Thursday, 9 May 2019

Indigenous peoples conquest and revival

This longer article was written by Alison Skinner, a member of Leicester Friends of the Earth, to give an overview of the history of indigenous peoples. 



Summary

The UN estimates that there are currently around 370 million indigenous people living in over 70 countries. Most of us are aware of the way in which our European ancestors exploited indigenous peoples in the lands they conquered, but we also need to think about the new methods of social and economic oppression which are happening right now. It is also the case that indigenous people in many countries are not just passive victims of this process and where possible are acting individually and collectively to preserve their homes, communities and culture.


Friday, 19 April 2019

We want your campaigning stories!


The University of Leicester is helping to organise a Journey to Justice Festival in October at Attenborough Arts Centre. Journey to Justice is a charity aiming to use education to inspire future activists. They have created a travelling exhibition about the US civil rights movement and in every city they visit, they also try to showcase local stories about social activism. 
The University is researching stories in Leicester and they want to include a local story about environmental justice. One of the organisers came to our April meeting to ask for our help. So, if you've been involved in environmental campaigning in Leicester, tell us one (or more) of your stories! We're interested in any environmental campaigns - it doesn't matter how long ago they happened. Here are some questions to get you started:
  • When did this happen?
  • What were you campaigning for?
  • What did you do for your campaign? 
  • Who helped?
  • What happened as a result of the campaign?
If you've got photos or leaflets to accompany your story, we would love those too (images of leaflets would be fine - no need to send originals). Please email us with your stories: leicesterfoe@gmail.com Let us know whether you are happy for us to pass on your contact details to the University researchers and then you may see your story included in the exhibition!

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Launch of the Healthy Air Manifesto

We held a photo opportunity outside Leicester Town Hall, at 5.30pm, on the 2nd of April, to launch the updated version of the Healthy Air Manifesto for Leicester. The manifesto sets out proposals for improving Leicester’s air quality.  The launch is timed to coincide with the start of the campaign for the local elections on the 2nd of May. To highlight the extent of the problem we wore face masks, including, in some cases, proper gas masks.

Air pollution has been shown to greatly increase people’s likelihood of developing lung disease, heart disease, strokes, dementia and even depression.  It has also been shown to adversely affect lung development in growing children and to impair cognitive development.
Leicester has particular problems with air pollution due to the layout of its roads and due to lying in a bowl, which traps polluted air; and last year the World Health Organization identified Leicester as having some of the worst levels of air pollution in the UK.  Some progress in improving Leicester’s air quality has been made in recent years, but Friends of the Earth believe that much more still needs to be done.   
Malcolm Hunter, a spokesperson for Leicester Friends of the Earth said:
“Air pollution has wide ranging effects on people’s health and contributes towards hundreds of extra deaths a year, in Leicester alone.  Urgent action is needed and we are therefore calling on all candidates in the forthcoming local elections to commit to implementing those policies in this Manifesto that are within the City Council’s power to implement and to lobby central government to act on those that are not.”

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Healthy Air Manifesto for Leicester



In 2015, in conjunction with other local campaign groups, we launched our first Healthy Air Manifesto for Leicester. Four years later, we have published a new list of policies that we think are necessary to reduce the levels of air pollution in Leicester. 

Healthy Air Manifesto for Leicester


Version 2: Spring 2019


Air pollution contributes to respiratory illnesses, heart disease, cancer and even Alzheimer’s disease. Half of Leicester residents are concerned about air pollution. We want to live in a city where the air is clean and does not damage anyone’s health. We welcome Leicester City Council’s action on air pollution, with the target for increasing cycling, the electric taxi charging points and road space re-allocation schemes, like that being implemented on London Road. However, with the new understanding about the scale of the environmental crisis facing our planet and the City Council’s declaration of a climate emergency, we believe there is still more that can be done.

Reducing the overall level of motor traffic is the most effective way to tackle air pollution, reduce climate change emissions and create a renewed sense of community. We are calling for the council to take the following urgent steps to protect our right to breathe clean air:

1. Create a city-county transport planning group to co-ordinate transport planning between the two councils.


Reduce pollution from public transport
2. Introduce a Class D charging Clean Air Zone in the Air Quality Management Area. 

3. Conduct a feasibility study into building a tram and/or trolleybus system in Leicester to provide pollution-free (at point of use), reliable mass transportation.

4. Electrify the bus fleet on a rolling programme, starting with the vehicles on the most polluted routes.

5. Adopt the same timetable as Oxford City Council to clean up taxis, with a phased approach that requires all Hackney carriage taxi drivers to have zero-emission capable vehicles by 2025 to receive a licence to operate in Leicester.  

6. Convert the Midland Mainline and CrossCountry train line to run on electricity or hydrogen. Investigate re-opening urban railway stations, like Wigston, and branch lines along heavily populated routes.

7. Follow the example of Paris in establishing a car-free day within the inner ring road every month, to encourage people to explore alternative means of transport and reduce pollution.


Reduce the number of trips by private motor vehicles

8. Re-regulate the bus companies to control ticket prices and increase patronage. Make bus travel free for children.


9. Establish a Workplace Parking Levy to charge employers who provide car parking. Re-invest any money raised through this scheme in public and active transport. 

10. Set a limit for the amount of car parking spaces available in the city centre and commit to a programme to gradually reduce that number. Require all car parks to provide secure bike storage.

11. Accelerate the process of re-allocating road space to more sustainable forms of transport, such as active and public transport, and ensure that new cycle provision is always physically segregated.  


Education
12. Run a campaign to make car drivers more aware of cyclists and improve their safety.

13. Follow the example of York City Council in introducing a campaign to stop drivers idling their engines and enforce the law with a fine.


14. Run a smarter choices travel planning programme for journeys to school across the city, to encourage parents and children to walk, cycle or take the bus and thereby reduce pollution around schools.

15. Enforce Leicester City Council’s Smoke Control Area to ensure that only smokeless fuel is burnt in domestic stoves. 

16. Raise awareness of air pollution to help vulnerable people to reduce their exposure and encourage people to change their behaviour to reduce their contribution to the problem.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Beasts of the Southern Wild.

The last film in the 'Green Screen' series at the Phoenix was Beasts of the Southern Wild. 

The student climate strikers began the evening with a very inspiring talk about why they are making a global protest against climate change and why we should all try to make a difference.   

Lucia and Amy said they held a protest in Leicester on the 15th March to raise awareness about climate change.  They gave out leaflets to people walking by – some people accepted the leaflets, some didn’t but Lucia said it was the 70% who stopped to talk to them, supported them but just accepted climate change – that really frightened her.  People who said yes, we know it is true but we have no power to change or stop it, so can do nothing to prevent it happening.  People in the street thought that they alone as individuals had no way of stopping the progress of climate change.  Lucia agreed with them she said as individuals we can’t stop it but we have to come together to fight this – if people don’t care about themselves, they should care about their children’s future, their grandchildren’s future.  She said we need to come together to fight this and we need to make governments listen and help before it is too late. 

We then watched a film about an area of land called ‘the bathtub’ which was due to go under water when the ice cap melts and the water level rises.  The film was about the families who lived there knowing that the water level would rise.  A wall had been built to protect people from the rising water but some families were on the wrong side of the wall…. Some of them left, taking as many of their belongings as they could and some of them said they would stay as it was their home and where they made a living.  The rains came though and the water level rose – some of the people survived and some didn’t. 

It is difficult for me to tell the story because it broke my heart – watching family’s homes (albeit very poor homes) going under water as climate change hits with such devastating results.  I think it was even more traumatic because children were involved and just makes me ask – how can we let this happen?

As the Student Strikers said at the beginning of the film – we must stop this – we must get governments to listen…. Lucia and Amy said they worried about the 70% who were indifferent – who say we can’t do anything about climate change – we can’t get people to listen and change things….  But one thing is for sure – we will keep trying, striving for change, striving to make the Governments of the world wake up to the reality of what will happen if we don’t sort this out.

We will keep trying to make Governments listen, trying to get society to change its ways, we will keep trying – and we will win – because we have to…..  

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Natalie Bennett Climate Change Talk


On Tuesday evening, the Plan-It Change Society at the University of Leicester and Leicester Green Party co-hosted an event called Climate change: the world is acting and so can Leicester. The main speaker was Natalie Bennett, ex-leader of the Green Party. She began by talking about the unseasonably nice weather we had been having and how it was indicative of climate change.  She explained that before she got into politics, she came from a scientific background but said that she had discovered that very few politicians came from scientific backgrounds.  This of course makes it difficult to work with them on climate change.

Natalie then gave us a report on the UN climate talks in December.  She talked about the different groups who attended the talks and how this has developed with new groups being represented each year.  Interestingly, she said the fashion industry were represented for the first time in 2018, which is important because they contribute emissions equivalent to the maritime and aviation industry combined.

Natalie said she would talk about the good, the bad and the ugly at the talks. The ‘ugly’ was the way that Poland promoted coal. Schools in Poland still have coal boilers and everyone left the talks with the ‘Katowice cough’ from the pollution.  However, she did have an interesting anecdote. She saw a man shovelling coal into a school’s coal hole and took a photo.  The man waved at her and without speaking any English indicated to her that he didn’t want his picture taken shovelling the coal. She deleted the picture but kept the picture of the coal heap and he was satisfied with that.  Natalie thinks people are becoming ashamed of being associated with the coal and that things will change, even in Poland.  


Natalie then moved onto the ‘bad’.  The farming industry at the talks claimed that they didn’t need to change from using nitrogen-based fertilizers - they would just use less.  But using any nitrogen fertiliser requires enormous energy input to make the fertiliser and they then evaporate and contribute to air pollution. We can’t just use it more efficiently; we have to move to organic. 

Then came the ‘good’. Natalie said that now we understand the science better, we know that we all need to change and we know that we have to do this soon – within 12 years…  She discussed how difficult it is to change society but then she said let’s think about what has changed in the last 12 years.  For example, Twitter is only 12 years old and it is now central to political debate so it is possible to change very quickly.

Natalie then went on to talk about the shipping company, Maersk. At the talks they announced that they were going to be carbon neutral by 2050.  This means that by 2030 they are going to be buying carbon neutral ships.  But these ships don’t exist yet, so this Tmeans in 11 years they are going to design, build and commercially produce them! We may not know what the route of change is yet, but we will have to work it out!  


She ended by talking about Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who has become the voice for the student climate strikers.  Natalie said everyone can make a difference – Greta began at the age of 15 by sitting outside of her school saying politicians need to listen… We as adults need to celebrate and support the youth movement, encourage them and bring them on board.   


Natalie then introduced two student climate strikers from Leicester. Joe said he heard about Greta and her protest but thought he couldn’t do anything himself.  He thought there wasn’t enough time to organise anything but then realised his sister was talking to all of her friends trying to organise a protest and he thought he had better join in.  At the first Leicester student climate strike, they got about 30 students to meet up at the Clock Tower.  They have since had a meeting to talk about their group principles such as peaceful protest and they are now organising another event for March 15th.

His 13-year-old sister, Amy, then spoke.  She talked about her dream for the future, which mainly was to make sure she had a future!  She wants to say to politicians that you should care too and this message is their top priority.  She ended by saying that adults should understand this isn’t ‘our’ responsibility as kids - this is ‘your’ responsibility as adults.  She said our planet is dying and adults need to sort it out.

Gasland film


On Tuesday evening, the Plan-It Change Society at the University of Leicester and Leicester Green Party co-hosted an event called Climate change: the world is acting and so can Leicester. The main speaker was Natalie Bennett, ex-leader of the Green Party. She began by talking about the unseasonably nice weather we had been having and how it was indicative of climate change.  She explained that before she got into politics, she came from a scientific background but said that she had discovered that very few politicians came from scientific backgrounds.  This of course makes it difficult to work with them on climate change.


Natalie then gave us a report on the UN climate talks in December.  She talked about the different groups who attended the talks and how this has developed with new groups being represented each year.  Interestingly, she said the fashion industry were represented for the first time in 2018, which is important because they contribute emissions equivalent to the maritime and aviation industry combined.


Natalie said she would talk about the good, the bad and the ugly at the talks. The ‘ugly’ was the way that Poland promoted coal. Schools in Poland still have coal boilers and everyone left the talks with the ‘Katowice cough’ from the pollution.  However, she did have an interesting anecdote. She saw a man shovelling coal into a school’s coal hole and took a photo.  The man waved at her and without speaking any English indicated to her that he didn’t want his picture taken shovelling the coal. She deleted the picture but kept the picture of the coal heap and he was satisfied with that.  Natalie thinks people are becoming ashamed of being associated with the coal and that things will change, even in Poland.  


Natalie then moved onto the ‘bad’.  The farming industry at the talks claimed that they didn’t need to change from using nitrogen-based fertilizers - they would just use less.  But using any nitrogen fertiliser requires enormous energy input to make the fertiliser and they then evaporate and contribute to air pollution. We can’t just use it more efficiently; we have to move to organic. 

Then came the ‘good’. Natalie said that now we understand the science better, we know that we all need to change and we know that we have to do this soon – within 12 years…  She discussed how difficult it is to change society but then she said let’s think about what has changed in the last 12 years.  For example, Twitter is only 12 years old and it is now central to political debate so it is possible to change very quickly.

Natalie then went on to talk about the shipping company, Mersk. At the talks they announced that they were going to be carbon neutral by 2050.  This means that by 2030 they are going to be buying carbon neutral ships.  But these ships don’t exist yet, so this means in 11 years they are going to design, build and commercially produce them! We may not know what the route of change is yet, but we will have to work it out!  


She ended by talking about Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who has become the voice for the student climate strikers.  Natalie said everyone can make a difference – Greta began at the age of 15 by sitting outside of her school saying politicians need to listen… We as adults need to celebrate and support the youth movement, encourage them and bring them on board.   


Natalie then introduced two student climate strikers from Leicester. Joe said he heard about Greta and her protest but thought he couldn’t do anything himself.  He thought there wasn’t enough time to organise anything but then realised his sister was talking to all of her friends trying to organise a protest and he thought he had better join in.  At the first Leicester student climate strike, they got about 30 students to meet up at the Clock Tower.  They have since had a meeting to talk about their group principles such as peaceful protest and they are now organising another event for March 15th.

His 13-year-old sister, Amy, then spoke.  She talked about her dream for the future, which mainly was to make sure she had a future!  She wants to say to politicians that you should care too and this message is their top priority.  She ended by saying that adults should understand this isn’t ‘our’ responsibility as kids - this is ‘your’ responsibility as adults.  She said our planet is dying and adults need to sort it out.