I started my environmental journey in 1989 when I enrolled on a degree course at Leicester Polytechnic called “Science & The Environment”. Looking back, it seems like it was ahead of its time, as it covered many of the issues we still face today. Not that I can claim I was. I didn’t know much about the environment before I started. It was just a few years after Live Aid and the birth of Comic Relief and I simply wanted to have a career where I felt like I would achieve something and avoid the hum drum routine of many other jobs.
I started the course at the same time as Bill McKibben published The End of Nature, the first mainstream book on Climate Change. I read this and many others and was hooked on being an environmentalist. I turned veggie, wore second-hand clothes and hitch-hiked, cycled and bussed everywhere…..and ….er ….drank a lot of beer, while discussing with friends how we could save the planet and put the world to rights.
After the course I got some voluntary work with a local environmental charity leading to a job working in energy and carbon issues for Leicester City Council; part of the Energy Saving Trust Advice Network and a European Energy Agency. I loved it! I ran various advice and communication projects, working with the media and raising the profile of energy issues, whilst trialling 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 of the Earth, where we helped prevent the building of a power station and linked with various national campaigns, such as targeting oil and insurance companies.
Since 2006 I have been self employed as a consultant and trainer, mainly in energy and carbon issues. But I have to admit, that for a few years of being busy with securing a business and raising a family I had taken my eye off the reason I originally got involved in all of this. Arrogantly, I had become complacent. I hadn’t tried to add up my impact, but there must surely be 10,000s of buildings and businesses which now emit less carbon than they otherwise would have because of the advice I’ve given and people I’ve trained? That’s enough, isn’t it?
The truth is, that there is a big difference between the first and second half of my career. The consultancy work is compliance and market driven. I might consider that I do a fairly good job, but ultimately, if I didn’t provide the service, someone else would (in most cases). On the other hand, much of the earlier work wouldn’t have happened at all if I hadn’t initiated it and made bids for funding etc. The difference is ‘additionality’ and the nagging question I have when I ask myself “what 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 why I 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 book or for journals, or combine Climate Change with my former (very)semi-professional sideline of standup comedy and convert the masses? Well, it turns out it’s much easier than that. Rather than try to create something new, or work alone, I joined 350.org, Greenpeace, 10:10 Climate Action and a few others to see what they do and how I might be able to help. Recently I began helping with some aspects of their campaigns around divestment and the Environment Bill and am trying to build up a sub-network of people, who I know want to get involved but don’t know how.
A couple of things have struck me about current campaigning. Firstly, how few people are actively involved compared with how many people seem to want to do something. I put this down to campaigning being too far down the list of “Green Things to Do” we often see in the media or even from campaigning groups and the lack of a clear path of involvement for those who might be willing.
Secondly, how few professional environmental or energy consultants I’ve spoken with take part. While most of the campaigners I have met are extremely knowledgeable on their subject, they would undoubtedly benefit from the help of professionals, all of whom ultimately owe their current roles to the success of previous political campaigns.
We all work in some aspect of energy or environmental management. Some in areas directly related to Climate Change. I would love to know how many of us are involved in political campaigning in some form or other and how we do this?
Richard Holmes, Third Stone Ltd Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
About the Author
Richard is the Director at Third Stone Limited.