Politics

Wellbeing Week: ‘I make decisions to protect my future - leaders should too’

As The Big Issue’s Wellbeing Week draws to a close, young activists tell MPs to protect our people, planet and future with long-term thinking

The Big Issue's Wellbeing Week session with Clive Lewis

Clive Lewis meets activists during The Big Issue's Wellbeing Week

Young climate activists urged politicians to make the country’s leaders think long-term as they wrapped up The Big Issue’s Wellbeing Week.

The #todayfortomorrow campaign is bringing together youngsters and MPs from across the political spectrum to discuss the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill.

Big Issue founder Lord John Bird’s draft legislation – which will force public bodies to set wellbeing goals that consider future generations in decisions made today – has stalled in parliament after Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg postponed all private member’s bills.

Environmental campaigners met virtually with around 50 MPs, including Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey and more, to put across their views on how to boost wellbeing, protect future generations and banish short-termism.

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Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, gave the climate activists his full support and told them they were “preaching to the choir” after taking part in The Big Issue’s Wellbeing Week session.

Lewis urged the youngsters to “Write to Angela [Rayner, deputy Labour leader]! Write to Keir [Starmer, Labour leader]!” to ensure the bill is part of the Labour Party’s future plans.

University of East Anglia student Jayden Marsh, 22 – one of Lewis’ constituents – told the MP of his studies into renewable energy and green jobs.

And 17-year-old Gideon Futerman, of climate activism group Worldward, spoke of the urgent need to look beyond reaching carbon net zero and and at removing carbon from the atmosphere, a process he says could possibly take 100 years.

Lewis responded: “There is probably a checklist over the last 40 years you can go through to show the decisions that led us to 100,000 Covid deaths.

“Even in my own political party, the focus is on us, us, us and Britain, Britain, Britain and this does not align with an internationalist perspective. We are forming a consensus right now that will be difficult to break so we need to get these ideas out now. 

“I think you are bang on the money with what you are trying to do and I will always be happy to support in any way that I can.”

Dominique Palmer, 21, of green campaign groups Fridays for Future and UK Student Climate Network, told shadow cabinet minister Thangam Debbonaire she supported The Big Issue’s bill to tackle the systemic inequality of climate change.

The young campaigner cited the case of Ella Kissi-Debrah as proof of the need to address the issue. Ella died at just nine years of age in 2013 and an inquest recently found poor air quality contributed to her death.

In response, Debbonaire said the work of Palmer was “brilliant” and “inspiring”.

Debbonaire said: “I have yet to meet a politician who wants to make things worse for future generations. We want to make things better, it’s what drives us to do what we do.

“As Housing Secretary, a big part of my work is how we get to net zero and the role housing plays in carbon emissions.”

Meanwhile, Work and Pensions Committee chair Stephen Timms insisted he had “grounds for optimism for the future” after hearing about The Big Issue’s bill.

Timms heard how Joe Brindle, an 18-year-old campaigner from Devizes, Wiltshire, was already applying the lessons of the bill in his own life. The activist is set to start a degree in politics and international development at the University of Sheffield.

Brindle said: “When I make decisions, for example, choosing my degree, I like to make sure they don’t negatively affect my future and I would like to see that applied to government decisions as well.”

Oxford student Noah Wescombe, 23, who runs think tank Six Degrees, added that long-term thinking now will shape the economy and the wider world in years to come.

Labour East Ham MP Timms said that the youngsters’ ideas gave him hope. He said: “I like to see the grounds for optimism and I think there must be some way through this.”

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