Friends of the Earth has launched a spoof video to highlight the issue of water pollution. Find out what it's all about, and how you and your group can join in.

28 May 2024

Ready to take action? On Wednesday 15 May, Friends of the Earth launched a video about a spoof tourist attraction: Sh*t Beach. 

The tongue-in-cheek approach is the start of a conversation and a series of campaign actions related to pollution. After watching the video, we've been inviting people to sign our record of public support for a new Environmental Rights Act (ERA) to enshrine our right to a healthy environment in law. 

Floating turds warning sign in front of a cloudy beach
Spoof warning sign of floating turds in the sea

Our waterways are awash with pollution. A trip to the seaside is now more likely to serve up a stench of sewage rather than the nostalgic waft of paper-wrapped chips. And there’s a higher chance of spotting brown foam on a riverside walk, instead of otters and kingfishers. An Environmental Rights Act would embed the legal right to a healthy environment into law and ensure pollution was acted on. What’s more: 

  • It would prevent the government from making any new laws that allow water pollution eg, the current legislation that permits water companies to let sewage into the sea during storms, and would bolster laws proposed right now that would hold water companies to account
  • Public bodies (like water companies) would have to act in ways compatible with rights which means they would have a new legal responsibility that would require them to change how they deal with sewage so that it can’t flood beaches. The Environment Agency as another public body example would also have to take stronger action to fix sh*t beach, to warn people about the risks and not just keep reporting on the declining situation.
  • Residents living in places plagued by sewage (like Sh*t Beach) could exercise their human right to a healthy environment, access enhanced information about the sewage and challenge those polluting companies and the regulators that fail to police them in the courts. 

Please note that while we've started to talk about water pollution via the story of Sh*t Beach from 15 May, we welcome group activity on the topic until the end of summer. We'll have additional resources available over the coming months, like new data on pollution hotspots in England. And although we encourage specific Sh*t Beach actions to conclude by September, the work towards a legal right to a healthy environment will continue into 2025. 

We’ll keep in touch along with the way with new and exciting actions that your group can get involved in.   

How to get involved

We want you to use "Sh*t Beach" in a way that works for you. This could be highlighting pollution in a nearby river or lake or even kick starting a local campaign on multiple pollutions. It could also provide a new opportunity to highlight existing work you might be doing, a great way to get more people involved and could bring media and public attention to the issue locally as well.  

As well as spreading the word about a new Environmental Rights Act as a solution to water pollution and many of the other types of pollution impacting the health of our environment, we encourage you to link this to local demands and solutions too.  

Local actions will help to show MPs and potential parliamentary candidates that the community is concerned about the ongoing degradation of our environment and that there's public support for a legal right to a healthy environment.  

Take action online

You can share the video using the hashtag #ShtBeach and include a link to the record of public support so people can add their name to the call for an Environmental Rights Act.

Put up posters

Put up posters to advertise Sh*t Beach. They may wish they weren't there, but it'll certainly grab their attention! The poster includes a QR code to find out more and sign the record of public support for an Environmental Rights Act. 

Find places locally where these will catch the attention of your community (think shop windows, on community noticeboards, in your workplace etc. You could also send this out to your mailing lists for people to download and share. Don’t forget to take a photo of the poster in situ that you can share on your social media.  

 

Organise a photo stunt

Using humour and props, explore ideas of what might capture the attention of people in your area to think about our polluted waterways. You’re the local experts so feel free to get creative. Some ideas that we’ve already heard included the use of toilets, beach props like buckets and spades, hazmat suits and even giant poo emoijs! You could also invite your local MP to join for the photo.

Another option could be to borrow one of our props from the Sh*t Beach video. We have a number of small beach flags available, a printed towel and the front facade of the sh*t shack beach kiosk. Please contact [email protected] out find out more and to discuss logistics.

Take a photo to share on social media. This would also be the perfect accompaniment to a press release. Don’t forget to tag @FOE_Community and use the hashtag #ShtBeach or send your photo to [email protected]. You could also send the photo in an email to your mailing list or any allied local groups inviting them to sign the record of public support for a new Environmental Rights Act.  

Speak to local press

Contact your local media one week before your action and invite them to take photos on the day. Use our template press release to help you get started.  

Spread the word at any upcoming events (leaflets)

Based on your feedback we've also created a leaflet:

These can be shared at any stalls or events you have planned over the coming months.

Organise an event

Organise a beach clean-up, a guided walk along a local river path or canal, a rock-skimming competition at a nearby lake or a family-friendly game of Poohsticks on a well-known bridge. This would be a great way to talk to new people in your community about the issue and an opportunity to get folks together for a photo.  

Think about who you could invite to take part: who's most affected by the issue, and who would stand to gain the most from a legal right to a healthy environment? Which other movements or organisations are already campaigning locally – even if it’s on other aspects of a healthy environment like clean air or the right to green space?  

Staying safe  

To ensure your activity is covered by insurance, please fill out a risk assessment in advance and share it with your relevant regional staff member. See our insurance guidance for more information.  

Friends of the Earth local action groups may organise and participate in peaceful, legal protest. Groups shouldn't organise, promote or participate in intentionally unlawful activity. See our policy on protest and non-violent action for more information.  

You don’t have to tell the police if you’re organising a static demonstration on public land. If you’d like more information about your protest rights, please refer to our guide. 

The story of Sh*t Beach is part of our work on nature and justice, which covers the Environmental Rights Act and the Planet over Profit campaign. 

Rather than a campaign in itself, it's a humorous narrative that taps into the ongoing public discussion around water pollution and offers a solution. By introducing the legal right to a healthy environment through the lens of water pollution, we'll expand on the story to highlight the breadth of pollutions that could be prevented through this new law. 

This first moment will draw attention to the local level, then expand to the national level through the explanation of how an Environmental Rights Act would both equip citizens to take action and hold both the government and UK companies to account.  

Over the next couple of years we'll continue to roll out this nature and justice focus beyond our shores to the international level by talking about the impact of UK companies on environments and lives overseas through their global supply chains. And, through the Planet Over Profit campaign, we'll continue to push for a new law that extends protection beyond the UK to hold business, finance and the public sector to account when they fail to prevent supply chain human rights abuses and environmental harms here or overseas. 

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