I started my environmental journey in 1989 when I enrolledon a degree course at Leicester Polytechnic called cience & TheEnvironment Looking back, it seems like it was ahead of its time, as itcovered many of the issues we still face today. Not that I can claim I was. Ididn know much about the environment before I started. It was just a fewyears after Live Aid and the birth of Comic Relief and I simply wanted to havea career where I felt like I would achieve something and avoid the hum drumroutine of many other jobs.
I started the course at the same time as Bill McKibbenpublished The End of Nature, the first mainstream book on Climate Change. Iread this and many others and was hooked on being an environmentalist. I turnedveggie, wore second-hand clothes and hitch-hiked, cycled and bussed everywhere.ander drank a lot of beer, while discussing with friends how we could save theplanet and put the world to rights.
After the course I got some voluntary work with a localenvironmental charity leading to a job working in energy and carbon issues forLeicester City Council; part of the Energy Saving Trust Advice Network and aEuropean Energy Agency. I loved it! I ran various advice and communicationprojects, working with the media and raising the profile of energy issues, whilsttrialling ideas as pilot projects similar to what would become Smart Meters, EPCs,Green Deal and RHI etc. I was also a Climate Change Campaigner for Friends ofthe Earth, where we helped prevent the building of a power station and linkedwith various national campaigns, such as targeting oil and insurance companies.
Since 2006 I have been self employed as a consultant andtrainer, mainly in energy and carbon issues.But I have to admit, that for a few years of being busy with securing abusiness and raising a family I had taken my eye off the reason I originallygot involved in all of this. Arrogantly, I had become complacent. I hadntried to add up my impact, but there must surely be 10,000s of buildings and businesseswhich now emit less carbon than they otherwise would have because of the adviceIe given and people Ie trained? That enough, isn it?
The truth is, that there is a big difference between thefirst and second half of my career. The consultancy work is compliance andmarket driven. I might consider that I do a fairly good job, but ultimately, ifI didn provide the service, someone else would (in most cases). On the otherhand, much of the earlier work wouldn have happened at all if I hadninitiated it and made bids for funding etc. The difference is dditionalityand the nagging question I have when I ask myself hat impact am I having?is really how much additionality am I creating?
So, over the past few years I have wanted to get back to whyI started this in the first place. I want to add to the movement.But how? How do I get involved again? Should I start writing a blog, or a bookor for journals, or combine Climate Change with my former (very)semi-professionalsideline of standup comedy and convert the masses? Well, it turns out it mucheasier than that. Rather than try to create something new, or work alone, I joined350.org, Greenpeace, 10:10 Climate Action and a few others to see what they doand how I might be able to help. Recently I began helping with some aspects oftheir campaigns around divestment and the Environment Bill and am trying tobuild up a sub-network of people, who I know want to get involved but donknow how.
A couple of things have struck me about current campaigning.Firstly, how few people are actively involved compared with how many people seemto want to do something. I put this down to campaigning being too far down thelist of reen Things to Dowe often see in the media or even from campaigninggroups and the lack of a clear path of involvement for those who might bewilling.
Secondly, how few professional environmental or energyconsultants Ie spoken with take part. While most of the campaigners I havemet are extremely knowledgeable on their subject, they would undoubtedlybenefit from the help of professionals, all of whom ultimately owe theircurrent roles to the success of previous political campaigns.
We all work in some aspect of energy or environmentalmanagement. Some in areas directly related to Climate Change. I would love to knowhow many of us are involved in political campaigning in some form or other andhow we do this?
Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of the individual contributing member, and are not necessarily representative of the views of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated.
Posted on 30th August 2019
Written by Richard Holmes
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