I’m worried.

Sophia Cheng / 8 min read / Newbie Activist Life
10 December 2019
Newbie climate activist shares worries about this week's election.

I’m worried I’ve left it too late to write this.

I’m worried with my hypocrisy of being vocal about climate but silent about politics.

I’m worried that I’m not qualified to add my voice to the conversation.

I’m worried that I haven’t done enough.

I’m worried that it won’t make a difference.

I’m really worried about this election.

I look at everything through a climate and ecological emergency these days. (Science seems simpler than politics). And, I hope I don’t invalidate other very important issues – but if we don’t sort out the climate and maintaining a habitable home for our species we have a very real and very existential crisis on our hands. It will be hard to be woke when we’re worried where our next meal is coming from.*

*which is a reality for many today around the world and in our country.

The scale of change needed to address the crisis in a meaningful way will be huge. We’ve left it too late for piecemeal changes, or tweaks to policy. If we’d moved earlier we could have had the blackcurrant sweet Calpol, now we’ve got to swallow the giant pill.

And now there’s an election. Gulp.

I never really got politics, I didn’t see myself in there and it didn’t feel relevant to me. Even at school, politics was the thing the clever girls talked about, I skirted around the edges hearing about wings, and directions and colours. It’s not something we talked much about at home either.

So I’ve voted every colour, knowing that I should vote but not really fully getting the principles or the long-term consequences. I even voted for Boris Johnson in the London Mayor race – well because I watched Have I Got News For You and thought he seemed like an ‘alright guy’. I was very grateful for Boris bikes too – Yes – I’ve subsequently learned they’re really Ken’s bikes that Boris took the glory for.

I look back now and partly think I didn’t know who to vote for because I didn’t really know who I was, what I stood for or what my values were.

Better late than never, I’ve done that work now. My values are connection and making a difference. Because of that I’ve returned to the UK to dedicate the next decade to the climate crisis. I was even arrested making a stand on our collective inertia on tackling the crisis.

That felt very clear to me. Politics feels like the swamp.

I feel I’m navigating half truths. I need to read between the lines to guess at the meaning. Weighing in on entrenched ideas people have been holding onto for decades.

And it seems unfathomable to me just how much lying is going on.

For some clarity and out of curiosity I went to my first political hustings. More than 15 local XR rebels went to see four candidates go head to head. I went with my mum for some alternative mother/daughter bonding. The heckling, oh the heckling! Yes we should be held accountable for our actions but who would want to put themselves through that? Two candidates were standing for the first time, stepping away from shouting at their TV screens and stepping up into the political arena. Someone reminded me of recent debates in the House of Commons – I can see where the inspired heckling came from. sigh [Aside: Does Bercow shouting ‘Order, order’ sum up our politics of this decade? another sigh]

This really worries me. How are we going to solve such complex issues like the climate crisis when we’re pitched quite literally against each other on opposite benches. Forced into binary choices; yes, no, in, out.

Did we lose the art of respectful conversation? Of nuance? What about listening? If our leaders are just the ones who can shout the loudest, or have developed the thickest skins, what does that say about the decisions they will make on our behalf?

I am genuinely worried about the wellbeing of any new fresh-faced MPs coming into the fold for these elections. But then, I hope that many of them get in. Because it strikes me that more than ever we need a political climate change.

A call for change.

The same party have been in power for the last 10 years. To paraphrase a viral Facebook post – you don’t get change by picking the same thing.

If the same party and ideology stays in power – where will that leave us?


It’s time to change; change our minds, change our direction, change our focus.

Same ≠ Difference

Confidence ≠ Competence

Likability ≠ Objectivity

My worrying has kept me up these last few nights. My neck and shoulders are rock hard with tension. A quote I keep coming back to; Action is the antidote to despair. I wasn’t brave enough to canvas, or speak to strangers on the train. So I’m writing this – and sharing this imperfect post with you.

There are many things wrong in the world. Not just the climate and ecological crisis. But what I’ve been learning and letting sink in is that this could be the opportunity to solve many of our social ills at the same time.

I delved into the Green New Deal via Naomi Klein’s book, On Fire. It came at the right time. I hit a real low after the Extinction Rebellion protests in October and this book tackles the question; “and then what?”

The Green New Deal shifts the focus (and the money) away from intensive carbon industries and values low carbon industries like healthcare, teaching, arts. It incorporates those most affected into co-creating a change, it localises power generation. Here’s a video that explains it more articulately than me:

The force that is Alexandria Orcasio-Cortez, together with Naomi Klein captured my imagination earlier this year – with the possible future where we address inequality and carbon emissions simultaneously.

That is a world I want to live in. That is the world I want to fight for. A world I want to be useful in creating.

So back to this piece of citizen action we’re invited to participate in this week:

Labour declared they were running on a Green New Deal manifesto – they’ve called it the Green Industrial Revolution. (Source: https://action.labour.org.uk/page/content/gir-regional-manifesto)

But how are we going to pay for it all?

Well here’s a start:

I defer to The New Economics Foundation for further detail, they have been working on the Green New Deal concept for more than a decade and have highlighted 5 ways to fund the Green New Deal in the UK; https://neweconomics.org/2019/11/five-ways-to-fund-a-green-new-deal

Perhaps this is naive of me, but it strikes me that there is plenty of money around. A report came out this week from Centre for Alternative Technology, that we already have the technology to get UK to carbon zero. (Source: https://www.cat.org.uk/new-report-zero-carbon-britain-rising-to-the-climate-emergency/)

Back to that UN report that came out last year; “what we lack is political will.”

Can we afford not to pay for it?

How I am voting

This is the climate election.

I’m voting Labour.

There is no Green candidate running in my constituency and our First Past the Post system means it would likely be a wasted vote if there was one in my area which has been Conservative for decades. [Aside: Our region did vote in our first Green MEP this year though! yay]

Tackling the climate and ecological crisis will mean unpicking many of the economic models and power structures that have contributed to it. So that means coming head to head with the fossil fuel industry, the aviation industry, the industrial agricultural industry. And shareholders. Being in their pockets has left us prioritising growth for the sake of growth. And they have so much power.

I’m picking the party that is going to give the challenge a dam good go.

No, I don’t think they’ll be perfect. And they may make a fair share of mistakes. But neither do we have to know all the answers just yet – but we have to be big and bold in our imagination and appetite for change. We have to be brave and try.

We’re at the dawn of a new decade. A decade that will really count. What we do in this decade will have repercussions for the rest of the century. This is when we bring down carbon emissions – or we don’t. This is when we create a new story to thrive within our planetary boundaries – or we don’t. This is the decade that we overturn out of date power structures that put a hierarchy on human life – or we don’t. This is not for decade of half measures.

Make your vote count this week.

Some resources

Avatar photo Sophia Cheng With a decade of communications experience across the for profit and nonprofit sectors, agency and in-house, Sophia has made a habit of making ‘the hard stuff’ more accessible. Since 2018, she has reorientated her life around the climate crisis. She has forged her decade of communications experience into offering workshops, mentoring, blogging, and more, on the biggest issues of our time. View all posts
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