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Garry Jones's blog

Fri 11 Oct 2019

I recently celebrated 5 years with Support Staffordshire, 7 as an employee in the CVS world and 14 overall (previously as a volunteer/trustee) but you might not know my first career was in nature conservation. I have worked with 3 Local Wildlife Trusts and worked and volunteered for the RSPB twice as well as short spells in both the private and statutory sector – what’s that got to do with anything I hear you say?

Well, my bit was education, volunteering and community engagement and I loved my work. But one of the main reasons I left was a nagging doubt that we could ever really change anything whilst too many in the leadership of that sector essentially viewed people as the problem, instead of the solution. Personally I hit a glass ceiling, where my face didn’t fit and I vividly remember being told that social inclusion wasn’t the job of environmentalists… how times change.

Yet, I suppose I have thus far failed to really marry up my love of nature and passion to conserve what we have left, with my current career in the world of people and social challenges – where the challenges are so great in their own right and my own work is under constant pressure to balance the books and keep our services going for all that use and rely upon them. I still feel there is a deep disconnect between environmental justice and social justice in too many communities and with too many decision makers and influencers.

But Greta Thunberg’s recent UN Climate Summit speech reminded me that I should keep trying. Personally I can probably feel quite smug – I am a vegetarian, don’t take flights, don’t buy much stuff, have a renewable energy supplier, recycle etc. etc. I do a lot of car miles and tell myself I can’t afford an electric car (not that this is a solution in itself anyway) and that in a rural county I have little choice but to drive (which in many ways is true). I have vowed to use less baby wipes, but you know it’s really hard when your 2 year old runs at you with his sticky fingers when you have an important meeting that morning!

Greta reminds us all that our generation and our parents have ‘stolen her dreams’ and then have the audacity to come to young people ‘for hope’. How dare we indeed. Of course, her message is targeted with precision, not at the everyday Joe, but at the national politicians, financers and media moguls who could actually make the gear shifts we need. I feel pretty confident that Joe public would actually respond well, if supported and enabled to change behaviour as a society, rather than feel they are making lonely sacrifices whilst the rich and powerful keep jet setting and burning fossil fuels at will. It is no coincidence that the abuse Greta receives on social media (its immense and vile) largely emanates from white, middle aged, well-off, western, angry, men. This is a young woman standing up for what she believes in and I for one think she must be one of the bravest people I have ever come across, as well as being right.

So, at Support Staffordshire, we have made two tiny steps in the right direction: Firstly, we have written climate change into our new Business Plan – no we don’t really know what we are going to do about it; but it’s there, so it can’t keep being ignored. Secondly, my colleague Jill Norman is convening a conversation with a cross-organisation group of staff, to see what we all think we can do about it. We are a small organisation, tiny by world standards, and could easily say there is nothing we can do without the USA and China on Board. But actually, we all have to do something, only in that way will we reach a tipping point where more people than not ‘get it' – that the social, political, economic and technological fabric of society, worldwide, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment and there is no ‘away’ into which we can throw our climate emergency.

 

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