The end of 2007 and beginning of 2008 has seen our campaigns take all kinds of directions. Our ability to concentrate on so many issues at once clearly shows the breadth of expertise we retain within the group.
Four campaigners took to the streets for Buy Nothing Day. Dressed in dashing, sparkly Santa costumes, they skipped their way through the city centre reminding shoppers that excessive consumption makes us all feel so very happy. Thankfully the sarcastic tone meant that shoppers understood the irony. Always enjoying linking up with other groups, a few of us participated in Islam Awareness Week, while regional campaigner, Chris Crean, and I contributed to UNISON’s ‘Save the Planet’ Conference at the Botanical Gardens. On climate change, MPs Lynne Jones and Roger Godsiff did video clips, which were added to the Big Ask website and our own YouTube page. Nigel Baker, along with a representative from Oxfam, had a meeting with Edgbaston MP, Gisela Stuart, to seek her views on the Climate Change Bill. We are delighted to know that Gisela was very supportive of a higher target for emissions cuts by 2050, including aviation and shipping in the Climate Change Bill, and had some favourable comments for non-binding annual milestones. A little less enthusiasm was seen at the Climate Change Rally where a few of us braved the pouring rain in London to show Birmingham’s face to the rest of the nation’s climate change lobby.
As part of the Local Shops Campaign, Mary Horesh took a team of campaigners to Weoley Castle Square to raise awareness of the impact of supermarkets on the environment and their consequences for the local community: closure of local, independent shops and net loss of local jobs. Martin Stride donned a gravedigger’s outfit and flat cap to feign the burial of ASDA’s plans (see image), which was printed in the Birmingham Mail. Smooth Radio also covered the story of ASDA’s negative impact on our community.
Our end-of-year social took the form of a visit to the refurbished Town Hall to see the very talented Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Closer to Christmas, Janet Browne and Alison Breadon ran a Christmas Fair where fair trade and environmentally-friendly crafts were on sale as well as a lot of information on how to have a fun, yet ethical, Christmas.
The beginning of the New Year saw Birmingham Airport put in their application to lay down 400 metres worth of tarmac to extend the current runway. We will be campaigning against this tooth and nail. Our ‘Flyagra’ campaign was launched with a bang. We had a variety of media coverage, the best being Chris Crean’s appearance on BBC’s Politics Show to debate with Solihull MP, Lorely Burt. Back over in Harborne, we ran a campaign stall with the aim of publicising the loss of democratic rights through the Planning Reform Bill that is currently going through Parliament. The Government intends to set up a powerful Independent Committee that is not democratically accountable to decide on major planning applications. This would also remove the public right to be heard in person during the planning inquiry process. 2008 has started with real strength and the new campaigns meeting structure is proving effective. I look forward to another productive year of campaigns.