Marion Smith, a new Climate Emergency Manchester supporter, writes.
I hate to admit it, but I am not the kind of person who enjoys being stopped on the street – I’m shy, more than a little socially anxious, and have been known to pre-emptively walk in the other direction if I notice a charity volunteer clocking eye contact with me. It wasn’t until last Friday (14 June), when I went out collecting signatures with Climate Emergency Manchester for the first time, that I had given any thought to how it feels to be on the other side of the equation.
I’d been so enthusiastic to begin working with CEM that I hadn’t really given any thought about what collecting signatures would actually entail- I just knew that it was a vitally important cause and that I wanted to be involved in some way. This meant that until I was standing outside the Central Library at Fridays for Future Manchester, complete with my clipboard, pen and flyers, it hadn’t occurred to me that I would find the process of approaching strangers on the street difficult.
And it was difficult, particularly at first- I’d find myself looking surprised when someone would actually stop and allow me to talk to them, and I’d only just manage to mumble out what the petition was and why people should be signing it- I’m pretty sure the first few signees only did so out of a sense of pity for me! However, the more signatures I collected, the more I realised and accepted that not everyone is going to stop regardless of how charismatic you appear. It’s a lottery of who’s going to stop and listen to your cause, and although some people will ignore you or respond a little abruptly, there are also people who genuinely listen and actively respond.
I spoke to a number of the (lovely) people at Fridays For Future, and one man who was leafletting said to me that he’d been coming for months and watching on the sidelines, and had only just felt comfortable handing out leaflets recently- he assured me that as far as he was concerned, I was really throwing myself in the deep end with signature collection, but that I was doing a good job. Ultimately, I filled up my signature sheet, and although it doesn’t feel to me like I did particularly well, I’m just going to take his word for it, and believe that I’ll get better at collecting signatures the more I do it. Approaching strangers on the street may not be something I find easy, but none of the causes we campaign for relating to climate breakdown are ever going to be comfortable, and I’m just grateful that there were so many reassuring, encouraging people around me for my introduction to signature collecting.
I’m a 21-year-old Music Postgrad at the University of Manchester, and have recently joined CEM. Although climate change is a word I have been aware of for most of my life, it has only been in the past year that I’ve felt able to comprehend the true effects and consequences of climate breakdown- this realisation has led to me seeking out groups like Climate Emergency Manchester, as although I have made changes to my own lifestyle, I firmly believe that change will come through the scrutinisation and holding of organisations and corporations to account over issues of climate change.