Image: Andy Renton #PlasticFreePints
Some people are uncomfortable with linking activism and journalism. They figure coming down too hard on one side gets in the way of the truth, obscuring an objective picture of reality. However, it’s worth questioning whose interests this ‘objective’ picture of reality overwhelmingly protects. It’s also worth understanding the latent potential for advocacy in the written word. According to Wesley Lowery (formerly of the Washington Post), “any good journalist is an activist for truth, in favour of transparency, on the behalf of accountability”. Telling stories, and deciding which stories should be told, has always been tied to these questions. Journalists can play a big role in amplifying the voices of the voiceless.
Clearly, there are certain aspects of storytelling that really lend themselves to activism. At the beginning of COVID-19 lockdown, I co-founded Ours to Save, a new publication exclusively focused on the climate crisis. Ours to Save isn’t like the more traditional big news companies you rely on for your headlines, though we also hold truth and transparency to be paramount. We definitely don’t think every publication should be like us, but we do think there’s a place for journalists who want to write about problems and do something about them. We find inspiration in smaller, community-led publications like gal-dem and It’s Freezing in LA!
For us, there are certain truths that are not really up for debate. The reality and urgency of the climate crisis is one of them. Covering Climate Now, a worldwide journalism initiative committed to more and better coverage of ‘the defining story of our time’, puts it very well:
‘There are not two sides to a fact. For too long, especially in the US, the media juxtaposed climate science—a matter of overwhelming global consensus—with climate skepticism and denialism—seldom more than thinly-veiled protections of the fossil fuel industry. The resulting implication that these positions are equal, or that the jury is somehow still out, is in large part responsible for the public disengagement and political paralysis that have met the climate crisis so far.’
Ours to Save is a space for anyone who thinks climate change is real, and wants to do something about it. Beyond this, we’re into all manner of perspectives – whether you’re a Green New Deal advocate or a fan of ‘capitalism with constraints’, whether you’re into protesting and lobbying or you’d prefer to stay at the sidelines. We want to inform – this is science after all! – and also encourage action. Our interactive climate change map is crowdsourced, highlighting the innovative and grassroots solutions to climate change cropping up all over the world – as well as bringing local injustices to global attention. We don’t shy away from bigger questions either – how must the social contract be rewritten to deal with the intergenerational injustices caused by the climate crisis? And what role will liberal democracies and authoritarian states play, as the landscape of international security changes?
We also integrate campaigns within our editorial output.
Our first campaign
We launched our first ever campaign, #PlasticFreePints, at the beginning of June when pubs started opening up for takeaway. We wanted to encourage people to bring their own container to the pub, so as to minimise single-use plastic as much as possible, and to upload a picture to Instagram to help spread the word. Our campaign collaborators, ECODISCO, put on London’s first plastic-free party last year and now work to pioneer sustainable nightlife. They headed up the businesses side – providing pubs with recycled, reusable pint glasses so they could implement a deposit system. Pubs have opened their doors again, but many are still doing takeaway and plastic waste remains a problem in light of relaxed licensing laws. If you want to take part in #PlasticFreePints, head over to our Instagram for more info.
A campaign we’re supporting
IoW Protection isn’t our campaign – but we’re throwing all our weight behind it. We recently published our first article on proposed drilling on the Isle of Wight and the group of young island residents resisting it, and will be covering the situation as it progresses.
The Isle of Wight was listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve this time last year because of its ‘strong tradition of environmental action’ and ecotourism, and its pioneering testing of ‘new measures for climate change mitigation and adaptation’. The tiny island has long been a hub for positive environmental attitudes and action. Nevertheless, UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) have submitted a planning application to the Isle of Wight County Council, hoping to begin a three-year exploratory onshore oil drilling venture at site called ‘Arreton-3-site’, and then to move the drilling to another site in Godshill.
Potential negative environmental impact includes air pollution from diesel-fuelled generators; strain on the island’s already-limited water supply; and the destruction of rural and agricultural land, causing damage to ecosystems. In general, the plans demonstrate a cavalier attitude regarding the future of the global climate.
UKOG says the project will have ‘little to no environmental impact’ and will benefit the local economy, but this is disputed by Bea Stark, a lifelong resident of the Isle of Wight who is campaigning with IoW Protection to stop the plans from going ahead.
“This proposal, if accepted, will change the island irreversibly, damage tourism, devalue house prices”, Bea says. “But most importantly this is an ethical issue. Should we be allowing new onshore oil drilling licenses when we are in a climate emergency?”
How you can help:
If you think the answer is no, you can do something about it. Bea and the team at IoW Protection are urging people to submit objections to UKOG’s application. Here’s how to do it:
- Click here to go to the Isle of Wight Council planning application search page.
- Type the reference number into the search bar: 20/00513/FUL. This will take you to the planning application proposal.
- Click the ‘Comments’ section, which will show you the Objection and Supporting comments that have already been made. To make a comment, you have to follow the relevant links to register for an account.
Comments can be any length but need to be as specific as possible.
By Florence Wildblood, co-founder of Ours To Save.
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