The Covid-19 pandemic has pulled our lives away from underneath our feet – from our work, social relationships, to environmental advocacy. Not only have we been unable to engage with our communities face to face for the majority of the past year, in the United Kingdom our ability to protest has been curbed considerably, to the point of not existing without having to fear legal repercussions.
Taking advantage of the fact that most of us have been distracted with incessant updates and round-the-clock news on the pandemic, our government gave the go-ahead for environmentally destructive projects to go ahead. These include a new coal mine in Cumbria which will add to our quickly dwindling carbon budget, an extension to Leeds airport which will cause CO2 emissions higher than what will be allowed for the whole of Leeds in 10 years time; and the next phase of High Speed rail 2 (HS2) which is arguably one of the most destructive infrastructure projects in Britain’s history.
These deeply worrying developments have left many activists and campaigners feeling hopeless, like our hands had been tied, leaving us unable to safely fight for the survival of our planet. Due to the UK government’s irresponsible approach to managing the pandemic, a lot of people have been left struggling to survive on a day-to-day basis. Eco-anxiety and existential fears have run rampant with many over the course of the past year.
All this leads to the conclusion that we urgently need to find new ways of gathering, organising and making our voices heard in order to advocate for the wellbeing of future generations and the planet. And what better way of doing this by communicating our concern directly to our leaders?
In recent weeks I have been working with Climate Census, an exciting new campaign group aimed at holding our government accountable to their lack of action following their declaration of a climate and ecological emergency in May 2019). Climate Census will take place this March in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
What is a census?
A census is a survey that counts population, demographic, and household data. In the UK, a census takes place every ten years. It is organised by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and data used to plan housing, education, health and transport services – all of which will be disrupted when the climate crisis hits home. Census data enables authorities to make decisions on policies, how to run services and allocate funds – which is why it is so important to shift the focus away from “business as usual” and onto the climate emergency. Eventually, Climate Census may contribute to changes such as more sustainable options in supermarkets, more funding for climate research, and help provide more environmental education in certain areas of the country.
The census has a history of protest. In 1911, suffragettes boycotted the census to fight for their right to vote, proclaiming “If women don’t count, neither shall they be counted”. In 2011, peace protestors refused to fill in their forms over the weapons company Trident’s controversial involvement in the census. While these radical actions are admirable, Climate Census is a safe and accessible way for everyone to voice their concerns. Once you have sent off your census, your data will be anonymised – meaning that it cannot be used to identify climate activists.
How do I participate in Climate Census?
Taking part is easy – you can do so on paper or online, and the group has received confirmation that doing so will have no legal repercussions whatsoever. In the past, census protests took place using the religion section on the form. Unfortunately, the ONS has now communicated to us they will only count one answer to the religion question, on both the online and paper versions of the census. Climate Census believe this decision by the ONS is restrictive to people’s ability to self-identify however they wish, not just for religious folks wishing to take part in Climate Census, but also for people who identify with more than one religion.
We do not ask anyone to prioritise Climate Census over their faith, as we recognise for many people, declaring their religious identity is their highest priority. Where this is not the case, we encourage you to take part by ticking the ‘other’ box in the ‘What is your religion’ section, and filling in “CLIMATE CONCERNED”.
How can I support the campaign?
- Visit the Climate Census website and take the pledge to declare yourself “climate concerned”.
- Share the campaign on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other social media platform.
- Take part in the social media campaign by posting a photo with a sign reading #ClimateCensus or Climate Concerned. Tag @ClimateCensusUK. Use relevant hashtags such as #census2021, #cyfrifiad2021 or #NIcensus2021.
- Your most valuable contribution will be to take part in the action on March 21, when you fill out your census and declare yourself “climate concerned”.
Why is this important?
Climate Census has the potential of mobilising the masses and sending a strong message that despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK people will not keep silent on the destruction of our precious landscapes and environmental resources, which are so important to both our physical and mental health. Up to 36,000 people die in the UK every year due to air pollution. Access to nature has become a luxury, reinforcing social inequalities and worsening our overall well-being. 85% Of Britons now state that they are concerned about climate change, with the majority (52%) identifying as very concerned. To declare ourselves “climate concerned” on the census seems like a reasonable statement to make. It is time our leaders listened to collective desires rather than protecting elite interests.
With digital action we can set a precedent for protest to become more inclusive for those who are not physically able to attend a protest or march – such as disabled people, those with mental health difficulties, and individuals from marginalised communities who are at risk of disproportionate prosecution. With Climate Census, we are sending a strong message that the people cannot be silenced under an authoritarian government. We are demanding that power is handed back to us, the public. And maybe, we may rewrite the course of history like our fellow activists did in the past.
|The UK census takes place on March 21st, 2021. Declare yourself climate concerned now – take the pledge on the Climate Census website! If you have concerns about the ONS not recording multiple answers please reach out to them: Census.firstname.lastname@example.org If you have any questions about the campaign, visit the website and read the FAQ which covers all relevant questions. We recommend you check these before you fill in the census so you don’t miss important updates.|