A couple of notes about the environment
1.That word ‘environment’ is so fraught with meaning. How can we all engage with and protect the environment? What does it mean to say ‘the environment’ when we are all differently placed to engage with it? The environment is all around us, in our streets, in our homes, in our parks, in the air we breathe and the water we drink. Let’s have a broad understanding of what the environment is and means to us.
2. If engaging with the environment is as simple as walking down the street. What happens to us as we do? what do we encounter? what are we faced with? what challenges do we have? For some, walking down the street involves risk. Some people, young people particularly, are faced with higher levels of violence and I’m really devastated to say that this week there’s been another fatal incident locally, in which Chino Johnson was shot dead when out walking his dog. Some parts of our local community are dealing with such huge grief of youth-on-youth, lateral violence, and is in fact, a public health crisis.
I invite you to pause for a moment to honour the tragic loss of life of Chino Johnson.
3. With whatever happens from this point on in relation to the climate and ecological crisis — if we face increasing floods, food shortages, drought, more breakdown, more pandemics — as well as the public health crisis of gun and knife violence, what we are going to need is a solid community to lean into. So that no one gets left behind and so that communities facing gun and knife violence can heal. So that when things get tougher, we grow our networks of support, and solidarity becomes the way we do things.
The metaphor that inspires me to keep going comes from Aria Doe, speaking after Hurricane Sandy struck New York in 2012.
“Even though you have a hand pushing you down, you still offer a hand to help people up.”
(All the things the climate cannot change)
I love this. It inspires me to keep reaching out to people and being there for people, even when things are hard for me. What if we lived that principle everyday of our lives?
4. To be true to the complexity of life, we need to celebrate the initiatives that lower carbon emissions and protect nature and call for the ones that also create greater social justice and equity that aren’t yet happening and need to be happening. The times we are in necessitate a good hard look at what we aren’t doing, what we are failing to find ways to do. It needs to be OK to acknowledge the shortfalls.
It was an incredible privilege to be alongside
Kwesia, AKA City girl in nature in on an incredible journey, and speaks openly about growing up in Deptford with the challenges of marginalisation and exclusion. She got the opportunity to go on an expedition to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest and shares her love of nature with others and her passion that everyone should have the opportunity to connect to nature.
Nick who works with and advises XR, Transition town, Stand up to Racism, Healthy living platforms. His doctoral research focusses on the intersection of environmental sustainability and social justice, particularly on why environmental movements are ‘Green, but mostly white’ and asks these questions:
· Why social justice and race matter for environmentalism?
· What do we mean by community sustainability and resilience?
· Who is included in our understanding of community? Who is excluded and why?
· How can we build solidarity across differences?
It was also fantastic hearing about the Remakery, Loughborough Junction Action Group, Father Nature, Myatts field Park horticulture and Lambeth Council Climate Change team
As I welcomed and introduced the speakers, I realised I was holding John Berger’s book Hold Everything dear which he wrote in the aftermath of the second Iraq war. He articulated in 2005 the destruction we are facing ‘The blunting of the senses, the hollowing out of language, the erasure of connection with the past, the dead, place, land, soil, possibly too the erasure of certain emotions, compassion, mourning, hoping.’
It was to restore right relationship with our emotions … to grieve, to talk together about the difficult things, the conflicts, increasing the skill and capacity for empathy and celebrating our amazing people in our communities, that Lahnah, Golda and I created Amplifying the Good Energy (2020–21) and the Conflict and Grief project in 2016.
As we reflect on community, community is not really those people who look like me or like the same things as me. As Dominic Barter said,
“Community is not primarily made up of those with whom I identify but of those with whom I share resources (material and affective), with whom I share risk, with whom I persist.”
Finally, back to Aria Doe. “One of the things we do is to make the community feel safe, secure and loved. And what do you do if you feel safe, secure and loved, you dance! What else do you do?!” (after Hurricane Sandy, New York 2012)
On that note, this is our Jerusalema dance, May 2021