Get Involved in Democracy

If you want to make change happen then you need to put the effort in. Posting things online is all well and good but really you need to give up your time (when you could be doing something more entertaining) and get involved in the democratic process, in person1.

I recently attended my local borough (and county) council community forum and asked a question regarding air pollution. I may write up the response when it arrives. It can be helpful to submit questions in writing beforehand to allow for a considered response at the meeting.

However, as a brief summary, professional calibrated air quality monitoring kit is expensive. Official equipment is needed if it is to be taken seriously and private measurements are typically not admitted as evidence (but can still be useful in aggregate as there are often more of them).

Idling taxis and cars picking up passengers from train stations contribute to poor air quality. Signs can be put up to remind drivers to switch off and also encourage/empower the public to politely remind drivers to do this. In the City of London a £20 fine can be issued if drivers refuse. Perhaps this approach could be enforced more widely.

These meetings may not contain award-winning drama but you will get the latest news on current developments. You may learn some interesting things and discover where your taxes are being spent. Problems that appear trivial may actually be more complex in the detail, like most things, so don’t jump to conclusions and judge people too quickly. You’ll certainly find out what issues people care about.

For example, I learned that the Kent and Medway Energy and Low Emissions Strategy (ELES) Consultation opened yesterday. You have until the 23rd of September if you want to submit your views.

You may also discover opportunities of where tech can help tackle problems and enable people to be more effective. While the attitudes and behaviours of some lone individuals may make you worry about the plight of humanity, you may be pleasantly surprised by the majority of people engaging politely and with enthusiasm. It is also informative to observe the dynamics between some participants, as this can provide a bit of background.

So, get involved in your local democratic process. Attend local meetings and ask questions. There will be community forums you can go to. Contact your representatives, they are keen to listen to the views of those they represent and who vote for them.

Bring a pen (or a laptop) and make notes. Ask questions about the state of your environment and what is being done to improve it. Sign in and politely make your views known. Tell people what you care about.

Polls suggest that the majority of people want more (and quicker) action to be taken to tackle the climate emergency and protect the natural environment. However, there are lots of competing issues vying for people’s head-space. The silent majority need to speak up and let it be know that global heating and conservation are major concerns of theirs, along with the inextricably linked air and plastic pollution.

Go to your local authority’s website right now, email your local representatives and find out when the next community meeting is. Commit to getting involved and be the change that you want to see.

  1. Yes, I’m aware of the irony of posting this online.

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