After a successful year of campaigning in 2011 (see the review article), we are raring to get going in 2012 – and we have plenty to get our teeth into! Read on for a sneak preview of what we have planned for the coming year and how you can get involved.
Buzzing about biodiversity
We’re getting in touch with our wild side this year. With an exciting new biodiversity campaign up our sleeves we’re reconnecting with nature and we want you to join us!
It’s easy to forget how much we rely upon biodiversity, locally and globally. As well as the obvious intrinsic value of different species, natural habitats and ecosystems, they also provide us with functioning food chains, clean air and water, nutritious soil, medicines, and protection from natural disasters. Biodiversity underpins the health of the Planet, but it has declined by more than a quarter in the last 35 years.
Of particular concern, and the focus for our new campaign, is the recent dramatic decline of bees and other pollinators. With a burgeoning human population, agricultural plantings have grown larger to meet increased food demands. This means a greater need for insects to pollinate the crops, but worldwide pollinator populations have crashed, sparking fears of future food shortages.
Bees pollinate around 70% of the food we eat – if they disappeared then we would have only four years left to live. The reasons for their decline are thought to be a combination of habitat and forage loss, pesticides, pests and disease.
Our new campaign will be addressing some of these issues and working to find solutions. Look out for further details – we have some great events in the pipeline and ways that you can get involved with the buzz!
New Income Equality activist groups are setting up across the UK – and the West Midlands has one.
This movement is inspired largely by the book The Spirit Level (Wilkinson & Pickett) which identifies a strong and likely causal relationship between income inequality and all manner of social and environmental problems. In a nutshell, the research behind the book demonstrates that the greater the degree of income inequality in a country, the higher its problems in terms of mental and physical health, obesity, violence, environmental degradation, lack of trust, and crime. Significantly, it finds that these problems affect not just those at the ‘bottom of the heap’ in the unequal society, but right across the spectrum.
In unequal societies, status, goods and lifestyles matter more to more people, fuelling consumerism. This also gets in the way – at individual, community, national and international levels – of the co-operation and social responsibility needed to tackle climate change and other urgent environmental problems. Economic value equates to spending power in accessing the planet’s finite resources. With such unequal access as we have, there is little to curb the environmentally damaging behaviours of the wealthy because the limits are less visible to them.
These activist groups are good allies for us in raising awareness of the economic root causes of environmental failure. As a sustainable development organisation, equity is of course inherent in FOE’s values in any case, but these arguments are also compelling for those with more indiscriminately environmental agendas.
The group meets in Birmingham of a weekday evening, with subgroups on political engagement, business engagement and public awareness.
Equality West Midlands: http://equalitywestmidlands.wordpress.com/
Equality Trust (national) http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/
Taking on Goliath
Our Final Demand campaign launched in the Autumn, and has seen some great success already. FoE took the Government to court over their hastily slashed support for solar energy projects, and their actions were ruled as illegal. Their revised cuts still leave much to be desired though, so there is more work to be done in 2012. The coming months will be an exciting time for Final Demand as we move into phase two of the campaign. The Government plans to reform the electricity market this May. We hope to have some influence in the process to ensure that the big six energy companies do not continue their stranglehold on the market, and that renewable energy gets the support it deserves. Keep an eye out for more information in the coming weeks.
Show your support: sign the Final Demand petition at http://www.foe.co.uk/what_we_do/final_demand2_32882.html. Over 20,000 signatures online so far!
To book a FREE place on the Community Energy Masterclass in London on 31 March, email firstname.lastname@example.org (cc email@example.com). Meet other people in the same boat, as well as experts to advise you on the big ideas and the nitty-gritty of making it happen.
Midlands’ young guns give it a shot
At the end of last year, a group of young people (aged 18-30) based in the Midlands met to perform a stunt for our Final Demand campaign. Dressing up as ‘fundraisers’ for the big six energy companies, we thanked satirically our faithful customers for their on-going support: “Even though your annual bill has gone up by an average of £500, our shareholders’ annual payment has increased by 150%. Every cloud….” With that, the Midlands Young FoE was born.
We hope that the group will grow as we head into the New Year. We’ve created Twitter and Facebook pages for people to keep up-to-date with our latest news and are already in the process of planning our next action – watch this space! If you are aged between 18-30, based in and around the Midlands, and want to get involved with a network of like-minded young people, come and join Young FoE.
You can contact us in a number of ways:
Facebook page: ‘Midlands Young Friends of the Earth’ / Twitter: @MidsYoungFoe / E-mail: Richard.Sagar@foe.co.uk
Keep it behind closed doors
“Shut that door!” If Birmingham’s shopkeepers followed this advice, they could reduce their energy use by up to 50%. Birmingham City Council has committed to a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2026. With 46% of the City’s emissions coming from shops, restaurants, offices, factories and public buildings, one of the easiest ways to reach this goal is simply for shops to close their doors.
The Birmingham Close the Door campaign was launched by BfoE last year and, after some very positive initial consultations with local shopkeepers, we are ready for the proper operation in 2012. As this newsletter goes to print, with the help of Transition Kings Heath, we are gearing up to dish out Close the Door stickers to the shops of Kings Heath – so hopefully by the time you read this, their doors will be firmly closed! Throughout the rest of the year we’ll be spreading the message to other areas of Birmingham.
Next time you see a shop door open, politely ask them to close the door. Simple! Remind them that research has shown that this does not affect sales. If you’d like to organise getting the shops in your local area to Close the Door, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.closethedoor.org.uk