As the effects of climate change begin to be felt around the world and with the Howard government pushing for increased uranium mining in Australia, the need for a strong, grassroots environment movement has never been so urgent.
The Australian Student Environmental Network (ASEN) is a relatively new organisation having been initiated at the 1996 Students of Sustainability (SoS) conference held in Lismore. It has steadily increasing its organisation since then.
"ASEN has been conceived as a loose network consisting of the entire student environment network", ASEN national coordinator Holly Creenaune told Green Left Weekly. "It encompasses all campus environment collectives and state networks, with the annual mid-year Students of Sustainability conference as its highest decision-making body.
"ASEN aims to provide a network for sharing resources and skills, supporting activists and collectives, and coordinating our efforts to avert environmental destruction and create meaningful social change."
ASEN was created out of a need for more formal methods of communication, networking and decision-making between environment collectives across the country than was possible through the structures of the National Union of Students. It has outgrown the NUS environment office with "over 40 collectives and strong networks communicating, running campaigns and creating social change", said Creenaune.
However, she emphasised that "ASEN hasn't left NUS" and that although ASEN has its own constitution and structure, its members and collectives actively collaborate with NUS in building the campaign against the Howard government's Voluntary Student Unionism legislation, which came into effect on July 1.
ASEN co-ordinates its various campaigns through working groups "that decide the aims and content of their respective campaigns", said Creenaune. One of these is the Clean Energy on Campus campaign, which links in with a Greenpeace campaign that aims to achieve a goal of 20% clean-energy use by 2020.
The Clean Energy on Campus campaign seeks to have all Australian universities use clean energy. "Currently 19 campuses across Australia are campaigning to switch their university to clean energy, already with successes at Monash and Melbourne universities", said Creenaune.
She added that "ASEN has exploded in the last year in terms of the number of people active and organising, new collectives, but also our capacity for dialogue, action, and campaigns".
The annual SoS conference is a crucial time for ASEN since this is where it holds its annual general meeting. This year's SoS conference will be held July 9-15 in Brisbane at the University of Queensland. For more information, visit <http://www.studentsofsustainability.org>.
From Green Left Weekly, July 5, 2006.
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