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In association with Citroën

The Big Issue Changemakers of 2023: Environment

Keeping our planet healthy is becoming the most crucial issue we face. We celebrate those taking the initiative – our environment changemakers of 2023

In association with Citroën

These are The Big Issue’s Changemakers working to protect our environment, fight for climate justice and push for a more sustainable world in 2023.

Find the rest of the series on the links below and pick up the magazine from your local Big Issue vendor.

Anna Hughes, Flight Free UK

If we’re going to reduce flying it needs a combination of government action and personal responsibility. And when it comes to travel, that’s where the team at Flight Free UK aim to help. By showing people how to travel without resorting to flying, it not only reduces individuals’ carbon footprint, but puts pressure on government and business to find viable alternatives. Director Anna Hughes tells us more. 

Anna Hughes of Flight Free UK
Anna Hughes of Flight Free UK. Photo: LarryJ (www.larryj.photography)

What was 2022 like for Flight Free UK? 

It was a good year for Flight Free UK. We inspired many thousands of people to reduce the amount they fly, with over 5,000 people signing our pledge to take a year off flying. We received some lovely comments from people who have taken our pledge, including: “I’ve never liked the pollution of planes, but they were always so quick and convenient”, and “It felt good to take action and it sparked a lot of conversations with friends/family about the climate crisis which I don’t think would have happened otherwise.” 

 It was the first year in a while when travel returned to something resembling normal, which meant that we could share travel stories from people who have had amazing adventures without flying, including inter-railing around Europe, cycling across the Alps and going by van to Scotland. We are proud to be part of the narrative that is prompting a resurgence in low-carbon transport across Europe, including an expanded network of night trains and more ferry routes between the UK and mainland Europe. We registered as a charity last year, which is a great achievement for us, as it’s lovely to be recognised for all the work we’re doing. 

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Why is your work needed? 

It’s so vital to reduce emissions at this time of climate emergency, but people are often not sure where to start. Reducing flying is one of the most impactful actions we can take for the climate, but lots of people are not aware of the true impact of aviation on the environment, or don’t know that alternative travel modes exist. Our work is to inform people of the climate impact of aviation and inspire them to travel by other means, in a positive and empowering way. 

What are your plans for 2023? 

Our new pledge launches in 2023: people can sign up to take a flight-free year or can choose a pledge to suit their own personal circumstances. Not everyone can abstain from all flights, for example those who have work or family commitments abroad. The fundamental aim is to normalise the concept of not flying, and every year we get closer to our goal, as more and more people choose to stay grounded. We hope that many thousands more people will be inspired to join the pledge this year.  

Just Stop Oil

No environmental campaign group got more people talking last year than Just Stop Oil. Their approach – closing roads, attacking art, scaling buildings – created conflicted reactions, but it brought focus to the crisis we’re in. To avert planetary catastrophe the group is calling for a government commitment to end all new licences for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.

“Another year has gone by and the stakes continue to rise,” Just Stop Oil spokesperson Sean Irish told
The Big Issue. “We have seen this government’s failings with the cost of living, energy, and climate crises; 2023 needs to be the year of civil resistance. If this government will not grant us a liveable future then, like movements of the past, we will remove our consent to be governed and act in non-violent civil resistance until our rights are respected and protected. 

“In 2023 we can have NO NEW OIL, and we can have NO MORE DELAY. See you on the streets.” Like them or feel unsure of their methods, they will continue to agitate for the greater good.

The grazing goats of Bournemouth beach

We like simple solutions to environmental issues. In 2020, a council introduced cashmere goats to the cliffs behind Bournemouth beach to control damaging, invasive species of shrub. And it worked – undesirable species such as holm oak, Japanese knotweed and bamboo no longer dominate in the area. Now the size of the herd will double as it’s been found that their grazing has increased the number of butterflies and native plants, as well as encouraging rare species such as Dartford warblers and sand lizards. Other councils take note.

Claire Moodie

Claire Moodie
Claire Moodie. Image: Plastic Free North Devon

As an avid surfer and representative of Surfers Against Sewage, Claire Moodie (pictured above) has seen first-hand the impact of plastic pollution on the marine environment of North Devon. Moodie is the CEO of Plastic Free North Devon, an organisation set up by volunteers in April 2018 to combat the global problem of plastic pollution through local action. Plastic Free North Devon looks to educate, support, campaign and encourage more conscious consumption and increase awareness of environmental issues. The organisation has put much-needed pressure on local councils, organisations and communities to directly reduce plastic pollution and taken local school children on trips to explore their local environment. 

Pierre-Yves Paslier and Rodrigo Garcia González

The founders of Notpla – short for “not plastic” – have developed an alternative which they hope will prevent one billion plastic bottles reaching the ocean each year. The pair met studying Innovation Design Engineering in London, and were inspired by Paslier’s previous job working as a packaging engineer for L’Oréal. Paslier was disillusioned by the amount of plastic used in packaging and the pollution caused by it. Their alternative was made from seaweed extract, also called Notpla, which is natural, biodegradable and is already used for a wide range of products, such as the Ooho, a bubble to hold liquids and takeaway boxes.

Feargal Sharkey

Feargal Sharkey
Feargal Sharkey. Photo: Mirrorpix

He first came to prominence as a musician in the late ’70s as singer with The Undertones and the hit song Teenage Kicks, before a solo reinvention as a power-ballad singing hitmaker. Now Feargal Sharkey is best known for his environmental activism thanks to his work campaigning against pollution of British rivers. It started a decade ago, when he retired and became chairman of England’s oldest fishing club, The Amwell Magna Fishery, on the River Lea in Hertfordshire. The extent of the problems caused by pollution soon became apparent. Sharkey began campaigning, eventually taking the Environment Agency to court. Since then, he’s been an outspoken critic of the government’s failure to regulate the water industry.  

Angus Rose

Angus Rose
Angus Rose’s hunger strike saw his health rapidly deteriorate before a compromise was reached. Photo: Vuk Valcic/ZUMA Press Wire

If you walked past the UK Parliament last March, you might have seen Angus Rose and his sign outside. He went on a hunger strike that lasted over five weeks. His demand? He said he refused to relent until then-energy minister Greg Hands would arrange for chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance to publicly recount the climate change briefing to MPs that he gave to then-PM Boris Johnson prior to the COP26 climate summit. His demands were eventually partially met after 37 days. Caroline Lucas MP arranged for a non-televised briefing for MPs, which was recorded and made public.

Eve Wood and Jacqui Bellamy

The Felling
The Felling documents the ultimately successful fight by Sheffield residents to save their trees. Photo: Jacqui Bellamy

The Felling, a documentary by Eve Wood and Jacqui Bellamy, documents the David and Goliath fight of Sheffield residents to save their trees, which were being chopped down as part of a £2.2 billion PFI deal. In the end, the people win. Activist groups are using 2023 to take stock: Extinction Rebellion has decided to “temporarily shift away from public disruption”; Just Stop Oil is doubling down on its disruption. Whichever path is taken, The Felling demonstrates victories can be had. 

Daniel Edelstyn and Hilary Powell

These two artists are so fed up with political inaction on the energy crisis and climate change that they’re taking matters into their own hands – by turning their road into a renewable power station. Power aims to install solar panels on 150 Victorian terraced houses on an East London street. It’s a way to reduce each household’s carbon footprint, as well as their eye-watering energy bills, and provide a blueprint for the rest of the UK. To promote the plan they spent a few nights sleeping on their roof. In December. If that’s not commitment to change, then what is?

Power Station
Daniel Edelstyn and Hilary Powell

Fossil Free London

Fossil Free London is taking the oil and gas industry to task. The London-based climate activist group organises creative actions, spectacles and protests to tarnish the reputation of those involved in or linked with polluting fossil fuels. One viral stunt in 2022 — which the group shared widely but publicly denied responsibility for — saw spoof adverts appear on the London Underground taking aim at Barclays Bank, which was found to be Europe’s biggest spender on fossil fuels. The group also fights against the development of new oil and gas fields in the North Sea, and organises a variety of climate-focused talks and events to increase awareness and inspire action. 

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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