both the freedom and motivation to lead in this area.”

“I’m convinced that creativity is central to climate justice, enabling society to imagine and design a better world,” added James Purnell, the president and vice chancellor of UAL. “Creative educators must step up to this challenge and help tackle the climate emergency. At UAL, this means placing climate justice at the very centre of our culture, teaching, and operations. We’re changing the way we teach and research, ensuring students consider the climate crisis in everything they do. We’re changing how we work with others, sharing our creative insights with society to bring about change and collaborating with climate justice movements around the world.”