Greenpeace Summer Garden Party

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Last Friday, I was honoured to be invited to Greenpeace UK’s Annual Summer Garden Party at their offices in Angel…

Greenpeace UK HQ

Where the magic happens…

Not everyone who volunteers for Greenpeace in London is invited along to this event, so I was beyond chuffed to be one of the select few from South West London Greenpeace, along with my housemate Philly and my sister Alice.

There was A LOT of free booze flying about and towards the end of the night, I dropped my phone down the toilet. It is now totally out-of-action and at the phone doctors which is sad, but hey it is just an object. However, I was gutted because I thought the only photo I had from the night was the one above and that I’d lost all the other great photos I’d just taken… BUT, thank God for Facebook’s syncing system because I actually found them all backed up online. Horrah! So I can still show you how magical the garden setting was…

Yurt - Greenpeace HQ

The SW London Greenpeace girls and the yurt.

Girls and marshmallows

… and toasting vegan marshmallows.

Save the Arctic 30

Philly with a lovely handmade cushion #FreeTheArctic30

Live band

It was like a mini festival!

vegan burger van - Ruperts Street

Ruperts Street vegan burger van, yum!

Me and Phil from the Arctic 30

Me with Phil Ball from the Arctic 30 (fan-girling a wee bit)

 

At the beginning of the night, we were given a secret tour by Abbie – who now works for Greeenpeace’s Direct Action Team, but used to be leader of our volunteer group. She showed us the warehouse where they keep all the gear and props ready for any Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA). There were boats, wetsuits, climbing gear, polar bear costumes, and much more. It was like being behind the scenes of a movie set, seeing all the objects which have played such a vital role in those famous Greenpeace campaigns. I won’t say much more, as it was a ‘secret’ tour after all. Apparently, even other members of staff in the main office don’t always know what goes on in the warehouse…

I had a fantastic night, not least because I got to spend time with some of the wonderful people from SW London GP when we usually just have a beer together once a month, but the whole experience also confirmed my dream of working for an environmental charity – hopefully one day, Greenpeace.

 

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Living in London and feeling disconnected from nature? Get yourself an allotment.

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allotment in London

Happy as larry.

 

Living in London – or any city for that matter – can make you feel very disconnected from the natural world, which in turn can make you feel a bit off-balance or perhaps a little stressed. But my aunty Felicity (Fliddy), myself and many other green-fingered fellows have found the perfect cure. Getting yourself an allotment. Or in my case, helping somebody else with theirs. Gardening is renowned for being therapeutic, but there’s something about growing your own produce which is relaxing, but also rewarding and extremely grounding. Not to mention, a great way to make sure you get out of the house and breath the air from an area of London that’s slightly less polluted.

Last Sunday James and I went back to Fliddy’s apartment and helped her with some weeding, and some digging up of the potatoes that we planted together about 6 weeks ago…

 

Potatoes from the allotment in London

My babies!

 

Potato that looks like a bum

Cheeky little potato bum!

 

Tending to an allotment is a great way to get away from it all, without actually leaving the city. When I’m at Aunty Fliddy’s plot, it feels like I’m no longer in London, and having grown up in rural North Wales, that’s an important feeling to feel for me – at least once in a while.

If you’re considering getting an allotment in the next year or so, it’s best to look into it now because some of waiting lists for plots are pretty long in London. Take a look at this website if you’re interested.

Fossil Fuel Divestment: flickthegreen learns how to build the movement

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To be totally honest, I was not entirely looking forward to giving up my super-sunny-27-degree Saturday to sit in a conference hall in central London when all I wanted to do was lie like a starfish in Tooting Bec Lido.

But I don’t think I’ve ever walked out of an event so motivated, impressed and informed.

Because my Saturday was spent at the Fossil Fuel Divestment: Building the Movement event, at the Friend’s Meeting House in Euston, listening to some of the most influential and inspiring people at the forefront of the divest movement.

The day started with an introduction made up of speeches from 350.org, Carbon Tracker, Fossil Free Bristol and The Guardian. There was also Dan Goss, the founder of the Warwick University student divestment campaign which recently succeeded in getting the uni to divest from fossil fuels.

Carbon Tracker’s Luke Sussams ran through a detailed presentation full of graphs showing plenty of data which proved that divestment is the only financially sound option in the long-term, and that investors are just being fed lies by the oil companies preventing them from investing in green energy. It is becoming more and more expensive to get oil out of the ground, so it is no longer a sound investment. Simultaneously, the cost of renewable energy is becoming less and less expensive. Do the math.

Moreover, only one third of proven oil and gas reserves can be burnt to keep global warming below a 2 degree rise. Left to their own devices, these fuel companies will burn the lot.

I learnt that it is through cold hard financial fact, not appealing to moral conscience, that we will win the divestment battle. It is a scientific and financial approach that will triumph, not a heart-felt one. Because these transnationals do not feel, they do not have a heart.

 

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“People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“We need to make [the oil and gas companies] the public enemy that they are” – Danielle Paffard, 350.org

“These energy companies hold humanity’s future in their pockets. But where we put out money makes us all complicit” – The Guardian

 

The final speech of the morning was from Wolfgang Blau of The Guardian (seriously strong name game) in which he started saying, “we have to break these companies..” then, spookily, the lights cut out in the theatre and the electricity was lost for a few seconds. At which point the camera crew shout, “you must be saying something right!”

Then we had a vegetarian lunch out in the courtyard, which I am sad to point out, was sandwiches and cake wrapped in throw-away plastic. You’d have thought at a climate change event, they could have at least ensured the lunch was eco-friendly…


 

We could choose from a number of different lectures and workshops for the second half of the day. I chose ‘Storytelling: lessons and stories from across the movement from the people that were there at the time’ where I heard some amazing stories from the student divest movements at The University of Edinburgh (Eleanor Dow) and Harvard University (Kelsey Skaggs).

 

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Eleanor told of the 20+ students, led by herself, who occupied the finance building at Edinburgh Uni for 10 days, which resulted in divestment from fossil fuels and a press release jointly written by both the management and the students involved.

Kelsey told of how Harvard have been a little harder to overcome, but, now that Stanford have divested, it’s only a matter of time…

We also heard from Jess Worth of ‘BP or not BP‘. She was my ultimate fave. She calls herself an ‘actorvist’; she and others create acting performances to protest against BP’s sponsorship of British art and culture. Something I didn’t even realise was a thing. Apparently, they are the single largest sponsor of art and culture worldwide, which is terrifying. BP is one of the world’s worst criminals and so these partnerships are simply facilitating the harbouring of a criminal.

Which is precisely why BP or not BP do things such as raid the stage at RSC’s Shakespeare performances and inform the audience of its rouge sponsor through means of adapting quotes from the play at hand. Pure Genius.

Their new target is the British Museum, and so recently, they smuggled a viking ship costume (by using the fabric as skirts!) and BP logo shields into the building (despite the museum having caught wind and security being on high alert!) before performing a viking burial in front of hundreds of curious spectators…

 

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Photo credits: bp-or-not-bp.org

 

For my last hour, I chose a workshop on Action Planning which was hosted by Jess Worth again and Mel Evans, who work together for the Art Not Oil Coalition, but separately for BP or not BP and Liberate Tate (which uses the art medium to protest within the Tate Gallery). In the past, Liberate Tate have conducted missions such as ‘The Gift‘ in which they brought an entire wind turbine prop into the Turbine Hall, piece by piece, because technically everyone and anyone is entitled to present something to the Tate as an artistic gift and it has to be considered. Again, genius.

So the two phenomenal women shared their check-list for protest-planning success with us, so that we can build the movement:

  1. What is the aim? Why are you doing this?
  2. Key messages – what is the story you want to tell? Which characters are involved? No mixed messages!
  3. Tactics – what form/style will the action take?
  4. Planning and recruitment – who is going to play each role? Use your initial action to recruit for your next action. i.e. “if you’ve enjoyed this performance and want to get involved, then sign up here!
  5. Make it look good! (visuals, rehearsals, amplification – make sure the audience can here you!)
  6. Media coverage – it is always worth writing a Press Release even if it’s quite a small event. Ring up the newspaper you’ve sent the PR to, to make sure they pay attention to it. This is a time-consuming process but it’ll pay off!
  7. Social media and photography – live tweeting with photos is a huge advantage!
  8. Promotion – build alliances with other campaign groups so the message is circulated and create flyers to give out beforehand and during.
  9. Security – could you be arrested? Quick decision making plans need to be thought of beforehand in preparation for sticky situations. It might be worth having a legal observer on hand. See Green and Black Cross for more info.

 

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So essentially, we need to cut the oil and gas companies off at the source – starting with us, as individuals, divesting our money. First off watch Bill McKibben’s ‘Do The Math‘ (I watched it last night and sobbed my little heart out afterwards because I felt so scared and overwhelmed) it is only 45 minutes long, and I can guarantee it will have been the best 45 minutes you have ever spent. Then ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Do you know where your bank reinvests your money? If not, check Move Your Money.
  2. Do you know where your pension is being invested? If not, check Share Action.

 

Glasto gets a big green thumbs up

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Greenpeace area Glastonbury 2015

Kate and I exploring the Greenpeace area on our first day.

 

I’ve just got back from an eventful and very special Glastonbury Music Festival.

The reason I say ‘eventful’ is because I split my shin open on a piece of sharp scaffolding on the Friday and had to have 5 stitches and a Tetanus jab. I say ‘special’ because I witnessed Florence Welch sing a secret session at NYC Downlow surrounded by drag-queens, on Sunday I heard the Dalai Lama’s speech at the Stone Circle, and then I heard Justin Vernon from Bon Iver sing with The Staves. Cloud nine.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been to Glastonbury, I went when I was 8 years old. Mum took Alice and I along when our aunty Felicity (great name) was at the festival with Eco-Trip. I remember very little… but I do remember seeing Blondie, the helter-skelter in the children’s zone, and cycling until 1am on the electricity-generating bicycles in the Eco-Trip tent.

So my first experience of Glasto was as a wee eco-warrior. This year, as I’m now earning my own money, I thought I’d treat myself and go as a regular punter — rather than with Oxfam, Greenpeace or WaterAid as I have done in the past.

I was really impressed by the greenness of Glasto, especially compared to other UK music festivals – an aspect I wouldn’t have remembered from when I was 8 years old. Obviously any event that’s going to involve over 170,000 people is going to generate a lot of waste, but Glasto is committed to minimising this waste and recycling like mad. In 2014, half of all waste generated by the Festival was recycled, and they’re hoping that they reached 60% this year. All the plates, cups, cutlery, and straws need to be bio-degradable, not merely recyclable. There were clean-ups daily (usually in the mornings) to ensure the festival grounds didn’t become engulfed in waste. Solar panels are used extensively throughout the festival to power various stages, such as the Theatre & Circus and Shangri-La areas. 

1,500 square metres of solar panels sit on top of the cattle shed that is home to the 350 Worthy Farm cows. On a clear, sunny day, the panels  generate around 250kW of power – around the same amount of power used annually by 40 homes. Any power that isn’t used on the farm is exported to the National Grid.

Read Glastonbury’s Green Policies for more information.

Many brands set up stalls at Glasto selling recycled and eco-friendly products, such as Festival Reboot, who make bracelets, notebooks and even waterproof beanbags out of leftover festival wellies. Last year, they collected over 15,000 wellies from the Glastonbury grounds.

The Eavis’ also encourage punters not to shower for the duration of the festival to save on water usage. I was planning on not showering anyway, but this gave me a legit excuse to get proper gross.

Unfortunately, the “Leave No Trace” tag line seems not to resonate with all its guests… as we found at Penard Hill campsite, where huge piles of broken (and perfectly functional) tents and chairs were left, along with obscene amounts of rubbish; a depressingly wasteful dumping phenomenon which has undoubtedly gotten worse over the past decade as we have descended into a more and more disposable society. It’s clear that there is still a lot that can be done to make Glastonbury the green music machine that it strives to be. But the issue lies in the enormity of its capacity and the fact that it’s exceptionally hard to regulate the environmental mindset of its campers.

So, it’s been a week since I got back from Glastonbury and I’m still finding myself day-dreaming about it at the office. I’d never have normally been so pleased with an injury that will leave me with a big ass scar, but this one is always going to remind me of an incredible five days so I kinda like it. I’m still going to try and claim a free ticket for next year as compensation 😉

My shark bite.

My shark bite.

 

Here are some snaps from the festival:

Accident at Glastonbury

Me, getting carried off to the Medical Centre by two handsome medics.

 

Glastonbury nightscape

Taking in the Glasto nightscape on our first eve.

 

Glastonbury 2015

On top of the world.

 

Glastonbury fashion

Day 1 – Glasto galdem looking fresh…

 

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George “I’ve been holding this empty can of Stella since 5am” Gangar

 

hula-hooping at Glastonbury

Annie, hula-hooper extraordinaire, in the Healing Fields

 

Glastonbury fashion

Hannah and I – soothed by James Bay on the Pyramid Stage.

 

Glastonbury group photo

The gang.

 

Post-Glastonbury come down

Got that post-Glasto vibe.