A Year of CEM – Adam Peirce

Looking back at a year of Climate Emergency Manchester with a series of posts from the Core Group members.

I’m a freelance ‘advisor’ on climate & environmental issues that’s looking to dabble in more local work and a bit of academia with a decade of working in an environmental consultancy with all the big nasties of the exploitative capitalist system as well as few nicer ones.

My involvement started when I got in touch via the CEM contact form to see if they’d be interested in some help from someone with more of a professional background on this issue in Autumn 2019 and didn’t hear back. I was tempted to get involved in a rebellion of some sort, but wasn’t comfortable to go as far as getting arrested or gluing myself to something and felt a bit bad about it. I’d been following Marc’s Manchester Climate Fortnightly for a while, decided to get in contact with him directly to ask if they’d like any help and got a profuse apology for the lack of response via their website. I was having a pretty rough time due to some climate rage / anxiety, not sleeping very well and was questioning the point of what I was doing at my previous employer as it seemed my values and that of the company’s had diverged beyond reconciliation. I decided local action where I live was far more worthwhile than trying to chip away at the system via corporate sustainability initiatives.

I’ve learnt a huge amount having not done any activism beyond reporting potholes to the council dangerous to me as a cyclist and convincing my wife to cycle to work. It’s been really interesting to understand how the local democracy and council works (or doesn’t as well as it should) and I’ve met a whole new host of people that are doing more local things in response to the ongoing climate & environmental crisis than I had since returning to Manchester in 2015.

I feel sometimes like I’ve been helped out by members of the group especially emotionally more than I’ve done myself. I’ve done the odd thing here and there – spreadsheets, reviewing reports and helping with briefing papers and the like. I’m both impressed and proud of the volume and quality of the reports, blog posts and meetings attended to push the council to do more on this issue. I think sometimes managing expectations of what can be done by a fairly small group (currently) and it’s supporters can be difficult and I think we can sometimes underestimate how much time it can take to do something decent. I think we all want to keep the up quality of what we do and balancing this with the volume of interesting things to get involved with has its challenges, but then without the ambition, we’d wouldn’t be where we are now.

It’s not cost me much either in time (it definitely gave me something to do when I needed some pre-occupation) or money, a few pints at Sandbar, a few coffees at Ford Maddox Brown and a few wet bike rides. I think I’ve definitely been a net beneficiary rather than it costing me something I’d want back.

What next? Well I’d like to do more, learn more, create more and feel more confident in pushing the council to be more accountable to its residents, who all want a better city to live in. I hope we are able to make both councillors and officers realise that there’s no point putting this off any longer with another report, conference or partnership initiative. Difficult decisions need to be made by elected leaders. As I’m writing this in the early stages of a pandemic lockdown, I’d like to think that this time at home might start to make a much larger section of society reflect on the fragility of life and the resilience of an economic system which has emptied the shelves of toilet roll and pasta. I’d like to think that might help push for greater change within the council and further beyond. I’d like to think this might make our future just a little bit more tolerable than whatever is currently heading in our direction.

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