Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Community Responses to Climate Change at the City Retreat

On Sunday 26th September, to mark the end of Great Big Green Week, we attended ‘Community Responses to Climate Change’ at the City Retreat on Churchgate. The event was a collaboration between The Race Equality Centre, the City Retreat, Leicester Friends of the Earth and Green Guardians. The aim was to bring together people from different communities in Leicester, to share faith perspectives on looking after the natural world and to start talking about how we can work together. The talks were recorded and you can watch them on Facebook. 

Anamaria Garcia from The Race Equality Centre, who had the idea to bring together the four organisations for the event, welcomed everyone before introducing the speakers. She explained that The Race Equality Centre want to be involved in conversations about climate change because they work with newly arrived people in the city, many of whom are now refugees because of the devastating impacts of climate change in their home countries. 

Sheikh Shafi Chowdhury, the imam based at the City Retreat, spoke first from the Muslim perspective. He explained that Muslims believe the Earth was given to us as a gift from Allah so it should be treated with sanctity. The Koran says that even on the last day of the world, when the angels are sounding their trumpets, if you have a seed in your hand you should plant it, because God loves creation. He also said that faith has many branches but the lowest branch, or the very least of faith, is to do no harm. If there is broken glass or plastic waste on the pavement, we should remove it. Faith starts with caring for our environment. He finished by saying that we may all be different but the one thing we share is the planet and we have a duty to our children’s children, and those who are already dealing with the worst impacts of climate change, to act on this issue. 

The second speaker was George Ballentyne, a member of the Baha’i community. He explained that he grew up in Glasgow, where the international climate talks will be taking place in November, and he carries the shame of his home city’s past links to slavery. He shared some quotes from Baha’i writings, including:

           The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.

And he said that we cannot talk about climate change without talking about justice. Those who are suffering the most are those who have the least and are the least able to cope. Racism is at the heart of the climate crisis. He recommended that we all read The Good Ally by Nova Reid, for more information about tackling racism. 

Chris Morley spoke from the Quaker perspective. She explained that her faith has Christian roots, with an emphasis on peace, justice, equality and sustainability. Quakers believe there is that of God in everyone, which drives them to take action to address injustice and many become activists on environmental issues, or in championing the rights of refugees. 

Raj Purohit from Hindu Climate Action pointed out that, whether people pray in a mosque, a mandir or a church, they all pray on the floor, in contact with the Earth. He described the Hindu concept of ahimsa, which means not causing harm to any species. This leads many Hindus to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet. He said that greed has led to us taking without giving back and we should all start to ask ourselves, ‘What will I give back to Mother Earth?’ The conversation has to start in ourselves and at home.

Uri Gordon, a Hebrew educator and member of the Jewish community, began by saying that it was clear how much all the faiths have in common: they all have an ethical imperative to protect life and pursue justice. No religion puts humans in a position of mastery over nature. He urged that, at this stage in the climate crisis, faith communities should dedicate the same resource to addressing climate change as they do to solving world hunger. We need to accept that the economy will have to shrink and the military be reduced. We need to work collectively, rather than as individual consumers. Uri finished by urging everyone to ensure that the event becomes a launch pad for a continuing conversation. 

Anne Scott from Christian organisation, Greenlight, was the final faith speaker. She explained that the bible says that God created the world and was pleased with his creation. He made humans in his image to care for creation and for a while, in the Garden of Eden, humans lived in complete relationship with God and with creation. However, after the fall, the relationship between humans, God and creation was broken and part of the work of Christians in restoring their relationship to God must also be in restoring their relationship with creation. 

There followed some speakers from environmental groups in Leicester. Hannah and Bruce Wakley from Leicester Friends of the Earth presented on the causes and consequences of climate change and some of the work that we have been doing. (If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know a lot about this so I won’t repeat the details here! We used photos from the Climate Visuals library in our presentation, which I highly recommend as a useful resource for all climate activists.) 

Erfana Bora spoke about Green Guardians, a Muslim environmental group that was formed during lockdown last year. They aim to add their voices to the clamour calling for change in our homes and lives and holding corporations and governments to account. They have been making use of social media to spread their message, with campaigns like the 30-day green challenge during Ramadan. They have also organised some litter picks in Spinney Hills Park, which inspired gratitude and a positive response from local people. 

Alison Skinner from Global Justice Leicester was the final speaker. She explained the organisation’s current campaign, which aims to stop corporate courts blocking action on climate change. Mechanisms in trade deals currently enable corporations to block climate action. You can sign the campaign’s petition on their website.   

Before we all went downstairs to share food and look at the stalls, Sheikh Shafi closed by saying that this event will serve as the beginning of a conversation that is long overdue. 

Altogether, it was an informative and inspiring afternoon! We were very grateful to be a part of it. We are already starting to talk about how we can continue to work together, so watch this space…



  

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Highfields Centre gardening project

As part of our new partnership with The Race Equality Centre (TREC), we are helping to create a new garden at the Highfields Centre, where TREC are based. The project has been funded by a grant of £500 from national Friends of the Earth, which is being used to buy raised beds, plants and bulbs.

Seven volunteers from Leicester Friends of the Earth and four volunteers from the Highfields Centre worked together to start the garden. We collected litter, took off the grass and installed two raised beds made of recycled plastic. We filled the raised beds with compost made from local green waste and we planted crocus bulbs, to provide an early source of nectar and pollen for the bees. We started mulching around the raised beds with woodchip, to help retain moisture in the soil. At the back of the triangular patch, next to the fence, we planted some apple mint and some wild garlic bulbs. And in the long thin strip behind the car park, we planted a thornless blackberry, to start creating an edible fence.

We'll be going back over the winter to plant some bare root fruit trees and bushes and then we'll be back again in the spring to plant herbs. If you want to get involved, keep an eye on our Facebook page or contact us to join our email list and find out the dates!






Leicester has its eye on climate talks

We launched Great Big Green Week with a street stall. Leicester Friends of the Earth volunteers had a lot of interesting conversations with passersby about COP26, the climate talks happening in Glasgow in November. Many people made a green heart pledge to act on climate change in their own lives, with pledges to walk and cycle more or eat less meat being particularly popular. The green hearts will be displayed along with pledges collected by the City Council. 

We also collected photos of people in our new giant photo frame that carries a message to world leaders at the climate talks: ‘Leicester has its eye on you’. The photos have been shared on Facebook and Twitter to call for action at the United Nations talks. A giant eyeball came along to the stall as well and posed for photos with passers-by.

Ordinary people are acting on climate change and we want to remind world leaders that they need to take action too. We are asking the UK government to end support for fossil fuels at home and abroad and help us transition to a sustainable future.

A passing Storm Trooper stopped by to support our campaign. Even the Dark Side recognises that we need to act on climate change!



Friday, 17 September 2021

Great Big Green Week - climate pledges

Community groups in Leicester are taking part in a nationwide campaign this September to highlight the need for urgent action on climate and nature ahead of COP26, the United Nations climate talks, happening later this year in Glasgow. Taking place between 18-26 September, the campaign known as the Great Big Green Week will see thousands of people across the UK organising events. The campaign aims to draw attention to climate change and destruction of the natural world, while also making a connection with these issues in local communities and showcasing actions to tackle climate change.  

We will be launching Great Big Green Week with a street stall in Gallowtree Gate tomorrow (Saturday 18th September), between 11 am and 1 pm. We have been working with the City Council to develop a list of pledges that individuals and businesses can make to take action on climate change. Individuals will be invited to write their pledge on a green heart, which will then be displayed along with pledges collected by the City Council. We will be writing to businesses to invite them to make a pledge and these will be published here on their blog. When people have made a pledge, they will be able to have their photo taken in the group’s giant photo frame that carries a message to world leaders at the climate talks: ‘Leicester has its eye on you’. The photos will be shared on social media to call for action at the United Nations talks.

If you can't come to any Great Big Green Week events, you can still make a pledge! Here is our list of ideas.

Pledge ideas for individuals 

Transport

·       Find alternatives to driving your children to school or driving to work and try them out for a couple of weeks.

·       Avoid flying for a year.

·       Change to an electric car. 

Waste

·       Repair an item of clothing so that you can keep wearing it.

·       Buy second-hand clothing and electronics instead of new for a year.

·       Use a refillable water bottle and a reusable travel coffee mug.

·       Sign up for a vegetable box scheme to eat seasonally and reduce plastic.

·       Write a shopping list and only buy items on the list, to avoid food waste.

Power

·       Install loft insulation, draught-proofing or cavity wall insulation.

·       Turn the heating down by 2 degrees and wear another jumper.

·       Install solar panels on your house.

·       Get a heat pump.

·       Switch to a green energy supplier, such as Good Energy or Ecotricity.

Nature

·       Create a pond in your garden.

·       Leave part of your lawn to grow long to create an insect paradise.

·       Grow wildflowers to feed the bees.

·       Plant a fruit tree.

·       Stop using pesticides in your garden.

·       Switch to peat-free compost or get a compost bin and make your own.

·       Eat plant-based meals for one day each week.

·       Try going vegan for a month and learn new plant-based recipes.

And then talk to a friend about what you are doing!

Pledge ideas for businesses 

Transport

·       Install showers and secure bike parking at our office(s) to encourage cycling to work, removing parking spaces if necessary.

·       Initiate a Bike 2 Work scheme, see https://bike2workscheme.co.uk/tax-free/bikes.

·       Develop a ride sharing website for our employees.

·       Part fund public transport use for commuting, e.g., season tickets.

·       Make company car fleets all electric by <date>.

·       Make local delivery light goods vehicles electric by <date>.

·       Provide EV charging points for our company car park and investigate benefits of allowing public use too.

·       Make more use of video conferencing to reduce travel, especially flying.

·       Enable remote working for x% of employees, to save travelling.

·       Support the city council workplace parking levy proposals.

·       Purchase and use e-cargo bikes for short distance sustainable deliveries.

Waste

·       Replace plastic water bottle selling with office water filters/chillers run off the mains.

·       Provide branded refillable water bottles for our employees – good advertising!

·       Ensure no plastic is used in the wrappings of in-house refreshments.

·       Commit to using x% less paper and rely more on electronic storage.

·       Remove plastic from any packaging we use.

·       Upgrade or repair computing equipment and office furniture rather than buying new.

·       Talk to waste carrier to make sure materials are being recycled and discuss how to increase recycling rate.

Power

·       Replace lighting with LEDs to reduce energy use.

·       Switch to using 100% renewable electricity.

·       Commit to reducing our power use by x% through the installation of insulation.

·       When buying new equipment or machinery (e.g., computers, compressors), choose the most energy efficient options available.

·       Train staff on energy efficiency using the Carbon Literacy training scheme.

·       Develop a heat reuse scheme to cut power consumption, e.g., reuse waste heat from computer or production areas to heat offices.

·       Install solar panels.

·       Exploit government schemes for heat pumps to replace our gas/oil central heating.

Nature

Install green roofs, biodiverse roofs or green walls where possible – see Living roofs | Brown roofs | Biodiverse roofs | Ecology | P&P (green-roofs.co.uk)  

·       Let outside areas run wild, allowing natural processes to guide habitat management.

·       Work with NatureSpot to identify and record wildlife on our land.

·       Set up bird feeding stations and nest boxes/bat boxes in suitable outside areas.

·       Install natural flood management (such as ponds, areas of rough grassland) to slow the flow of water.

·       Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides on all land that we manage.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Glyphosate campaign

 


We have started a petition asking the City Council to minimise the use of weedkiller which they spray around the streets of Leicester. Research has linked exposure to pesticides to a range of health issues, including cancers such as leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; respiratory disorders such as asthma; and diabetes and fertility issues. Glyphosate, the weedkiller used in Leicester, was recognised as a carcinogen by the World Health Organisation in 2015. In 2020 the manufacturer of the weedkiller Roundup, which contains glyphosate, paid out over $10 billion to settle lawsuits from people who developed cancer as a result of using their product.

Whilst we recognize that it is necessary to remove plants from pavements to stop people slipping, we are asking the Council “if it is really necessary to spray parks and green spaces?  Does it really matter if wild plants grow around trees or fence posts?” Surely, we need more space for wildlife in our city. More plants = more insects, more birds, more life!

We have written to Adam Clarke the Deputy City Mayor for Leicester Council and he has confirmed that the City Council are still using Glyphosate. He explained that the Council have been working very hard to try and reduce their use of pesticides but they cannot stop using these products altogether. Unfortunately, this does mean that the parks and open spaces in the city are still being sprayed and as children are particularly vulnerable to pesticide poisoning (they absorb three times more pesticides than adults) because their skin is more permeable and they spend more time playing close to the ground, this does mean that we are putting our city children at risk! 

Members have been taking pictures of areas in parks and around open spaces which they think have been sprayed with pesticide. The photo album can be viewed here . 

We are also asking the City Council to, as a duty of care, and as an immediate measure, put up signs to alert park uses which particular areas are to be avoided as they have been sprayed. This is common practice in many cities in America. This would help to safeguard our children and pets and the health of the general public. The WHO estimates that over 350,000 people in developing countries die each year as a result of acute pesticide poisoning, with upwards of 750,000 suffering from chronic defects and cancers as a result of long-term exposure.

As well as being harmful to human health, pesticides are also damaging the environment. A single application of a pesticide or insecticide can remain present in the soil for up to three years, so repeated doses – even one every twelve months – can render the soil toxic for years. They work systemically affecting all of a plant including its pollen and nectar, which means they are taken up by pollinators such as bees. Given the vital role that insects play in our ecosystems, and the importance of nature in helping to tackle the climate emergency, it seems imperative that the Council stops spraying its land with substances that are so harmful to insects and human health.

The petition will be presented to the City Council later this year asking them to re-think the way they manage our green spaces. Please help to encourage the Council to keep our children safe and sign it at

Melanie Wakley

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

New partnership with The Race Equality Centre

Today marks the launch of our new partnership with The Race Equality Centre in Leicester! We're so excited to be working with them.


Here's the press release:

Leicester groups link up to fight racism and the climate emergency 

•       Race and climate justice must go hand-in-hand, say groups

•       Two Leicester sites in desperate need of reviving with some creative planting to be transformed into wildlife-friendly spaces

 Race equality and environmental groups in Leicester are teaming up to fight racism and the climate emergency. 

The Race Equality Centre (TREC) is joining forces with Leicester Friends of the Earth and Climate Action Leicester and Leicestershire to jointly campaign for a cleaner, fairer future. 

This is a crucial year for combatting the climate emergency, with the UK government hosting the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow later this year. 

The historical bulk of pollution over centuries has come from industrialised nations in Europe and North America, but it’s poorer countries, that have done the least to cause climate breakdown, that are now paying the highest price. Many of the people and organisations TREC works with come from climate-threatened nations, such as Sudan, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka. 

At a national level the groups are calling for richer countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions faster and provide financial aid to less wealthy nations to help them cope with the sharp end of the climate crisis.

On a local level, to mark this positive and creative partnership, the organisations will be transforming two derelict local spaces into wildlife-friendly gardens projects. The sites at the Highfields Centre where TREC is based, and the Caribbean Court Day Centre, will also promote the well-being of service users. 

Iris Lightfoote, CEO of TREC, said: 

“We are delighted to launch this partnership with Friends of the Earth. We have much in common – both organisations are passionate about tackling racism and the climate crisis. Ending racial injustice has to be part of facing up to climate change.

“The home nations of many of our service users are already on the sharp end of climate change. They are already suffering from severe drought and flooding that has devastated crop yields causing economic devastation and forcing communities to flee into unknown territories for a better life. It’s vital that communities join together to stop the climate crisis getting any worse.” 

Albert Blake, Chair of Trustees, Caribbean Court Day Centre, said:

“We are pleased to be working with Leicester Friends of the Earth to build new green space in the city. Friends of the Earth’s start up grant will help our service users get involved in creating an eco-friendly space within our local environment, and it will be great for their wellbeing too!”

Hannah Wakley, Co-ordinator of Leicester Friends of the Earth, said: 

“We are delighted to have formed this partnership with TREC and to have found so much in common. The two garden projects are exciting, and we are looking forward to working with them on our campaign to raise awareness around the vital COP26 international climate talks in Glasgow in November.” 

Richard Dyer, East Midlands Campaign Organiser, Friends of the Earth’s head office, said: 

“If we are to win against climate change, we also have to win on racism. Climate change is already impacting on all of us. We must work together for a fairer, greener world. Our new partnership with TREC is a vital development in building links between environmental and racial justice.”

It was covered in the Leicester Mercury.

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Helping out at Melbourne Street Community Garden

We had a lovely morning at Melbourne Street Community Garden in Highfields, helping Aamenah who co-ordinates the volunteers looking after the garden. They took over the site quite recently and had quite a challenge even opening the gate because of the brambles at first! They've been making good progress in clearing and we helped out by getting the main raised bed ready to plant, creating a small herb bed, spreading woodchip and cutting back the scrub at the back of the garden.

 





Sunday, 6 June 2021

Pesticide spraying

At a recent Parish Council meeting in my village the PC voted to carry on spraying round the village tennis court and play area with weedkiller.  When I enquired what the weedkiller is that they use I was told it was glyphosate and I was also told that it was ok because it is what the County Council use.

I wrote to Leicester City Council and to Leicestershire County Council asking them to stop spraying with glyphosate as lots of other Councils have already stopped spraying.

Leicestershire County Council responded saying they had put the spraying (of the highways) on hold and it was under review and they would let me know the result of the review and their decision about spraying.

Leicester City Council were not quite so helpful in as much as they are carrying on spraying and explained their reasons why they had to.  Basically, they said they had tried and researched other methods but they were too costly and time consuming so they needed to keep spraying.

This is an ongoing project and we are formulating our response to Leicester City Council at the moment.  Watch this space….

Saturday, 29 May 2021

Leicester & Leicestershire Peat-Free List

Since launching our 'Leicester is No Place for Peat' campaign, we have been encouraging individuals to pledge to only use peat-free compost. We have also been contacting organisations and asking them to take the same pledge. We are now ready to reveal our list of peat-free places in Leicester and Leicestershire! This will be updated regularly as more organisations pledge to go peat-free. To help our peat-free friends, we're also compiling a list of where to buy peat-free compost locally. If you know of a shop or an organisation that should be included on our list, please contact us.

Peat-Free Places and Organisations

Avenue Primary School, Leicester

Brooke House School, Cosby, Leicestershire

Brookside Primary School, Oadby, Leicestershire

Graceworks Community Garden, Evington, Leicester

Granby Primary School, Leicester

Leicester City Council (all gardens)

Manor High School, Oadby, Leicestershire

Overdale Infants School, Leicester

Overdale Junior School, Leicester

University of Leicester

Woodland Grange Primary School, Oadby, Leicestershire

 

Peat-Free Compost Suppliers

Most big chain stores selling garden supplies will have at least one brand of peat-free compost, although you may need to check labels carefully to find it!

Attfields Farm Shop, Cosby, Leicestershire

Coles Nursery, Thurnby, Leicestershire

Co-op supermarkets 

For a full list of peat-free compost brands and peat-free nurseries across the UK, check out Dogwooddays’ list. The nearest peat-free nursery is Barnsdale Gardens in Rutland, which only grow using peat-free compost. You can order from them online and plants will arrive in cardboard packaging.


Saturday, 24 April 2021

City Council should take back control of the buses

Alongside Climate Action Leicester and Leicestershire, we have today written to the City Mayor urging him to take back control of the buses. You can read our letter below. We think we need a radical improvement in our public transport in the city and the bus companies are never going to provide it of their own accord. 

------------------------
Dear City Mayor, 

We are writing to you as transport activists. In some cases, we have spent many years campaigning for better public transport in Leicester. 

We have read the Draft Bus Plan and we are pleased to see the level of ambition for improving bus services and increasing patronage. When we are facing a climate emergency, we need a radical improvement in the bus services to persuade people to make the necessary change in their transport habits.
 
We know that you have decided to pursue an Enhanced Partnership. However, we have no faith that the Enhanced Partnership mechanism will enable these ambitions. It is our experience that the bus companies in Leicester are not really interested in improving their services as long as they maintain their profits. 

The National Bus Strategy states, ‘We will support any LTA which wishes to access franchising powers, and which has the capability and intention to use them at pace to deliver improvements for passengers’ (p.10). We understand that there are difficulties associated with franchising and finding the capacity within the Council to manage that system. However, we believe it is necessary for the Council to take that level of control if there is to be a significant improvement in the bus services. We know that you have always wanted better control of the city’s public transport and we hope that you will lead the way for UK cities in seeking this.

We urge you to work with other cities and the County to seek joint agreement that franchising is the only realistic means of achieving networks and services commensurate with the government’s decarbonisation requirements, and then to do everything you can together to win the government’s support for that approach. We would be happy to do whatever we can to help, and look forward to hearing your reaction to this proposal. 

Yours sincerely,

The members of:
Leicester Friends of the Earth 
Climate Action Leicester and Leicestershire’s Transport Action Group
Climate Action Leicester and Leicestershire’s Low Carbon Planning and Housing Group