My Beryl Bike experience – promoting little ways in Watford that can help reduce climate change, by Irena Pearse
I have been making myself refocus from doom and gloom Climate Change scenarios and have decided to notice positive changes that are happening . And one of those that made my heart skip was the introduction of Beryl Bikes to Watford. Beryl Bikes are named after the great amateur cyclist Beryl Burton. I am a keen cyclist and have my own bike but I’ve been also very curious for a while to see how these equivalent to Boris-bikes worked, so when a friend came to visit who was up for a cycle ride, he was easily persuaded to download the app, enter his bank details and opt for one of the Minute Bundles: £20 pay-as-you-go that could be spent over the course of a year.
The app shows where bikes are available, you walk over to the spot, scan the bike code and the bike unlocks.
The bike rides really well for a 3-gear sit up and beg, it seemed solid but not overly heavy and – on tarmac – picks up speed easily. We cycled down to Cassiobury Park and had lots of people asking us questions who were really interested in the bikes. (This was in June).
So, not only did I feel we were getting exercise and supporting a more environmentally-friendly form of public transport, we were connecting with local people.
So well done Watford for introducing the Beryl Bikes! Now, we just need affordable electric car-shares.
Discussions on The Watford Way forwards for Climate Justice – our Shared Lunch on 15th November by Irena Pearse, John Quill, Sarah Hagger-Holt
Even though we are locked down, we were not locked out of diverse and stimulating discussions thanks to Friends and our Zoom speakers – Anna Addison from Watford Climate Action (affiliated with Friends of the Earth) and Vanessa Barker from Extinction Rebellion – who joined the Shared Lunch on Sunday 15th November.
We started with a quick overview of local activities and ended with discussions on ideas for action.
Presentations from local speakers
Vanessa from XR shared the different activities Watford’s branch took part in, before Covid times, which ranged from litter picking to protest events such as ‘The Horrors of Climate Change’ which ended with a ‘die in’ at Welwyn Garden City. Vanessa’s statement on ‘direct action’ was thought provoking – the fact that all major social change in recent history has been achieved through peaceful protest and the bravery of those individuals made me pause for thought…. Is it our turn now?
Anna introduced ways of being involved in local awareness raising activities and invited us all to link up our ideas and actions to make a bigger impact locally. Watford Climate Action reaches out to Three Rivers also. One of the comments from a WCA participant rang in my head: ‘It’s good to get involved with something that’s positive and constructive, rather than falling into the trap of thinking there’s nothing you can do’.
Discussions and Ideas for Action Within the Shared Lunch, we wanted to give plenty of time to share ideas that might help inspire us to action and give some focus to the many areas to tackle, and we reached a few key ideas by the end of the session through information sharing and break out group discussions.
From the five groups, there was a common theme of seeing an imperative need to lobby government and ensure big business continues to change in the way needed, and this can only be done through legislation and the Media keeping this issue on the agenda. There were some discussions on the best ways to do this and which issues, and Anna said this is something Watford Climate Action and their links with advocacy training can help individuals with. But there seemed agreement that letter writing, joining campaigns, taking part in local outreach and awareness raising would help.
Another group stressed the need to gain better knowledge about environmental issues to raise confidence in expressing a case and persuading others. There was also a discussion in a different group about the importance of accessibility, and that not all actions are accessible to everyone (e.g. It is harder to use public transport if on a lower income or with disability, etc.) Therefore it is important to lobby for government support for accessible as well as eco-friendly changes.
Although it was certainly agreed there are individual actions we can do and that we should also share good practice, ultimately, we came back to a consensus that the most impact on climate change (and climate justice) would be via government. This would force consumer change on us all.
Finally, COP26 is being hosted in Britain next November, and this was discussed to be an ideal opportunity to hold government to its pledges on Carbon Neutral (or was it ‘Net Zero’ – we did discuss the difference, but it seemed confusing = I must do my research ;-)
Advices and Queries and final reflections Sarah’s closing slide from Advices and Queries was a chance to reflect on all these ideas and for me, it was a moment of space to begin to consider all this. Sometimes it feels I am not doing enough, on the other hand I feel overwhelmed with choices.
Next steps Our little Quaker Climate Justice Group meet on Zoom about once a month or so to plan next steps and share ideas for actions. We are John (who is sadly leaving town), Sarah, Emily, Oliver and myself. Please do contact Sarah on email@example.com to share ideas and get involved on any level, you might have an idea for the newsletter J. You don’t need to commit to a group. We would love more people with more ideas on how to be true Friends of our earth.
What’s already happening and introducing our Green Team – Climate Justice Group for Watford Quakers by Irena Pearse
Back in April, Livvy Hanks from Quakers in Britain lead a zoom shared lunch introducing and explaining ‘Climate Justice’. It has stimulated a desire to focus back on encouraging green habits and being involved in ways to advocate a fairer future, recognising that Climate Change will impact the most vulnerable first and to a greater extent. John Quill set up a follow up shared lunch and we discussed actions. One of these is to begin a Green News Column in this Newsletter – voila!
Last week my attention was drawn to the phrase ‘Build Back Better’. It came up in an interview with a leading UN spokesperson. She was questioning it: ‘I don’t like this slogan’, she says. We shouldn’t be going back, we should say ‘Let’s Build Forwards Better’. She explained that in rebuilding the economy, we should be using new models, making the change that is needed to reduce the impact on the environment.
But I do want to look back first, to celebrate the past actions which have been sustainable.
I wanted to share some of the wonderful things I’ve discovered Watford Meeting House is already doing.
During and after this shared lunch on Climate Justice, I have learned that there had been a former Dream Green Team at Watford Quakers who have done so much already. Solar panels fitted? Tick. Eco products for cleaning and laundry? Tick. Plus, recycled loo roll. Power saving light bulbs fitted. Bike parking facilities. A donation of a russet apple tree to the garden. Encouraging shared lunches to be only local produce. Tick, tick, tick. I’m sure there are many more things that are in place and that we take for granted but were changed all that time ago. I also discovered with my role administrating cheques for QVA (Quaker’s Voluntary Action) that Quakers use Triodos bank, which is linked to the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and is an ethical bank. I’m thinking to switch myself.
So, we have a lot to feel proud about.
And, with this looking back, I am so much more aware there is a legacy that needs to be acted on and continued. Actions can lead to long lasting change. It’s our turn to build forwards.
Please support this newly formed group to focus on encouraging green habits and advocate a fairer future. We aim to include ideas and information on green issues in this column and invite you to be part of the group or send ideas that we can share here.
Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to take part in meetings and discussions for Climate Justice actions in Watford and the surrounds.
Three days in the peaceful Quaker haven of Woodbrooke: what a lovely prospect, I thought, as I set out for Birmingham at the end of February. Little did I know how disturbing it would be to hear the testimony of Muslims who are confronting Islamophobia. This is a country which might consider itself relatively tolerant of different religious beliefs, but it is clear that there is an atmosphere of tension and mistrust of the Muslim community in Birmingham and beyond.
The weekend started with one of the famously delicious meals provided by Woodbrooke’s culinary team. That evening we were introduced to the couple who were the facilitators of the sessions. Attalah is a convert to Islam, and his wife Rehanah was brought up in the faith in Birmingham. It was fun to see them interacting in a way which denied the stereotype of Muslim women being subservient. They answered any questions we had openly and honestly, with humour, and seemed to welcome our sometimes naive questions. What came shining through from them (and all the presenters) was their concern that their faith is misrepresented in the media, and the sense that the extremists (ISIS) are an aberration of the ethics of Islam. It would be like judging Christians by the Klu Klux Klan. The importance of efforts to create connections between people of different faiths also came through loud and clear. What also became evident was the overlap of Islam with the key Quaker beliefs of honesty, peace, equality, and simplicity.
An Imam explained some of the central beliefs of Islam, including the study of the Q’ran which includes many references to Old Testament prophets as well as Jesus and Mary. The central belief is that Mohammed is the last and most important prophet. The significance of the haj (a pilgrimage to Mecca) was explained, as was the difference between Sunni and Shia sects. Rehanah led a session specifically addressing the misconceptions about the place of women in Islam. She personified a liberated, well-educated and worldly Muslim woman. She gave us specific advice on how a Muslim prefers to be greeted, as well as explaining her own choice to wear a Hijab (modesty). She also highlighted the importance of women in the religion.
Another speaker, Dr Laura McDonald, raised our awareness of the way in which the media can skew coverage of Muslim affairs, and in particular the damaging association of mainstream Islam and ISIS.
On Saturday evening, we broke into smaller groups and had more intense discussions. One speaker, Moazzam Baig was imprisoned at Guantanamo. He was never charged with a crime, and was imprisoned in solitary confinement for three years. He explained his ability to forgive his captors, and his belief that bitterness was not an option for a true Muslim. We also heard from Riaz Mohammed, one of the school governors involved in the Trojan Horse controversy, and Hifsa Iqbal, who explained some of the efforts of the Muslim community to prevent radicalization.
On Sunday, we were privileged to hear from Jahan Mahmoud, a former advisor to the government, and now commentator. If you type his name into YouTube, you can see some of his illuminating commentaries on radicalization. The analogy of treating Muslims as ‘other’ was very disturbing, as it seemed similar to the way the Jews were seen as less than human in 1930s Germany.
Woodbrooke runs this course each year, and I would recommend it to anyone wishing to learn more about this widespread and influential religion. It made me want to learn more about the teachings of the Q’ran, and reminded me about the importance of understanding the multicultural society which is the reality of England. Sitting in the calm and beauty of Woodbrooke it is hard to imagine the intolerance which is often encountered by Muslims.
If you are interested in what you can do to reduce Islamophobia in our area and beyond, you may like to get involved with the work of the Watford Interfaith Association, which encourages interaction between different religions on a personal basis. Last year, many of our members enjoyed the Interfaith pilgrimage, which visited six different places of worship in Watford, and also the McMillan coffee morning at the North Watford mosque.
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A number of member of Watford meeting got knitting to help create part of the 7 mile pink scarf to stretch between Atomic Weapons Establishment sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield, Berkshire, where nuclear weapons are made.