17 Nov 2023
What's a healthy environment?
Many people are faced with air and water pollution through no fault of their own. Communities impacted by flooding, droughts or extreme weather can take years to recover without resources and support. This isn't a healthy environment.
Some people are impacted more than others. For example, people living in low-income neighbourhoods in cities and towns are more likely to be experiencing these issues. And those who are already marginalised in society, such as people of colour and disabled people, can face additional struggles. We recognise that although there is leadership and activity within these communities, people of colour and disabled people are often excluded from conversations around solutions.
Our history of campaigning for a healthy environment
While we haven’t always got it right. Friends of the Earth has a history of working on environmental justice that we can draw on. We’ve supported communities against the threat of fracking, stood shoulder to shoulder with local people to prevent the further industrialisation of Merthyr Tydfil and the Rhymney valley, and we’re working with frontline communities in Northern Ireland to protect their countryside from exploitation and pollution.
Recently, we've published ground-breaking research showing how people of colour and people in areas with lower income have less access to green space, feel the unequal impacts of extreme heat and are disproportionality exposed to high levels of air pollution. The impact of the food and energy we consume in the UK is also impacting the environments of people around the world.
At the local level, Friends of the Earth local action groups are often the leaders and the heart of our justice work.
Transformational community work
Read two new real-life stories which show groups putting justice, community and learning, at the heart of their campaigning.
Leicester Friends of the Earth have experienced a transformational journey in their campaigning. From previously being bogged down by policy work to taking a plunge and forming new relationships, their approach has been fruitful – leading to brand-new collaborations which have changed the way they work and has given them a refreshed view of the city they always knew.
NoArc21, a community group based in Belfast, is entrenched in a long running battle. The group’s been protecting their local environment and the health of all of those in their community from a proposed waste incinerator for almost ten years. NoArc21’s campaign has been fraught with wins and setbacks, but out of their fight back the group has achieved more than clean air – its built community, power, and pride.
The Healthy Environment project
As many of you are aware, over the last couple of years we’ve been developing a potential “Healthy Environment” campaign aimed at working with the most impacted communities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We've come to the difficult decision that we don't have the internal resources to do this campaign justice and take it further at this stage.
We’ve learned a lot during the process, and we’ll use that learning to inform our approach to campaigning on this issue and our future work with impacted communities.
We're not, however, giving up on campaigning for everyone to enjoy a healthy environment. We're still standing against dangerous plans to unravel UK laws that protect people and nature, and calling for stronger, not weaker environment laws. We've launched a call for a new Environmental Rights Bill, to guarantee a legal right to a healthy environment for people here in the UK. And we're ramping up the Planet Over Profit campaign for a law that would push back against corporate crimes against nature and communities overseas. Together, these 2 laws could give communities around the world new tools to fight for a fair and sustainable future.
We’re aware that lots of groups are working on nature-related themes such as air pollution, green space and water pollution. Your regional staff contact remains on hand to support you and the brilliant work you’re doing on these critical issues.
Want to tell us about your work on healthy environments, or give us feedback on something you’ve read here? Email us at [email protected]