Read and Watch | Can Bristol come together to take Climate Action?
by Ruth Cutler and Paul Cornish
All images credited to Abdull Nurdin-Hussein
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Adults and Teens
Have you ever felt anxious about the future of our planet? If you have, you’re not alone!
Bristol is often thought of as a green city. In 2015, we became the first British city to be named European Green Capital. Later, in 2021 one global study named us the UK’s most sustainable city. Despite these green credentials, anxiety around climate change is felt strongly in the city.
What is climate anxiety?
According to a scientific study in 2021, nearly six in 10 young people aged 16 to 25 were very or extremely worried about climate change. A similar number said they felt betrayed by the older generation and governments, and that governments were not protecting them, the planet, or future generations.
These feelings of fear and frustration are a completely rational reaction to what we’re all experiencing. It’s normal to feel powerless, or even guilty. Irreparable damage has already been done to the planet, and it’s hard to know what to do to make a meaningful difference.
There’s plenty of advice on what we can do as individuals. Reduce your carbon footprint, cut down on waste, insulate your home, take shorter showers, walk instead of drive, eat less meat… the list of things you should be doing goes on.
But when the concerns of young people are not being addressed by those with real power, tips about recycling and eating less meat just don’t seem to cut it anymore.
Research suggests that personal lifestyle changes will make a difference. Even when such changes are being made however, it’s still possible to feel like you’re not doing enough - like your best efforts are a drop in the ocean.
Thankfully, the emphasis doesn’t have to be on the individual.
During an interview in 2022, Bristol based climate activist and writer Tori Tsui stressed the importance of working together to take climate action. “It's not just you. We can't be employing individualism as the solution to things that ultimately really need collective care and community structures.”
When looking for ways to tackle the climate crisis, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone.
How the people of Bristol are taking climate action together
The scale of the climate crisis is huge, but when we come together great things can happen. There is so much that can be achieved as a group that can’t be done in isolation. As part of a community you can feel empowered, alleviate your climate anxiety, and make a real difference.
Here in Bristol the Community Climate Action project is doing just that. This project - coordinated by the Bristol Green Capital Partnership - is enabling different communities across the city to get together, create their own unique priorities and climate action plans, and put them into practice.
Kirsty Hammond is the Climate Action Lead from one of these projects - Heart of BS13. She told us, “It can be really hard as an individual to take climate action, especially when there are other barriers that people may be facing.”
Hammond explained that these groups can bring people together and provide a sense of community, “The most inspirational outcome from all of these groups is seeing people grow and be empowered and want to make a difference to bring about change.”
How can I get involved?
Volunteering opportunities with Heart of BS13 can be found on their website. But this is by no means the only option available for those in Bristol who would like to come together to take climate action.
Other community organisations that offer volunteering opportunities have joined the Community Climate Action Project. These include Hillfield’s Community Garden, Knowle West Media Centre, Southmead Development Trust, and Windmill Hill City Farm.
The Bristol Green Capital Partnership hold regular ‘Green Mingle’ events, at which organisations and individuals who care about sustainability can meet and get to know one another.
Bristol is also home to other groups dedicated to making a difference.
City to Sea is an environmental organisation campaigning to stop plastic pollution at source. They offer volunteering opportunities, research and resources on reducing plastic pollution, and a monthly Plastic-Free Journal that provides advice on ways to live with less plastic.
The Black Seeds Network provide a platform for Black environmentalists and environmentalists of colour to socialise, gain support, and seek opportunities. They seek to nurture a new generation of activists by offering skills development, networking events, media opportunities, and more.
If you can’t find a group in your area, you could start your own. Reach out to groups in other areas for resources and tips.
Whatever action you decide to take, it’s important to be kind to yourself. As Tori Tsui has said, “Do exactly what you can do with your capacity... It doesn't have to be perfect.”
Above all, remember - you are not alone!
For more information about climate anxiety, check out the Climate Psychology Alliance.
Curious about community responses to climate change? The good news is that strong community climate action is happening around the world.
Read the story of George Tsitati, Kenyan climate activist, and Bristol University Masters student, pioneering climate-smart agriculture in rural farming communities.