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Rachel: be a change-maker

"We all need to dig a little deeper and think about the daily decisions we make: what we consume, and the impact our purchases have on our planet."

15 Jul 2022 3 min read

I decided to take the Flight Free pledge whilst walking to COP26.

For six weeks I walked with other climate activists to Glasgow, carrying all my belongings in my backpack.

We would walk anything from 10 miles to 17 miles a day through sunshine, wind and rain. At the end of each day we would take part in outreach events and sleep on church floors.

A fellow walker, Lee, told me about the Flight Free UK campaign, and we all signed up.

The purpose of the walk was to build alliances and to spread the word with communities along the route about the need for urgent and meaningful action to address the global climate and ecological emergency. Each night, each walker would tell their personal story about how they had become an activist, and I learned so much from the personal stories of the other activists I walked with.

I have never been one for public speaking as I suffer from social anxiety, but my fellow walkers supported me and helped me to gain confidence in finding a voice. When we arrived in Glasgow, I gave a speech in the COP green zone (at 44.38 here). The intention was to give people some hope to enable them to move into their own action: to make a pledge, to make a stand at work, write to their MP, or whatever feels right for them.

Just before reaching Glasgow I received a call from my husband, who told me about something he had done at work that took real courage.

I felt immensely proud of his action and it highlighted to me how we all have to find personal courage.

My husband Andrew has been in the advertising industry for over 20 years, and was recently asked to lead on an advertising campaign promoting a high profile airline. The campaign was based around the sustainability of the aviation industry and presented stories around future technologies as if clean aviation is already here. 

We have both spent the last few years as committed climate activists, encouraging friends, family and others to avoid flying as much as possible. We have protested against airport expansion and seen fellow activists spend time in prison for trying to raise awareness of this issue.

So Andrew had to ask himself, what was the point of all that hard work, if he would then be part of a campaign to undo it all?

He approached his bosses and explained to them why he could not work on the project. This was not an easy conversation, and he was aware that it could impact his job and future within the company, and his career prospects, too.

At first it came as a bit of a shock to his managers, but it sparked some really interesting and positive dialogue. There were questions about how the company saw itself, and what its own stance was with regards to working on any future projects that do not align with sustainable and climate-positive goals. 

It took a lot of courage for my husband to speak up but it had a huge impact. We all need to question more and encourage workplaces to adopt a more planet-conscious ideology, but to do that we must find the courage to begin these conversations. 

We cannot ignore that time is running out.

All of us now understand the effects caused by the planet warming. We see it on our screens daily: ice caps are melting, oceans are rising, crops are failing, people in the global south are starving, floods and forest fires are worsening, and species are becoming extinct at a rapid rate. 

We all need to dig a little deeper and think about the daily decisions we make: what we consume, and the impact our purchases have on our planet.

We are the decision makers – we must be the change makers. I have found that the cure for anxiety is action.