A Swansea People’s Assembly at the Guildhall, why not? The idea was put forward by climate change demonstrators, aka Extinction Rebellion XR, in discussion with Swansea councillors on the Guildhall steps last Thursday. Council leader Rob Stewart’s response was simply
‘Yes, we can do that! We’re really keen to see more people involved in decision making processes’.
While deputy Clive Lloyd suggested there might also be space in some other prominent positioned city-centre building for more everyday use to raise awareness of the issues and solutions.
This sort of doors-open meeting of minds could serve us well not only as we try to avert climate collapse but also in dealing with other issues that matter to people across the city and county. More of us would be able make our voices heard, learn from each other and those we elect or pay to serve us. Council decision-making would become more broadly based and the new model could be a small step forward in defence of life on earth as well as a consolidation of democracy where we live.
To their credit, the XR people in Swansea have been doing their homework as well as taking their message onto the streets. If you feel you’ve heard that horror story before, it may just happen to be true. We’ve just had yet another record hottest day. Rail and air services are restored, until the next storm-surge has our name on it.
I’m old enough to remember and sadly miss the first call of cuckoo, first sight of swallows and the nuisance of stopping to wipe dead insects off the windscreen. So it’s odd to note that those who now lead the uphill charge to save the Earth wont even remember what’s already lost.
I’m glad the XR movement in Swansea has a good mix of old and young and the same now goes for Swansea Council which adds its authority to recognition of the Climate Emergency and seems to be moving in the right direction. On Thursday, the XR people were told that £500 million of pension funds had been pulled out of banks that invest heavily in fossil fuels. This is not just a matter for councils although the worst offenders are US-based JP Morgan etc. More familiar here in the UK, high street banks Barclays and HSBC are runners up in the race for new oil and gas. It doesn’t take a council or rocket science to switch bank accounts and there are more creditable alternatives in say Nationwide and Co-op Bank.
Swansea Council says it’s also working to unhitch its pension funds from fossil investments, but this can not be done at the stroke of a pen. The council doesn’t manage its pension funds, if only because a corrupt or cash-strapped council boss might be as tempted as a private company boss to dip into the pension pot. Meanwhile XR has been invited to make a presentation and submit a resolution to help the Pension Fund Board & Committee move things on more quickly.
Louise Gibbard, a Labour councillor elected in 2017 is to head a new Future Generations and Equality committee and promises that this will also press for progress on climate change. As Extinction Rebels and other campaign groups like Friends of the Earth are already aware, planet and people go together. Young have more to lose than old from climate collapse, and the drying out of once-fertile land is decimating some of the poorest on Earth – one reason why refugees seek sanctuary in Swansea.
Written by Greg Wilkinson