Climate Emergency: Bovey & Heathfield - Pushing for Change
Mon 1 Mar 2021
In our last Cottage article we talked about the things we could all do to reduce our carbon footprints. We acknowledged that there also needs to be big political and social changes in order to tackle the climate and environmental emergency. In this article we talk about pushing for such change.
Mike Berners-Lee describes how this ‘pushing for change’ can actually happen in our day-to-day lives. Every time we engage in a discussion with family and friends about the climate emergency and how we may collectively tackle it, we are indeed pushing for change. Every time we check out the provenance of the fruit and vegetables we buy and describe to others why we don’t want to buy food which is flown in, we are pushing for change. Every time we articulate our concerns about packaging and single use plastic to manufacturers and retailers, or our views on biodiversity or tree planting, we are pushing for change. Every time students raise the issue of disinvestment of university funds, or pensioners move their pension pots, from fossil fuel industries they are pushing for change.
It is not just the doing of it, but also encouraging and explaining (but not berating) to others that matters.
There are of course other ways in which many people endeavour to push for change.
We can try to influence our politicians, local, county and national, and vote for the candidates and parties which seem to us to ‘get’ the climate emergency and talk most coherently about it. Prior to the last general election, there were hustings in Newton Abbot which focused on the climate emergency to which all parliamentary candidates in local constituencies were invited - but not all attended.
A recent international survey found that 64% of people think that climate change is now a global emergency. The figure for the UK was even higher at 81%. If that 81% all endeavoured to influence politicians to take positive action that could bring about some real change.
Write to your MP
We can talk or write to our MPs about specific issues which concern us.
It is our MP’s job to represent us in Parliament whether we voted for her/him or not. The charity Shelter has set out some guidelines on how to make this most effective and we have summarised some of their tips.
You can ask your MP to raise your concerns with the government minister responsible for an issue. For example, if you wished to influence discussions at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26), which will take place in Glasgow in November 2021, you could ask your MP to raise your concerns with Alok Sharma, the government minister who is leading on this conference. (We shall return to this elsewhere at a later date.)
MPs usually have an office in their constituency and in Parliament. You can contact them at either office by telephone, letter or email. Find your MP’s constituency office address, email address and phone number through: https://members.parliament.uk/members/commons
Some people believe that a typed or handwritten letter is really effective, possibly because it is quite unusual nowadays. But MPs will also respond to emails. In both letters and emails you must include your full address and postcode as an MP will only concern themselves with issues from their own constituents. The Central Devon MP, Mel Stride, has an automatic reply on his email which asks that you include your full address for this reason.
Keep your letter or email concise and relatively brief (a page or two, max) and stick to a single issue.
Use your own words to explain why you care about this issue. You could talk about relevant facts and figures and also describe how the climate and environmental emergency has an impact on your family, friends and the country, eg flooding, heatwaves, wildlife habitat loss, pollution.
You might want your MP to do something themselves or to raise the issue with others. Try to say what you hope your MP will do to take your issue further and ask for a response stating what they will do, and later what they have done.
It can also be empowering to become involved in local groups and activities, including following or becoming involved in groups like Friends of the Earth (groups in Exeter and Torbay), Greenpeace (group in Exeter) and Climate Emergency: Bovey & Heathfield and Plastic Free Bovey Tracey.
Taking action and protesting
Before the beginning of the pandemic there were many examples of protest and non-violent action about climate change, including Extinction Rebellion (XR). XR has become a huge movement, with members from across the country (including Devon) and from different age-groups. They organised a number of non-violent, festival-type protests mostly in London and other big cities. Smaller events and protests have taken place locally and there are XR groups in Exeter, Newton Abbot, Totnes and Mortonhampstead.
Other examples include the school strike which has become an international movement. Also, as I write at the end of January, there are four people who plan to stay for as long as they can in tunnels under Euston Square in protest against the costly HS2 project.
Whether or not XR and other direct action groups are the most effective way of encouraging change there is no doubt they have had a significant impact on our collective awareness of the climate emergency.
So there are a range of ways in which we can all get more involved and play our part in pushing for change; as Mahatma Gandhi wrote: we need not wait to see what others do. The direct approach does not suit us all but we can all do something!