The 2014 World Student Environmental Network (WSEN) Global Summit was held at Stellenbosch University (SU) from 30 June to 4 July, with attendance from 60 delegates representing over 25 countries. The WSEN is a platform for students from all over the world to come together to discuss the advancement of environmental sustainability in higher education. 2014 marked the first time that the summit was held in a developing country, an important milestone for the WSEN.
The theme for this year’s gathering was “Coming back to life”, as decided by the organising committee headed up by SU Master’s student Gina King and SI Master’s student Jay du Plessis. The theme emphasised the need for humans to reconnect with nature, seeing ourselves not as separate from, but a fundamental part of the web of life. In this respect, the social aspect of sustainability was for the first time one of the more integral parts of the conference, having had mostly a focus on climate change related issues in the past. Mark Swilling gave a keynote speech on the structural transformation and transitions to sustainable development on the African continent, and Eve Annecke held a session on Environment and Ethics along with Johan Hattingh. Mathilda, chef extraordinaire from the SI, provided vegetarian lunches for every day of the summit, also catering for special requests such as gluten free and vegan meals. The summit was a huge success with lots of positive feedback from all the delegates, who enjoyed learning about and discussing environmental and social sustainability issues from a Global South perspective.The Department of Environmental Affairs and the founding University of WSEN, Doshisha University in Japan, sponsored the summit. For more information on WSEN visit the website www.wsen2014.org and www.wsen.org.