This Saturday, 8 September, thousands of people will take to the streets of San Francisco in the largest climate march the West Coast has ever seen.
Part of a global day of action being marked in cities and towns across the world, the Rise for Climate march is timed to send a powerful message to the elected leaders gathering in California for the Global Climate Action Summit.
We spoke to Fi Radford, environmental activist and organiser of the Rise for Climate rally here in Bristol, who told us what drives her and why she believes it’s up to students and pensioners to fight for climate justice.
- Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about the Rise for Climate movement – what’s its mission?
The Rise for Climate movement is international and grassroots. Its mission is to push for real climate leadership, and to bring about a fossil free world.
- What drives you?
What drives me is my passion for life in all its forms and my fury against everything that is life destroying, whether in the oceans, the rainforest, the poles and everywhere in between. Oil spills, mountain top coal extraction, tar sands and fracking sites are ugly stains on our beautiful world. The ugliness is the clue. I am for beauty and life.
- What is your greatest achievement to date?
Occupying the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy for six hours was quite something, but so was occupying Barclays HQ on Canary Wharf with Greenpeace, both of which took place this year. What gives me the greatest pleasure though, is setting up Bristol Environmental Activists Together (BEAT). I love bringing people with a shared vision together. The huge corporate lobbies against us are so all powerful that we must work together if we are to stand a chance.
- What are the challenges you face?
It is a real challenge to communicate the truth of imminent climate breakdown without making people feel disempowered and overwhelmed. There is still a window of hope, some say 20 years, where we can do something to avoid the worst, but we must take ambitious action to reduce CO2and methane emissions. We are on a war footing. There is no satisfaction is saying ‘I told you so’ in this situation! There is something really empowering about facing the worst and doing our best to tackle it, just like when you have had the health diagnosis that your feared, but it leaves you feeling better somehow. You know what you are up against.
- What are you working on that’s getting you fired up and excited?
Right now it’s the Rise for Climate rally on September 8that 12 noon on College Green. Just one week to go and it is all falling into place. We have got some great speakers, but the best thing about it is that we are grassroots; no famous names, no elected representatives, just people who have often been working away quietly for years in the background, but who now have had enough. Time is running out. If our political leaders won’t act, then we must. We are the ones we have been waiting for!
- Where do you want to take the Bristol Environmental Activists next?
Who knows?! The next step will emerge. The rally is the first big action we have taken together. We will get together afterwards, reflect on what went well and what we could have done better and take it from there. The key though is in the name, we are ‘activists’ so watch this space.
- What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?
Of course, there are all the usual things, recycling, turning off the lights and not leaving our computer on overnight, insulating the house, keeping flying to a minimum etc etc.
We know by now what we should do, but these things, although important, can never achieve the goal of a fossil free, CO2 free world. The Paris Agreement called on countries and big business to take responsibility to keep the earth, our Goldilocks planet, within habitable temperatures. It needs to be done at scale. Scientists and engineers need to be given incentives, such as competitions, to come up with ideas that draw down the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We put a man on the moon, surely we can come up with inventions to keep our home habitable to man? Oh, and let’s plant lots and lots of trees.
- How is what you are doing inspiring change in others?
I am not sure. Some kind people have called me an inspiration, and I suppose it gives some people hope when they see a woman in the last decade or two of her life still in there fighting! I love young people and I love working alongside them. The generation in the middle has enough to do just looking after the children and holding down two jobs, so it is up to the students and the pensioners to lead the way. We inspire one another.
- Can you recommend a life- or game-changing book for our readers?
I love Naomi Klein. Her book ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate’ says it all as far as I am concerned. Climate change is a symptom of an underlying sickness. If we don’t pay it attention, then we will die. Carrying on business as usual is like telling a patient with cancer that they can carry on smoking during their chemotherapy. We are not doing them any favours.
- What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?
There is only one channel on my radio, Radio 4. It is on from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. When I am cooking dinner, I listen to Channel 4 News. There is often quite a lot of loud interaction between us, especially when I think that politicians are wasting time on less important issues, when they should be trying to save the planet.
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Speak from your heart. Facts are important and so are stories, but people know when you are being authentic, heart does speak to heart.
- Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero?
It has to be Caroline Lucas. She is a true Eco-heroine. Everything she says is such common sense and has a freshness and simplicity about it. I can’t understand why she is not Prime Minister!
The Bristol Rise for Climate rally is taking place on College Green (BS1 5TR) from 12-1pm on Saturday 8 September. To register your interest, visit the Facebook event page.
If you’re an environmental pioneer with a positive message to share, please get in touch with the Greenhouse team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0117 214 1250.