Paul Riley works in Children’s Services at Liverpool City Council, he is a staff Green Champion, and works with a number of environmental advocacy groups throughout the city.
Here he writes about being a part of Transition Liverpool, an international movement of communities coming together to re-imagine and rebuild our world.
Campaigners, journalists, politicians, charities and individuals — we’ve all been very busy. In the last five years or so we have had no less than three General Elections, a Scottish independence referendum and a referendum on our membership of the EU. Brexit was particularly traumatic, and no matter which way you voted, we can surely agree that the way we handled that debate has damaged our society. Imagine if all that energy had brought us together, rather than setting us at each other’s throats.
As an environmental advocate, I think we had more important things to worry about. To paraphrase Greta Thunberg, our house is on fire, and yet we’ve spent four years fighting over how to arrange the furniture.
Nevertheless, 2020 is an exciting time to be alive.
For the first time in recent memory, we know where we are.
We know who our Government is, and we know (with some certainty) our relationship with the EU. I don’t think many people got exactly what they wanted, but there’s no point crying over spilt oat milk.
It is inspiring to note that despite the backdrop of political chaos, the end of the last decade saw the irrepressible rise of climate activism. Mainstream media didn’t want to cover it, politicians didn’t want to engage in it, and yet… Grassroots movements, most powerfully those led by our children, brought the environment to the forefront of public consciousness.
Those wonderful, brave and imaginative forces will find more space for their ideas, their words, and their actions in the years ahead, and this is the reason that now is an incredible time to be alive. We can create a safe future, and we know how to do it. We do it with imagination.
We know the science.
We know the scary, worst-case scenarios, and we also know that we cannot win this battle with facts, figures and fear mongering. We must stop preaching doom and gloom, and instead, roll our sleeves up. We’ve spent years talking about the evidence, and focusing on the damage we are doing to the world. Anyone who has not already been brought into the fold through these tactics isn’t going to suddenly change their mind with the next photo of a skinny polar bear, so we must change our approach. Arguments are not enough.
Climate action doesn’t call for huge sacrifices; it doesn’t require you to spend the rest of your life living in a cave, eating moss.
If the climate actions of 2018 and 2019 taught us anything, it is that we can only change our system through collective will. We need numbers. Numbers change political focus; they change market priorities. If enough people in our communities become engaged in actions to improve their own lives, they will change the world.
The world needs people to engage in grassroots work in their communities, to reintroduce imagination and creativity into their neighbourhoods, to become accidental environmental advocates. A kinder, happier world, is a more climate-friendly one. An initiative to support local economy, to make it safe for children to play on the streets, to reconnect with our food or to help those in fuel poverty — these are all climate actions.
Transition Towns is a global network whose aim is to help society to move away from the consumption of fossil fuels.
We raise awareness of the positive impacts of a low carbon lifestyle, advocating for social and economic justice. We build links with other groups across the city in order to collaborate more effectively on key focus areas such as plans for local development and the protection of biodiversity and green space. Our monthly meetings feature workshops, skill shares, guest speakers and presentations on a wide range of topics — recent subjects have included soil microbiology, clothing repair, permaculture, and climate psychology.
We provide advice and support for individuals who want to get involved in environmental/community work. We are currently developing a number of projects across the city — we’re planting hedgerows with inner city schools, planning an art takeover of our city streets, and are working with some friends on realising a Citizen’s Climate Assembly for Liverpool. There is always more work than there are people so if you want to DO something, come and speak to us!