Don’t lose hope. The new government must face opposition from a progressive movement
At the time of writing, the country is sitting down to lunch on a day when the Conservative Party returned a majority of 86 MPs.
For those of us who criticised the Conservatives’ failings on the environment — and their many other transgressions — this is a bleak result.
When we think about food banks, the NHS, child poverty, homelessness, education cuts, arts funding and more, Boris Johnson seems in every way the wrong leader for our country.
But the people have spoken. In an archaic, unrepresentative, first-past-the-post way, they have spoken loud and clear.
So what now? What next for the activists and enraged citizens of the United Kingdom?
Now is the time to act. It is time for unrelenting optimism. Here is our five-step plan for making a change in the current political landscape.
1. Volunteer and get hands-on
If there’s one thing that worries us about this election, it’s the people who will be left behind. Homelessness, food bank usage and child poverty all skyrocketed under the previous Conservative governments.
That means thousands of individuals are at direct risk. That risk is likely to rise.
If you have time, money or other resources to donate, then please do. It could make a huge difference to someone’s life — and it will give you a sense of purpose when that is most crucial.
Find a local cause and get in touch. Whether it’s a homeless shelter, conservation project or arts group, your contribution will make a difference.
2. Remember the climate emergency
The election tends to bring focus on certain issues and hide others. This one was defined by Brexit.
But ultimately, the climate emergency is of infinitely greater importance. Whether we are in or out of the EU will have an impact, clearly, but there is an existential threat at the door.
So when politicians in the coming weeks talk about “getting Brexit done”, don’t let them forget the biggest issue of our time. There is a movement of people determined that we avoid 1.5C warming — their voices must not be silenced.
Contact your (possibly new) MP and tell them their constituents care about the climate crisis. Join local environmental groups and take part in protests. Don’t let this government put our planet on the backburner.
3. Use your sphere of influence
All of us have the power to influence those around us. Through casual conversation, we can open the minds of our friends and family to all sorts of positive ideas.
For example, when I started eating a vegetarian diet, five of my friends transitioned to vegetarianism. That wasn’t down to me forcing them — it was a simple case of showing them what was possible with relatively little effort.
You have the same power. Whether it’s educating people about the climate crisis, shopping more sustainably or changing to a renewable energy supplier.
The most powerful tool we have is conversation. Speak calmly, openly and be considerate that not everyone is at the same stage as you.
4. Support the Resistance Economy
The threat to public services is high with this government in power. That means we need to support local ventures more than ever — from community hubs to independent shops.
These entities give people a sense of belonging that you don’t get with high street chains and global corporations.
For example, look at the London borough of Barking and Dagenham. In 2017, Labour councillors helped to fund a project called Every One, Every Day.
The project sought to provide spaces where people could come together, discuss ideas and launch projects. Equipment such as work tools, kitchens and laser cutters were provided so people could get their ideas off the ground.
Today, it supports a network of individuals looking to improve their own lives and the lives of their neighbours. These schemes are invaluable as we seek to fight austerity and poverty moving forward.
Where you can, get involved and support these projects. And when you go out to shop, pop into your local independents over certain tax-dodging multinationals.
5. Don’t lose hope
We’re feeling pretty rough today. A lot of others feel the same. Anxious, feeling down and with a massive lack of optimism.
That will pass.
Every one of us needs to cling on to the rays of hope of the last few years. Look at the Fridays for Future movement, the unprecedented climate protests and the fossil fuel divestment around the world.
All is not lost.
So while it might be tempting to spiral down into pessimism, remember there are millions of others with fight left in their bellies. But we have to invest in ourselves before we take that fight to the establishment.
Look after your mental health and go easy on yourself when things are tough. Stay connected with people who mean a lot to you and don’t isolate yourself when anxiety takes hold. If need be, take a break from social media and reconnect with nature.