January 4th 2023 is a Wednesday. There’s probably going to be a scrutiny committee meeting or two of Manchester City Council on that day. Back-bench councillors will gather to hear presentations from officers and Executive Members, and pick over reports. (In a perfect world Manchester City Council will have by then been convinced and forced to create a dedicated Environment Scrutiny Committee, but that is by-the-by).
At that meeting there will be policies that relate to climate change which need to be stronger, or policies that are strong enough but need to be properly implemented.
But it’s an early day in January. When the papers for that scrutiny committee meeting are released, a week before, the students will be away. Everyone will be in that between-Christmas-and-New-Years’ torpor.
So, who will be there to read the documents, to understand – in-depth – what they are saying, what they are not saying, what is being hidden and spun by the Executive Member and officers, keen to avoid embarrassment for work not done?
Who will be there to lobby the members of the scrutiny committee, explain to them what is being done. Who will have the background, the experience and the credibility to be heard? Who will be able to point to better policies, better implementation in other cities?
Who will reach out to other citizens and groups (religious groups, trade unions, community groups, tenants and residents associations you name it), and explain how a fast one is being attempted, and why they should care, and what they should do? Who will make the videos, write the blogs, to an ever-growing audience that cares and knows how to turn that concern into political pressure?
Who will brief journalists, via press releases and relationships already established?
Who will attend the meeting, and ask the questions too hot for any councillor to ask? Who will attend the meeting and make sure that the truth is told about where Manchester is up to, and what needs to be done?
Who will write up what happened? Who will explain afterwards to our allies and supporters what happened, why, and what they can do to be involved in the ongoing scrutinising and ‘chivvying’ of the Council? Who will strategise about how to increase the pressure?
Will it be you?
How can you possibly make that commitment? It’s almost five years away! You may not be in Manchester at all. Life could have thrown any number of obstacles between now and then. People’s circumstances (their biographical availability” change – that’s a fact of life.)
Anyhow, nobody can sustain that level of involvement, with the best will in the world.
We need to think not of individual heroic commitments. People burn out, people get co-opted. Instead we need to think of sustainable groups that refuse to be sucked in or excluded, that refresh themselves, keep the focus, keep the energy. That’s an unprecedented effort, but these are unprecedented times.
We need people who know how to skill up, but also when and how to step back, how to hand on their knowledge and skills to others. This isn’t a sprint, this is a marathon, but a special kind of relay-marathon. Batons have to be passed, and people allowed to step out of the race, and come back to pick up the baton if and when they are able.
Climate Emergency Manchester intends to work with individuals and groups to develop the capacity to do the all those things, so that by Wednesday 4th January 2023, we are doing that as a matter of routine.
If this vision inspires you, or even if it doesn’t but you understand that it’s what is necessary, then please, get in touch.