Evolucio, the LUC Alumni Association, called with Jacinta Hamley from the Class of 2019 to talk about activism and her experiences with “Sail to the COP”. This is part of a larger series of “portraits” of Alumni. Want to be featured, have questions for Jacinta, or about alumni in general? Do not hesitate to reach out to Evolucio via LinkedIn, Facebook or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey Jacinta, thank you for talking with us. How long have you been at sea by now?
Over two months already. We left October 2nd, but for me it’s been almost three, because I left Belfast two weeks before that. As for the project, almost immediately after graduating I started working on it basically full time. It’s certainly been a lot of work, but it has been amazing, seeing it all come to life.
So what made you decide “screw it, I’m packing it up and taking the boat”?
Several things: I’m not ready to pursue a Master’s or further education at this point in my life. I needed to see the greater purpose of my education. Instead of personal focused achievements, graduations, awards or commendations, I wanted to put my efforts into something with greater meaning beyond myself. Then this project came along at just the perfect time, as I was deep into my capstone, working intensively yet struggling with these feelings I mentioned. The project would allow me to actively combine my passion of sustainability and climate action, while making a difference for our planet.
I’m not alone on the boat! As a matter of fact there are three LUC students aboard: Justus Konneker (Class of 2019), Jiske van Oeffelt (Class of 2019) and me.
So what is Sail to the COP, what are you guys doing?
Sail to the COP is a journey that was taken by 36 Changemakers. I prefer calling us “Climate-Actioneers”, but I’m still trying to get it to catch on. We are a group that care a lot about the Climate Crisis as a whole, but also specifically the impacts from aviation and travel. We feel the effect flying has on our planet isn’t considered in the way that it should be, at a societal, organizational, national or international level.
On top of that, we also want to focus more attention on travel; only a small number of people get to travel in the world, but it has relatively huge impacts on the environment. So we’re people that are very concerned about the sustainability of travel, but also the fairness and social aspect.
So are there any differences you’re noticing between people on the boat, and people back at LUC?
I think in both cases, you’ve definitely got a bubble! There is more action though. I feel at LUC, or universities in general, we spend a lot more time theorizing and conceptualizing rather than turning that theory into action like I’m doing now.
Like LUC, we’re also a very interdisciplinary group. There are people with all kinds of backgrounds: people with a policy focus, entrepreneurs, innovators, and some like me on the intersection between environment and social factors.
Do you feel like you’ve grown a lot? You’re the most recent graduate we’ve spoken to so far: it’s only been three, four months.
Yes, definitely. I’ve especially learned a lot about working in a larger group project. Although we do a lot of group projects at LUC, something like this which takes months and has so many different parts within make it a very different kettle of fish than a group assignment of a few weeks max.
So finding my place and role within that took some time and was much harder than I expected. I thought I was a good team player, both from experience in assignments and sports, but lacking the guidelines and targets set by professors made it really different. It was very interesting to be involved in the full process, rather than following the structure set by assignments. It helped me a lot with trusting my own judgment, being more vocal, leaning into my strengths and recognizing my value in the group.
Back to that project: How are you experiencing the COP right now? I’ve heard something about Skyping in?
Yes. So we have a bit of an elaborate set up with us here in Martinique and our representatives in Madrid. For everyone that hasn’t kept up: We were off the coast of Cabo Verde when the news came that the COP was moved from Santiago to Madrid, which did not give us enough time to turn back.
We carried on across the Atlantic, for our other commitments and to continue our thinktank and media campaign. In the meantime, we sent out an open call for new representatives. With incredibly short notice, we got 22 representatives on the ground in Madrid. Every day, we call as a group and individually in a buddy system, or as we call them “COPles”. They’re there giving the presentations, networking, and attending events and negotiations. While we are in the background doing a lot of the research, lobby strategizing, social media, press outreach and giving some presentations over skype.
All in all, we get by! It’s actually surprising how good it works with two teams and modern technology, despite the distance and the time difference of five hours. We have to get up between 3 and 4 AM to skype before the sessions.
So for current students or alumni that want to do something as well: How did you get started with a project like this?
I would definitely get in contact with groups or people through their social media and events. If there are groups like XR and others, just go out and meet them. It’s hard doing something on your own, but especially the climate movement people are very welcoming and supportive. You have to take the first step and reach out, because you never know what might come out of it. Maybe even a crazy sailboat journey across the world! And there will be many more projects I’m sure of it: I’m already hearing plans for Rail to the COP for the COP in Glasgow next year.
I worry a lot about the Climate Crisis and all the things that need to be done, because it’s such a big and complex issue. This project allowed me to focus on one specific aspect, while reinforcing my faith that other people and groups will focus on the other aspects. Through all our efforts coming together will be how we tackle the crisis from all the angles needed for system change.
So what is your next move?
We will end up in Colombia. I definitely want to spend time in Latin America, connecting with groups there in the climate movement and trying to figure out where this path is actually taking me. Surprisingly, one path is my artwork. It wasn’t something I’d expected, but I have been doing a lot of painting and art for the report that’s coming out soon. I’m really curious where that can go, and if I can use it to connect with others within the climate movement and beyond.
Anything else you want to say about Climate Action, or advice to your fellow alumni in general?
Yes. The Climate Crisis is overwhelming, and in all of this we need to be really kind to ourselves. Our own welfare is also a priority, because we can’t afford to burn ourselves out. My heart and soul is in the project, so I want to do everything I can and would work day and night, but my body wouldn’t be able to keep up with that. It can feel contradictory but working relentlessly doesn’t lead to the best outcomes. I think the same goes for university, it is important to set your own boundaries and limits. To bring your best, especially when in it for the long haul, you need to support and look out for yourself like you would your friends.
Read more about Sail to the COP on their website: https://www.sailtothecop.com/
 The interview took place on December 10th, 2020, when the ship was in Martinique.