Leicester Friends of the Earth Group.
Newsletter – March 2009 (No. 153)
I am editing the newsletter again this month, but a volunteer to do the next one would
be very welcome, to provide a bit of variety.
This month‟s newsletter is a big one, but there is a lot going on. I have included a
report on the AGM, reports on the Renewable Energy Campaign, which we are
working on at the moment and information about several major campaigns that are
coming up. There are also reports on the work currently being done to support local
windfarm proposals; details of a major revamp to our local website; an item about
changes to the Yahoo groups that we use for a lot of our internal communication;
information about the “March for Jobs, Justice & Climate”, in London, on the 28th
of March; information about showings of the new environmental film Age of Stupid;
and news of a new Green Society, being set up at Leicester University, which I hope
that we are going to be able to work closely with. Then, of course, there are our usual
listings of forthcoming events.
In addition to all of the above, I have written a long piece throwing out some
thoughts on how we might do more to make new people feel welcome and to get
them more involved. This piece includes lots of information about things that people
might like to volunteer to do, or help with.
Finally, there are two current e-mail actions that I would urge people to take part in,
one to support the Swinford windfarm project and one to urge your MP to sign Early
Day Motion 337, in support of Marine Reserves. If you are reading this newsletter on
paper and therefore unable to use the hyperlinks here, there are also links on our
website, at www.leicesterfoe.org.uk
March Newsletter Editor
Leicester FoE‟s AGM was held in January. Officers/campaign leads fed back on
what has been happening in their areas of responsibility over the last year and on what
is happening now. Responsibilities for the coming year were then agreed and the
meeting concluded with Louise Hazan, one of our two regional fulltimers, giving a
brief introduction to the priority national campaigns that will be running this year
(covered later in this newsletter).
Activities over the last year have been covered in previous newsletters, so I will only
report on a few highlights.
The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the success of the Big Ask campaign,
calling for the introduction of legislation to bind the UK Government to achieving
major cuts in CO2 emissions by 2050. Along with other FoE groups up and down the
country, a lot of our energies were put into this campaign, which was successful in
getting a strong Climate Act passed, incorporating most of what we were calling for.
This legislation will now provide leverage to help force the UK Government to take
climate change seriously.
Other highlights were our campaigning on biofuels, an issue that Leicester were ahead
of national FoE in taking up; and the start of the Renewable Energy Campaign, which
Kay is doing great work leading on. We have also been vocal on a number of local
issues, including our support for a number of windfarm proposals, on which Herbert
has done great work; our opposition to the Penbury “eco-town” development; and our
opposition to the County Council‟s proposals for a big new incinerator. Finally,
throughout the year we have continued to get good exposure in the local media,
averaging in excess of one item a week, including radio and TV interviews, as well as
items in the Leicester Mercury.
When it came to sharing out the work, we once more failed to get anyone to take on
the role of overall group co-ordinator, which has been vacant since Steve went to
Nepal. In the absence of anyone to take on this role, Doug agreed to continue
booking meeting rooms and dealing with internal communication, with our own
members and with FoE nationally, while Michael Sackin agreed to continue acting as
our external contact person. The only change in responsibilities was that Zoe and
Reevesie stood down as leads on climate change, because of other commitments and
Kay agreed to take this on. All other leads and officers remain the same. The full list
of responsibilities is:
Michael Sackin – external contact
Doug Holly – internal communications, membership, room bookings, food;
Herbert Eppel – Treasurer, windpower, M1 widening;
Kay Snowdon – Renewable Energy Campaign, climate change,
Neil Talbot – biodiversity, corporates & trade, rights & justice (including planning);
Caroline Moles – waste;
Harriet Squire & William Pugsley – transport (to be confirmed);
Malcolm Hunter – media, website, biofuels, Marine Reserves Campaign.
Finally, the Treasurer reported that our funds are still very healthy and the money that
we have in the bank had actually increased over the year. Given this, it was agreed
that we would look into the purchase of a fast laser printer, to give us the facility to
quickly print off short runs of leaflets.
Renewable Energy Campaign
Due to the government putting back their policy announcement on renewables, the
campaign has been extended, which means we have longer to get groups and
organizations to sign the community action cards.
To date we have had over 20 different businesses, organizations and individuals join
the FOE energy revolution, to get the government to deliver at least 15% of our
energy from UK renewables.
Those signed up have included people that we have not approached before and some
have also indicated that they wish to continue their involvement in other FOE
campaigns. A dialogue has also been opened up with the Leicestershire Chamber of
Local shops and cafes, the Diocese of Leicester, a leading print company, and the
Leicestershire and Rutland Womens Institute are some of those that have signed up.
If you know of any local businesses or organizations that you think are worth
approaching please get in touch with me on email@example.com. Similarly if
you want to know more about the campaign, please get in touch.
Kay Snowdon, Renewable Energy Campaign Co-ordinator.
March for Jobs, Justice & Climate
At the beginning of April there is a meeting of the G20 group of governments in
London. A broad coalition of trade unions, development organizations and
environmental organizations are organizing a big demonstration, on the 28th of March,
to call for policies that “Put People First”. The themes of the march are - "Decent
jobs and public services for all", "End global poverty and inequality" and "Build a
green economy". More info can be found at: http://www.putpeoplefirst.org.uk/
Given the wide variety of organizations backing this march, I have asked for it to be
put on the agenda at the February meeting of Leicester Social Forum, as the
organization probably best placed to co-ordinate mobilization and transport. I have
also agreed to take the lead in trying to generate local media coverage, after being
approached by Oxfam‟s regional press officer, who was pointed in my direction by
Callie, our FoE Regional Campaigns Co-ordinator. I am hoping that we can get a
good Leicester FoE turnout for this demonstration and I will keep people informed
about transport, etc via our Yahoo notices group.
New Food Chain Campaign
One of the two major national campaigns that Leicester FoE may have to choose
between in the next couple of years is to be called „The Food Chain‟. It is aimed at
highlighting the ecologically destructive nature of factory farming in England, Wales
and Northern Ireland, particularly in its reliance on imported grains for feeding cattle,
pigs and battery hens. These grains – mainly soy and often GM – are largely
imported from South America where, in Brazil and other countries, both rainforest
and savannah are being devastated by massive monocultures of such crops. The
ecological importance of this is twofold: a huge loss of biodiversity and a similarly
disastrous loss of rainforest cover, both tropical and Atlantic. Such ecological
destruction is accompanied by social injustice and violence as small farmers are either
poisoned by chemical spray or actually driven off their land. This connection,
between what people eat here and devastation thousands of miles away, represents a
„hidden chain‟ of cause and effect – hence the word-play of the campaign‟s title.
The campaign will focus on raising public awareness in order to put pressure on MPs
to support a new Sustainable Livestock Bill, which would require the government to
switch subsidies from intensive livestock production to smaller-scale farming using
home-grown animal feed in a more traditional way. To this end farmers would be
given targeted subsidies. The bill would also require government to encourage the
relevant authorities to progressively introduce less ecologically destructive food in
schools, hospitals and care homes.
In general the campaign will link its legislative aim to a public awareness of the need
to change their diets away from „junk food‟ towards better quality eco-friendly fare.
Importantly FoE will not be telling people what to eat. Instead, the idea is to get
people as conscious of the ecological effects of their diet as they increasingly are of
the health consequences.
Doug Holly, Leicester FoE Food Campaign Co-ordinator.
New Sustainable Cities Campaign
The other major new national campaign, being launched in the spring, is the
Sustainable Communities Campaign, also know as the “Get Serious” Campaign. The
first phase of this campaign will be about pressuring local councils to adopt more
sustainable policies, particularly on climate change; and then working with them to
help them to develop these policies. Having got a lot of councils onboard, the idea is
then to move on to a second phase, of encouraging and supporting councils in
pressuring national government to give them more powers and resources, to help them
to implement and promote sustainable policies. This campaign is seen very much as
building on the success of our campaign for a strong Climate Act and on the
Renewable Energy Campaign that we are running currently.
It is envisaged that, to be fully effective, groups signing up to this campaign will need
substantial support from national office, in terms of research and policy advice.
National office do not feel that they have the resources to provide this support to more
than about 100 groups, so they will have to prioritise. They are also suggesting that
small and medium size groups may want to choose between this campaign and the
Food Chain Campaign, as both will take a significant amount of activist time to run.
Choosing which campaigns to work on
As explained above, national office do not feel that they have sufficient resources to
provide a high level of back up to more than 100 local groups, on the Sustainable
Communities Campaign. They also recognize that both campaigns will make
significant demands on activist time. National FoE are therefore suggesting that
many groups may wish to work on just one, or the other. They reckon that the Food
Chain Campaign requires a minimum of three active members working on it and the
Sustainable Communities Campaign a minimum of five. My reading of the general
feeling at our February meeting was that most people would like us to work on both,
but if forced to choose would go for the Sustainable Communities Campaign, if we
were chosen to get priority back up from national office.
Copenhagen Climate conference
In the autumn there will be an intergovernmental conference in Copenhagen, to try to
negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Agreement on tackling climate change. Work on
influencing the outcome of the conference will be increasingly integrated into both
other major campaigns, as the year progresses and will be a major focus of activity as
the conference gets nearer.
As some of you already know, the decision regarding the Swinford wind
farm project will now be taken following a public enquiry, due to
non-determination by Harborough District Council - see press report at
We fully support Nuon's approach in this matter, and the online action
page on the national FoE website has been updated accordingly - see
The deadline for new/additional comments/representations is 12th of March.
Even if you have already submitted comments to Harborough District
Council in the past, please re-submit your comments or amended comments
by the 12th of March following the above link. This will help to maintain and indeed
crank up the head of steam we have been building up over the last few
months. I would also urge people to encourage other groups and like minded
individuals to do the same.
Herbert Eppel, windpower campaigner
New Green Society at Leicester University
A group of students at Leicester University have recently set up a Green Society to
get more students actively involved in campaigning about environmental issues.
The society aims to give the students body a voice on environmental policies within
the University and Students Union, and also to create interest and awareness about
broader and more far reaching issues. The students hope to share contacts and
work with Leicester Friends of the Earth and other similar organizations. If you are
interested in finding out more about the society and its aims, or wish to share
contacts and such, you can contact Ellen Holmes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellen Holmes, Leicester University Green Society
Age of Stupid
Friends of the Earth have been working with the producers of the new eco-film Age
of Stupid. The film premiers on March 15th and you can now buy tickets. If enough
people go to see the film in the first week then there is a greater chance more cinemas
will opt to show the film and it will get greater publicity. It stars Pete Postelthwaite as
a man living alone in the devastated future world of 2055, looking at old footage from
2008 and asking: why didn‟t we stop climate change when we had the chance?
The film has its Leicester premiere at Meridian Vue on the 15th of March and it is then
being screened at the Phoenix on Fri Mar 27th at 6.05pm; Mon Mar 30th at 4.15 and
8.15pm and Tue Mar 31st at 6.05pm. You can get a free downloadable poster at
http://www.ageofstupid.net/ngo_resources and you can find more information at
We are hoping to have a stall at at least one, but preferably all three showings at the
Phoenix, although we might share nights with Transition Leicester and the World
Development Movement. Ideally it would be good if we could also leaflet the Vue.
Volunteers are needed to help with all this. If you can help, e-mail the Yahoo Admin
group, if you subscribe, or e-mail me and I will pass it on.
Although we try to ensure that we cater for members who are not on the internet, by
sending out things such as the newsletter by post, to those who are not, a lot of
organizing and keeping members informed is done via the internet. This is mainly via
Yahoo groups. All members subscribed to a particular group get copies of all
messages sent to that group (although there is a facility to just log on to read messages
on a message board, rather than having them sent to you, if you prefer).
Up until now we have had two groups, the admin group, which is used to organize
things and generates quite heavy traffic; and a general group, intended just for
keeping people informed of forthcoming events and things like that. People have
been able to opt to join just the general group, both, or neither.
What people have sometimes been unclear on has been where people should post
things like links to interesting articles; or where debate and discussion of policy,
environmental issues, etc should take place. This has led to some people, who only
subscribe to the general group, complaining that they are getting too many e-mails.
To address this, the February meeting agreed that we should go over to having three
groups, a notices group (which will include the newsletter), a discussion group and
an admin group. Anyone can opt to be in any combination of groups that they want,
or none (although we would encourage everyone who is on e-mail to at least subscribe
to the notices group, as this makes keeping people informed much easier).
People who are already signed up to at least the general group should receive invites
by e-mail, to join all three groups and can then choose which invites to take up, but
people can also just e-mail Herbert, at Herb@gmxpro.net and ask to be sent invites
for the groups that they want.
Attracting and involving new members
Leicester Friends of the Earth is a medium sized local group, which manages to do a
lot for its size; however, we would like to do more and to do that we need to grow.
During the time that I have been a member, about three and a half years, we have
been maintaining a consistently high public profile and there has been a steady trickle
of new people coming along to meetings; however, a high proportion of these new
people come to one, or two meetings and then are not seen again. The result has been
that our active membership has largely stood still, with just enough new active
members to replace those who move away, drop out of activity, or move on to other
If anything, the number of new people that we are attracting is increasing, so although
I think that we should always be looking for new ways to attract people, it seems to
me that the issue that we most need to address is how to engage and keep people
when they do come to a meeting. Since we are already managing to stand still, it
should only need a modest increase in the number of new people that we hold onto for
us to start to grow. If we do start to grow then this will hopefully be self-reinforcing,
since more active members should allow us to do more and therefore attract yet more
people in the process.
I do not pretend to have all the answers and this piece is only intended to kick off a
debate, but I have managed to get some feedback from people, which I think throws
up some things that we ought to think about.
One point that has arisen is that new people are faced with a lot of discussion on
ongoing issues and campaigns, which they find hard to understand, because of the fact
that a lot of the discussion presumes previous knowledge. It seems to me that one
thing that we could do would be to ensure that, when there are new people at a
meeting, we start with an introduction to the group: how it works, what we are
working on, etc; as well as with people introducing themselves, which we do already.
We perhaps also need to be more consistent in explaining the background to each new
topic being discussed.
A second issue that has arisen is that new people can be left unsure of how they can
get involved. Unlike some organizations, where everything falls on the secretary, we
already share the work around quite a bit, with different people taking responsibility
for organizing different areas of work; however; if someone hasn‟t got a lead role on
something (and most new people are unlikely to feel orientated and confident enough
to take one on straight away) then getting involved can be difficult, particularly
between late autumn and early spring, when there are less things like stalls to ask
people to help on.
To address this, one approach might be to ask new people whether they are interested
in helping the lead person in any particular area of work. They could then discuss
with that lead, outside of the meeting, how they might be able to help with the work in
that area and whether there are any particular tasks that they might be able to take on.
This would not only provide people with more opportunity to get involved, it would
also provide new people with an opportunity to learn new skills and to build up their
confidence under the wing of a mentor.
The second thing that I think we need to do is to try to ensure that we are doing
enough things that people can just turn up to on the day, without having to have been
involved in the organizing. Things like stalls, lobbies, demonstrations, photo ops,
These things tend to fall into two categories, those that we are organizing ourselves,
which will tend to be co-ordinated by campaign leads, or by me, as media officer; and
things being organized by other people, such as events at which we are invited to have
a stall. One advantage of taking on both of the forthcoming major national campaigns
(along with other, lower key national campaigns and things that we may choose to do
locally) is that this would help to generate more opportunities in the first category.
Our involvement in events in the second category has slipped somewhat, in the
absence of an overall group co-ordinator, to ensure that invites get followed up on;
however, this gap could be partially filled by encouraging new people to volunteer to
take on co-ordinating our involvement in specific events. Given some advice and
support, this would be less daunting than taking on the lead co-ordinator role for a
It seems to me that we need to be thinking all the time about what opportunities we
can offer for people to do things and that we then need to be proactive in asking
people if they would like/be prepared to.
Thinking about immediate opportunities for involvement, the Renewable Energy
Campaign provides lots. Approaching different groups, organizations and
businesses, asking them to sign up, is something that can easily be parcelled out
amongst lots of people, based on their existing contacts and who they feel comfortable
about approaching. We also need people to take on organizing a presence at the
forthcoming showings of the film Age of Stupid and people to run any stalls that we
arrange for this. Finally, for those who want to start off by just coming along to some
kind of action, the March for Jobs, Justice and Climate, on the 28th of March, could
also provide a good opportunity, as it is being supported by FoE nationally and I am
hoping that we can provide a significant contingent. There should also be
opportunities for people to help publicize this event.
Looking further ahead, as well as things that we will be organizing ourselves, around
our various campaigns, we will also have lots of opportunities for stalls at other
organization‟s events, which we will need people to help run. The next opportunity
that I am aware of will be at Leicester Social Forum‟s Festival of Alternatives, on
the May Day bank holiday, but we should also get the opportunity to run stalls at all
the summer festivals at De Montfort Hall, with the added incentive of a certain
number of free passes for groups running stalls.
Apart from stalls, I would also like to get a good Leicester FoE contingent attending
this year‟s Climate Camp, the kind of event that can be particularly good for
integrating and bonding people into a group; and one that has proved very fruitful for
generating publicity around, when members have participated in the last two. In
addition to this, I am planning to take part in the World Naked Bike Ride again this
year, if there are people who would like to join me (although, as I did last year, I will
be running, since I have never learnt to ride a bike). On a similar theme, I am still on
the look out for people to take part in another naked photo shoot, to promote the
Marine Reserves Campaign, around the slogan “They Are Stripping Our Seas Bare”.
If anyone would like to help with any of the things that I have mentioned, please e-
mail our Yahoo Admin Group, if you subscribe, or e-mail me, if you don‟t.
Moving on from opportunities to get involved, I think that we also need to think about
the type of meetings that we have. Most of our meetings are basically business
meetings, but we get some of our best turnouts for the occasional meeting where we
have a speaker. Clearly we need business meetings, but many people are likely to
want to find out more about the issues, before they get involved in something. I think
that we should consider having two meetings a month, one a business meeting and
one with a speaker and discussion and just a short slot for urgent business. The
speaker need not be someone from outside, most of the time it could be one of our
own members, which would also be good practice for people.
Finally, I do not think that we should wait for people to formally join, before inviting
them to join the Yahoo groups, or putting them on mailing lists. Nor should we take
people off lists simply because their membership has lapsed. Once someone has
shown an interest I think that we should do our utmost to keep in touch with them,
because even if they do not get involved straight away their circumstances may
change, or something that we are doing may spark their interest and enthusiasm, at a
later date. If we then get them involved they will eventually get around to formally
joining in due course.
As I said, I do not claim to have all the answers; I am just trying to throw out some
ideas for discussion. I am keen to get other people‟s thoughts and ideas, either via the
Yahoo Discussion Group; through contributions to the next newsletter; or direct to
I have just completed a major revamp of our Leicester Friends of the Earth website.
The biggest change has been the addition of two new pages, one on our Renewable
Energy Campaign and one on food and farming. I have also extensively revised the
climate change and Marine Reserves Campaign pages, as some of the content had
become out of date. In addition, I have increased the prominence of the link to our
newsletter and added a link to the East Midlands FoE newsletter, to make it easier for
people to find latest news and details of forthcoming events. Finally, I am continually
adding new links, to useful websites and interesting articles.
If anyone has not seen the website before, I would urge you to have a look at it. As
well as the pages already mentioned, there are pages on bio-fuels; housing & “eco-
towns”; nuclear Power; and waste & incinerators. In addition, I have included a page
of thoughts on media work (being media officer, as well as running the website); and
a page of notes on site design, for fellow novices. On top of this, there is an archive
of press releases, newsletters and other miscellaneous documents. The archive also
includes some photos and this is something that I hope to expand over time. In
addition, in the near future I also plan to revise the way that the external links are
presented, to make it easier for people to identify what is new.
Finally, for those people reading this newsletter on paper and therefore unable to use
the hyperlinks here, the homepage address is www.leicesterfoe.org.uk. You can
access all the pages from there.
Saturday 14th of March – Renewable Energy Campaign training day, in Cambridge,
contact email@example.com for more details.
Sunday 15th of March – Leicester premiere of the film Age of Stupid, at the
Meridian Vue. More info at http://www.putpeoplefirst.org.uk/.
Tuesday 17th of March – Leicester FoE monthly meeting, 7.30pm, Wellington Street
Adult Education Centre.
Friday 27th of March – Age of Stupid, 6.05pm at the Phoenix;
Saturday 28th of March – March for Jobs, Justice and Climate, in London, more at
http://www.putpeoplefirst.org.uk/. Look out for details of transport on our website.
Monday 30th of March – Age of Stupid, 4.15 and 8.15pm at the Phoenix
Tuesday 31st of March – Age of Stupid, 6.05pm at the Phoenix
Tuesday 21st of April – Leicester FoE monthly meeting, 7.30pm, Wellington Street
Adult Education Centre.
24th - 26th April – Power Up - a weekend of top notch training for people
campaigning on environmental justice issues in their local area, open to non-Friends
of the Earth groups too. Contact Shilpa Shah (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more
information, or see http://www.foe.co.uk/community/power_up_2009.html.
Monday 4th of May – Leicester Social Forum Festival of Alternatives, venue to be
Tuesday 19th of May - Leicester FoE monthly meeting, 7.30pm, Wellington Street
Adult Education Centre.
Printed and Promoted by Malcolm Hunter, on behalf of Leicester Friends of the Earth, 96 Cedar Road, Leicester, LE2 1FY, Tel:
0116 221 9639