“GET SERIOUS ABOUT THE CLIMATE”: THE NEW ENVIRONMENTAL CAMPAIGN OF BHAM YOUTH STRIKE FOR CLIMATE
More sustainability and transparency: this is what the group of activists is asking Birmingham City Council as there has been a lot of hypocrisy and no real actions to protect the environment.
On May 18th Birmingham Youth strike for climate launched a new environmental campaign called “Get serious about the climate”. Announced on their Instagram page, the campaign gathers four demands which target six areas where the local government is failing to accomplish the protection of the environment effectively.
A central focus of this campaign is the Tysley incinerator that the activists consider as the biggest polluter in Birmingham. According to the environmental group, the council has to decide whether or not to renew the contract for the incinerator; although, it seems that the local government has recently decided to go through the next stage of the negotiation with the contractor which means that the contract may be renewed. If the process goes further, the council will go against the promises of environmental improvement they have made almost a year ago when declaring the climate emergency. Bham Youth strike for climate demands the council to explain their future plans for the incinerator and the impacts on the environment if the process will go through. Besides they are asking to communicate more with the inhabitants, involving them in “an impartial survey […] explaining, and gaging their views on the plan to renew the incinerator before any formal action is made”.
Another target of the campaign is the widening of Dudley Road and other non-green infrastructure projects. For instance, in Walsall, the Council wants to raise the number of bus stops which, according to the group, is a good project but it is not sustainable if it sacrifices lots of green spaces. “We want the council to invest in green projects to create a foundation for a net-zero carbon future”, their manifesto says. In order to do so, there must be more collaboration between the Council, the local organisations and the citizens. More engagement in a greener future has to come along with a radical change in the Council’s attitude with which they have approached the climate change emergency until now. Indeed Bham Youth strike for Climate is asking to think through the local governance more sustainably. Particularly they are asking more transparency from the Council, which should advertise the progress and the actions they are taking to protect the local environment.
As 18 years old activist, Imogen Hodgkins, said in an interview: “A lot of people don’t know we have declared the climate emergency in Birmingham almost a year ago, they don’t know about the Tysley incinerator and the Dudley Road (project) because the council doesn’t want to advertise the fact that they have been hypocritical”. She added that her group has been involved in a climate task force by the Birmingham City council for a few months now which consists of meetings with members of the council alongside other organisations. During these meetings, they have discussed the progress that the local government is making in the battle against climate change. As Imogen said: “We have found, to be honest, that the council has been a lot of talks and not a lot of actions. We are quite disappointed by the progress they have made because they are basically none”. “The campaign is actually focusing on targeting this hypocrisy and try to make proper progress within the city”, she finally added.
Considering the current Coronavirus emergency, the group of young activists has sent their demands to every local MP and councillors to understand who is on their side and who they need to put more pressure on; it is also a way for them to emphasise the fact that they are still fighting for climate justice and they are tired to be ignored. “Under normal circumstances, we would probably get everyone outside of the council house and start shouting about what we are asking for” said Imogen, adding that, despite the situation, they are coming back bigger than ever.
Although Coronavirus has made aggregations impossible, Bham Youth strike for climate has never stopped to fight against climate change. As Miss Hodgkins said,“ I found the lockdown to be quite beneficial in terms of activism”. It’s the first time they don’t have to focus on school so they all had the chance to dedicate more time into the making of this campaign, said Phoebe Hanson, 18, active in the group since the first big strike in September 2019.
Environmental activism has never been more attractive since the strikes have become digital during this pandemic. Indeed Kate Baldwin, a 16 years old member of Bham Youth Strike for climate, also said: “People that couldn’t engage before now they are actually taking the time to come and engage with us”. Every Friday, the group has been involving more and more people in those online informative meetings that focus on a different topic each week. Last week the main theme was “No forest No future” through which they deepened into the impact of deforestation on indigenous people and the environment and the value of forests as they absorb a third of all carbon emissions from fossil fuels. Talking about the importance of these online events, Imogen also said: “they remind people that we are still here, we are still trying to do things, we are not gonna let Coronavirus defeat us” […] because, “at the end of the day climate change is still happening and, as long as it is still happening, we have to keep going too”.
Kate defined Bham Youth strike for climate “a community of young people who want to take back power” […] and “take hold of the environment and try to better the world we live in”. The group has been around for over a year now. They celebrated a year of activism last February with their last strike before the lockdown.
In the following interview, Kate, Imogen and Phoebe, talk in detail about their group, the green policies they are promoting, how Coronavirus has impacted on their activism and what we can learn from this crisis. Watch for more.