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?