I have always kept away from climate change politics. Which is odd because I live in this delightful town called Stroud that I can only describe as a homing beacon for people who are passionate about the environment.
To be honest, I’ve never thought I could afford to be a climate change activist. It always seemed like environmentalism was a middle class interest, and I’m a working single mum of two, juggling freelance jobs, doing night shifts at a rehab house for spare cash, struggling on the Universal Credit system that has left me significantly worse off.
Despite all this, I find myself constantly racked with guilt that my lifestyle isn’t more environmentally friendly. I can’t afford nice organic milk that doesn’t pollute the environment and me and my children eat meat that’s probably stuffed with chemicals that are bad for us. I shop in cheap food shops and buy products that have loads of plastic packaging and one of my least favourite chores is sorting out the recycling bin.
It keeps me awake at night racked with guilt….it actually does – my cistern on the toilet is broken and constantly drips water – loudly. I’ve tried to fix it. The landlord won’t come over and sort it out and there is no way I can afford a plumber. So I do literally lie awake at night listening to this water being wasted and feel awful.
So before coming here today, I asked my children what they thought of when they thought about climate change activism. They repeated what they had been taught in school – the climate science bit we all learn with a smattering of doom and gloom, and then the same stuff about all having to ‘do our individual bit’.
Here it is as it’s written in one of their school books:
“Every time we get in the car, turn on a light, buy our groceries or go on holiday, we make our mark. The challenge that faces us, is how can we all enjoy a high quality of life without spoiling our world for future generations? Whether at home, at work, at leisure or at school, we can all help to reduce our impact on the planet by taking some simple steps to use less resources.”
This is the problem – With just 100 companies being the source of more than 70% of the worlds greenhouse emissions, solutions to climate change shouldn’t focus on behaviour and individual consumption patterns that are disproportionately accessible to middle class white people.
They should focus on structural change, on addressing the political causes of the climate crisis that is an economic system rigged in favour of putting profit over people and planet, of protecting the profit margins of corporations who pillage and exploit the earth’s resources particularly in the global south whose livelihoods now depend on it.
We need to look at our energy system, our transport system, and public housing – amongst many other things – in order to address climate change and economic inequality together. This is what a Green New Deal could be.
Which is a relief to me…no more personal guilt? Er….yes please! The climate crisis isn’t the fault of people like me just trying to get by. It’s the fault of the fossil fuel executives and the government’s who don’t hold them to account. The green new deal can address this and whilst doing so also benefit workers with green unionised jobs whilst addressing inequality. So sure, if you’re a person like me looking to make a difference, by all means do your composting, but also fight for workers and workers rights.
What do we need to do to promote the green new deal that here? We need to firstly find and nurture talent into the Labour Party- specifically BAME and young people, so leaders like the example of Alexandra Ocasio Cortez can come through, and so that working class people are at the forefront of the push for a GND from the beginning. And then we need get organising in our communities to push for a radical GND from below and build the movement from the base up from across the UK and not just in London but bringing metropolitan cities together, rural and former industrial heartlands.
Don’t worry if you are not a climate warrior, don’t fret if you are not a scientist, and definitely don’t be even remotely concerned if you are not a politician!
I also asked my kids who they think is responsible for climate change and considering this how we then tackle it. This is what my daughter said; “it’s like that pop the weasel game…you have the base – which is like the government – and the holes where the weasels pop out and they are the polluting companies. And then you have a hammer and when the weasel pops out you hammer them down. And you keep doing that until they are climate friendly weasels”. So I asked ”who is the hammer in this analogy?”, and she replied –
She’s 12 years old and got it straight away. The Green New deal belongs to the people. We will take on the corporate weasels who are polluting the planet and hammer on the doors of governments who must be held accountable, because if my kids are anything to go by when they grow up and pick up the hammers they won’t accept our excuses.