The 70s-90s were exciting times for BFoE. Instead of tackling socio-environmental issues with pessimism and fear, there was a sense of inspiration and community cohesion. “We naturally found ourselves focussing on what individuals and groups could do to bolster and demonstrate the positive side of a message – and this had the effect of empowerment, linkage, positiveness and fun – all essential ingredients for long-term and positive growth”, reflects campaigner Lyn.
Looking back on BFoE campaigns, it seems that innovation, vision, and people power were all integral to their success. Networking was another important tool. Community groups worked together cooperatively on multiple eco-issues. This created a wider, more diverse network of community voices, all supporting the same campaign issues. Politicians are more inclined to take notice when multiple groups of stakeholders speak up. Local groups feel motivated to collaborate.
During the 70s, BFoE campaigned on four different issues: recycling, urban wildlife, sustainable energy, and recycling. With strong community networks, we helped to link up different environmental groups, gaining support with a range of environmental campaigns. “Conservation Groups supported the built environment campaigns, numerous wildlife groups supported cetacean (sea mammal) campaigns, and political organisations supported the Post Office Campaign. FOE Brum was always a very inclusive and open group, trying to draw on people’s skills and knowledge. There was an infectious and fun feeling in our activities which never felt like work.” This sense of community support has multiple benefits. When workers feel happy and supported, their productivity increases by 13%. Many hands make light work, especially when people enjoy themselves! According to a study, volunteering can also increase positive feelings, instil feelings of trust, and reduce depression. As people experience eco-anxiety and feelings of helplessness about environmental crises, it can help to have a support network and work together with people that care. BFoE’s emphasis on networking was a very forward-thinking approach to environmental campaigning, which no doubt increased morale.
During the 70s-90s, BFoE also used eco-education to support campaigns. In her blog, Lyn discussed the importance of environmental education. “Information underpinned our campaigns and informed our activities. It empowered members and it made our activities credible. We created exhibitions, gave numerous talks to all manner of groups, supplied handouts for distribution and attended many schools to talk about environmental topics which were becoming increasingly in the public spotlight.” Education has become an important part of environmentalism. Environmental issues have made their way into the mainstream, with the rise of social media activists, environmental news, and the announcement of a Natural History GCSE. People’s views on environmentalism were first researched in the 1970s, with a major expansion in research during the 1980s-90s. Nature education can affect people’s awareness of environmental awareness, and influence their behavioural attitudes. With this in mind, BFoE’s focus on environmental education was an innovative approach to campaigns and has been an important part of campaign success.
This year we are celebrating 50 years of BFoE campaigning. Keep an eye out on our social media channels for photos, videos, blogs, interviews with past and present volunteers and an invite to our summer Birthday party.
Written by Elizabeth Polkey