ROAD TRIP!!!

1st June 2012 by

That’s right, I spent a substantial part of last month on the road with the One Million Climate Jobs Caravan, organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group. There were two vans – one going round the North and one going round the South (and before you ask, they were the most fuel efficient vans possible) – and I hopped on for Birmingham, Southampton, Portsmouth, Brighton, and Manchester. Phew!

We would park up in the city centres during the day, telling people about the One Million Climate Jobs report that lays out a strategy for government investment that would create one million climate jobs, which would go a looong way towards addressing the double whammy we face at the moment, of climate change and economic recession. We had a petition for people to sign up to calling for the government to take on this strategy, and we had a lot of information on the tables from this campaign and others, like the UK Youth Climate Coalition’s Youth for Green Jobs campaign.

The consequence of having all this information, a sign-up sheet, and a massive van that said ONE MILLION CLIMATE JOBS on the side of it? People started queueing. For a job. We were approached, again and again, by people who were looking for a job and thought we were recruiting, and it was the same in all the towns the caravan visited apparently. We had to say, again and again, that we didn’t actually have jobs to offer, but we were campaigning for the government to create them! I met men on the dole who signed our petition, went to the job centre to sign on, and then came back to try and sign the petition again because they felt so strongly. I met a 17 year old girl who was 3 months pregnant and couldn’t find anyone to take her on. I met young people about to graduate from college or university, and were scared about the economic climate they were about to graduate into. And everyone I met, without exception, agreed that it made sense to create jobs in sectors that would also work to improve our environment and slow climate change.

The experience was heartbreaking, but also invigorating. It proved to me how dire the situation is for so many people across the country, that they think their best hope for a job might be a van parked up on the side of the road. But it also proved how essential it is that we are campaigning on this issue, and it showed how much support people have for the green jobs agenda. Because why wouldn’t they? IT MAKES SENSE.

In each town, there was a public meeting in the evening hosted by local organisers. People from the local councils, unions, and activist groups came together to see what they could do about creating climate / green jobs locally. I spoke to each of them about our experiences with the East London Green Jobs Alliance, sharing our learnings and the process by which we set it up and got it going. The meetings I went to were great, but to be honest, turn out was fairly low, with between 15 – 40 at each meeting (I think it was higher in the north). I don’t think it’s for lack of support for the agenda, as I really felt that out on the street. And those conversations I had on the street were educational, because unlike trade unionists or environmentalists, who have been banging on about this stuff for ages, I really felt that many people with no political agenda or affiliation were getting wise to the situation. And I felt that they were on the cusp of taking action. Maybe signing a petition was the first step.

It definitely won’t be their last. Because the economic situation isn’t going to get any better soon, nor is the environmental situation. There will come a moment, soon, when people who see a van on the side of the street won’t politely queue. They will scramble, and they will fight, and they will start to fill the halls at public meetings. And what will the government do then?

Tales from the road – part 4

18th July 2011 by

As many of you may have gathered, every day on tour is a little bit different. Writing tour journal entries is one of those tasks that seems quick and easy in theory, but when it actually comes down to doing it, well… easier said than done. Between cycling days, play performances, cob building, swimming in streams, cooking, workshops, crazy weather, bug bites, minor injuries (not always bicycle related), camping, hula hooping, bicycle mishaps and mountain passes, our days are jam packed and full of adventure! And I feel this is why the tour journal is so difficult; to try to sum up a week on tour is like trying to navigate through Manchester using only an OS landranger map (scale of 1:50 000). You have to stick to the main roads and it often lacks a lot of important details (we speak from experience!). As such, I feel it is worthwhile to give you all a more in-depth (city-sized, if you will) look at one of our cycle days.

Though in general we have been very fortunate weather-wise (I came prepared for rain all day, every day), our second cycling day in the Lake District brought some discouraging conditions: heavy rain and uphill towards a mountain. After an hour’s delay in feeble attempt to wait out the rain (forecasted all day), we set out only to discover about five minutes in that a set of brakes had come loose. After addressing this problem (still raining), we set off for the second time, now two hours later than our planned departure time, and only about 0.1/35 miles complete. Still recovering from taking the trailer up a mountain two days prior, my legs were not very happy on the steady incline up another, but with three of my lovely teammates supporting me with a push and a cheer here and there, we finished the climb on the winding, wet roads safe and sound. The only casualty: Meghan’s pump, which was run over by two coach busses. Ironically, once at the top of the climb we also realised her tyre was very low. And there we were, stopped again only a few miles into the day, cold, soaked, two of us trying to find a pump to rectify the tyre situation, one of us holding three bikes and the trailer. But fear not! It was downhill from there! Well, for another 10 miles or so.

After a lovely rendez-vous with the rest of the group at the Lakeland Pedlar wholefood bicycle cafe in Keswick, where we stocked up on chocolate tiffins, coffee, hi-vis vests and chain lube, we continued our journey to Cockermouth. After much debate between the high traffic A road, a hilly B road with a near vertical mountain pass, and the cycle route with a few miles of off-road trail, we decided that the cycle path would probably be our safest bet. Our first glimpse of this path was not encouraging: far too narrow for fully loaded panniers (let alone a trailer), way too many large rocks and gravel for our slicks, and a little too steep for our liking. But, we couldn’t go around it, couldn’t go under it, had to go over it (pushing our bikes). And that is how my first experience hiking with a bicycle began. Luckily the rain had stopped, and the path was indeed only a few miles long, and with everyone taking turns pushing the trailer, we arrived at the “meadow of heaven” as Erin dubbed it, and took a nice sunny break on the top of the small mountain, enjoying the lovely view that the steep climb had just afforded us. To our delight, we rolled on to a nicely paved windy country road (the BEST kind), with Holly yelling “HELLOOO LOOOVAAAA!” in her charming Aussie accent, and it was, literally, all downhill from there.

Peace and bicycle grease,

Susanna and the rest of the Northern Soul Cycle Tour team


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