A Year of CEM – Marion Smith

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

Marion Smith

I’m a musician, music researcher, and a Masters student in Ethnomusicology. To be honest, my career is still so much in its infancy that it’s hard to pin down the overarching factor of “what I do”, but ‘slightly lost music graduate’ probably cuts it as much as anything else.

I never imagined spending much of my graduate life concerned with environmental activism and concern, but (without making things too gloomy), I think the state of the world had other plans- I had something of a crisis around Spring last year when I finally lifted my head out of the proverbial sand, and fully accepted that drastic changes needed to be made at all levels. At a personal level, I knew that in all good consciousness I needed to participate in some form of climate action for my own sanity, and after a (fairly!) brief period of shopping around for climate groups I would want to be involved with, I stumbled across CEM via a twitter DM from Marc, and the rest goes from there.

Whilst I was always raised to be concerned with social justice, this is the first activist organisation I’ve been a core member of, and I’ve been reliably informed by my (wiser!) colleagues that the way the group functions is not necessarily standard within grassroots activism, in terms of the way that we work introspectively in favour of each other’s goals and development. In many ways, I feel that I’ve been very lucky to have ended up in a group like CEM the first time over! It’s been very affirming to watch how CEM’s reports (particularly HDQ) have gained traction more widely throughout environmental groups in Manchester, and to witness the implications of this, and more generally just to watch a relatively small activist group grow.

It goes without saying that support within groups is forever evolving, and this kind of introspection is an ongoing process that I’m very happy to be part of – there’s definitely many areas of personal improvement that this group is helping me to develop! Coming to terms with the catastrophic effects of climate change is a very difficult thing for anyone to bear, and I’m so glad for my own sanity if nothing else that I found CEM as a group of people with a corresponding sense of concern (and panic.. and occasionally nihilism?).

It feels very difficult to fathom “What’s next?” when we’re in the early days of lockdown- it’s hard to contemplate the future when you’ve entered what feels like a liminal existence- but on a personal level I’m kept in Manchester for the foreseeable future because of both my work and my studies, and I’d have no plans to leave anyway. My understanding and coherence of both environmental issues and local government has grown exponentially, but there’s always more learning and understanding to be done, for me particularly in terms of both how I relay information and in public speaking, which are definite skills that CEM implements. It’s obviously difficult to comprehend what the world will look like when we’re allowed outside again, but I’m looking forward to continuing our work in whatever form it takes.

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