When one of our members contacted us saying that she had an idea about putting on an event, I was both curious and excited. Emilia had this idea when she met one of her father’s friends, Nicola Peel, who works in Ecuador in the Amazon where there have been massive oil spills that have damaged the environment and affected indigenous peoples. Texaco was involved in a court case where they were fined a large amount of money, several years ago, and they have not paid it. Nicola has made a documentary film about this and is also involved in trying to get the money off them and in resisting the oil industry who give villagers gifts in the hope of doing exploratory drilling, after which point the local people have very little power to stop them drilling to extract oil. The day before meeting Nicola, she’d been to an event in London on Energy Democracy. This was organised by Global Justice Now, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, and the Transnational Institute. There were several Spanish activists and local authority workers who are doing some really interesting work around energy democracy in places where the popular democratic party Podemos has local control. There were also several British academics and activists, and some political people and part of the intention was to give UK policy makers a greater insight into the concept of energy democracy. This left her feeling that she wanted to share her understanding of the concept of energy democracy with people in Bristol. She had also another critical connection in this idea, Scarlet Hall, who has spent a lot of time in Colombia involved with the impact of coal mining on the coast. Scarlet has created a performance called Buried Sunshine, that she performed at the event, based on the testimonies of people in Colombia
We got together and explored ways that BEN could help with turning this idea into reality. I suggested some other people who work in energy in Bristol and a couple of hours later, we left the meeting with a rough schedule, a possible venue and a to-do list.
Peninah Achieng was one of the speakers we wanted to include on the line-up. She is the Chair of the African Voices Forum, has worked in the public sector for over 18 years, has over a decade’s experience of working with local government and supports various voluntary groups in different ways from being a director to an activist and her community work spans from Bristol to Africa. Simply put, she is superwoman and she agreed to be on the panel. Peninah spoke about the challenges of the audience not being representative of the city as well as some solutions on how we can change this. As great as our city is it has the highest inequality between ethnic minorities and white British citizens than in any other major English or Welsh city . Regardless of this classic Bristol and British dilemma, it felt both revolutionary and refreshing having an all-female panel as this is a sector that is often dominated by white middle-class men.
Zoe Banks, an environmental scientist, cycling instructor and one of the directors of Easton Energy Group, did a great job of chairing the event and reminding the audience of the connections between community, climate change and energy.
The event was one of the few that left me thinking that everyone who wasn’t there was missing out in something special happening in our city and feeling very inspired, informed and with a renewed…energy for this work.
The issue of climate change is one that can often feel very monstrous and defeatist but Nicola wrapped up the event by asking everyone in the room to make a pledge. The pledges made ranged from changing electricity suppliers to greener suppliers like Ecotricity or Good Energy, divesting, powering our websites on renewable power, draught-proofing our homes and writing to organisations pillaging the Earth to let them know that we are watching them and will not be watch helplessly whilst they destroy our communities both in Bristol and further afield.
Below is a list of resources from the event. The only way that we can collectively make a change to our energy system is by making changes on an individually first. What’s your pledge?
Thank you to all those who contributed to this amazing event by attending, speaking on the panel and especially to Emilia for putting this event on. This event epitomised the vision of our members “being the network”. If you do have any ideas on events then please do get in touch and the BEN staff will be more than happy to support you.