A Leamington student has spoken out about Brexit and climate change ahead of a major event at the European Parliament in Brussels today (Tuesday October 8).
Rachel Venn, 20, who is studying physics and astrophysics at the University of Birmingham, is one of 30 young climate activists who is attending the #NotLeavingQuietly event at the European Parliament.
Her focus on science has led her to pursue sustainable energy, and she is particularly concerned about the effect Brexit will have on the scientific community in the West Midlands.
Rachel will be attending the Birmingham Conservatoire Folk Ensemble’s #NotLeavingQuietly concert at the Yehudi Menuhin space of the European Parliament, along with an audience of MEPs, media, parliament staff and campaigners, watching the biggest live music performance in the landmark’s history.
She said: "All my life has been spent pursing science, and trying to advocate for a world where our decisions are based on what is true, what is real, and what is right. In the past few years, I have been independently researching the future of our sustainable energy – fossil fuels are not the future, so what will be?
"There are so many alternatives being built and researched right now by some amazing minds, but science and innovation cannot happen without funding and barrier-free cooperation.
"Rhetoric is useless without investment and application, so to me, it is crucial that we remind our Brexit-distracted politicians that while they obsess over short-term political troubles, the clock of the world is ticking and we inch ever closer to a UK domestic energy crisis.
"I’m very excited and grateful to visit Brussels, so that I can witness for myself the level of discussion currently given to climate issues in Belgium, and to better understand the workings of the European Parliament - for if we do crash out, it will lie to my generation to rebuild those alliances and collaboration in the future.
"UK Science faces a crisis, with immediate effect and inevitable consequences, the moment the UK leaves the European Union. Speaking to scientists around the UK, I have seen that so many world-leading and world-changing projects are funded by the European Research Council.
"Would the UK reinvest in domestic science research after a hard Brexit?
"Would it reinvest the same amount, with the collaborative ties and tightly knit systems we already have in place?
"What’s more, this energy crisis is on its way, and our politicians are distracted by Brexit.
"At a time when the world begins to lean towards nationalism, and fiction holds more sway than the truth, the last thing we should do is spurn our closest neighbours, and instead hold on to the ties that bind us all the tighter, lest we lose them forever.
"For example, I visited the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, where amazing engineering has a chamber eclipse the temperature of the sun on a regular basis, in an internationally-funded effort to harness the power of the stars to use on Earth.
"I spoke to researchers there about the future of the facility and research of this kind in the UK, in a time when even the longest held plans suddenly look uncertain.
"The answer was resounding – no matter what comes in October, or even later, we must continue to enable active and open scientific collaboration between Europe and the UK.
"The cost of the potential brain drain, the obstruction of funding flow, and the damage in relations this rejection of our closest neighbours a hard Brexit would bring would massively slow progress both here and in Europe – and we cannot afford even a moment lost in our race against time.
"But despite what we may wish, the future of UK science innovation, and by extension the future of clean energy, is inseparably tied up with the politics of the continent.
"I’m looking forward to the opportunities this trip will bring me to learn as much as I can about the political process, meet like-minded people, and convey my thoughts to new platforms and people.
"I hope that from this visit and outreach, I may have the chance to reach those who I could not before.
"My goal is to promote continued collaboration and progress across Europe, for a future and environment we will all share, whether we like it or not.
"My message to those focused on Brexit, Brexit, Brexit?
"Please see, in the bigger picture, we all have much bigger things to worry about.”