Of all the social issues I’m involved in and care about, climate change is the one that matters most to me. It is an existential threat – and we’re already seeing a whole range of negative impacts that have their roots in man-made climate change.
But it’s also one of those issues where it’s easy to feel hopeless. It’s hard to know what to do. And even if you do something, it can feel pointless. So inaction, or disengagement, become ever-more attractive. And the less we engage, the more time we waste, the less chance we’ve got of coming up with solutions.
Over the years I’ve tried to “do my bit” (see – even the language is problematic). I’ve written here before about how we’ve tried to make our home more green (more problematic language). I’ve written too about reducing our car use – and selling our car – and about big issues in Leeds – like transport and recycling.
And I’m pleased I’ve done all that. It’s got us thinking about this stuff as a family. It’s made a difference at a micro-level. It’s saved us some money. Made us feel a bit better about ourselves. And it’s got us into conversations with people we know. Including difficult conversations, some of which probably haven’t done done much good.
But, of course, all of the things we’ve done are micro-scale, personal actions in a world that needs so much more to happen. And they were all probably cancelled out by that flight to France last May.
It’s complicated isn’t it?
So I’ve been thinking again this year about what more I can do, particularly through work.
With this in mind, I recently joined the Leeds Committee on Climate Change. It’s due to launch publicly in September (if you’re interested in this kind of thing and would like an invite to the launch please let me know and I’ll pass on your request) and in broad terms it has a remit based around exploring how as a city Leeds does all it can to reduce its carbon emissions.
There are people from businesses and organisations across Leeds involved, with the Council and Universities taking a lead on bringing it all together.
My main aim in joining the Committee is to explore how we can come up with social business solutions to climate change in Leeds. Sustainable ideas in both senses of the word. I don’t know what they’ll be – but I’m sure there must be opportunities to develop ideas that could for example improve air quality, reduce waste, tackle traffic congestion, reduce fuel poverty, and reduce the amount of CO2 that we pump into the air.
The good thing is that the Board of our social enterprise, Social Business Brokers CIC, is keen for us to work more on this. So they’ve given me a bit of time over the next couple of months to explore things in a bit more detail.
Could we help to develop some social business ideas in Leeds to tackle climate change? Five years ago we decided to get involved in housing – and that led to us coming up with the idea for Empty Homes Doctor. 250 no-longer-empty-homes later, we’re still making a difference.
So could we do the same on climate change? Come up with sustainable social businesses that really make a difference? I really hope we can. And not just because it’s the issue that matters to me more than anything else.
I am increasingly convinced that many of the actions we need to take to tackle climate change are best taken at city level. That’s the level at which you can engage citizens – and the level at which we could best appreciate the positive impacts of the changes we need to make to reduce carbon emissions.