Sustainable Hackney launches Greenprint for Social Justice

At the Sustainable Hackney AGM on 28th September the Greenprint for Hackney- Social Justice was discussed and approved.  See also our workstream page on Social Justice.

Philip Pearson (Chair) explained that a Greenprint on social justice had been drafted and we were looking to the future and seeking ideas and practical actions to integrate this with our environmental work.

Richard Payne (Social Justice Lead) introduced the draft saying that social injustice, inequality, insecurity, precarious employment, racism had to be addressed at the same time as the acceleration of damage to the natural environment. It is the poorest whose lives are most likely to be blighted by the worst environmental problems. Everyone can make the links between social justice and sustainability.

Underlying social injustice is the widening income inequality and the feedback to worse unsustainability, primarily in two ways:

  • We all copy the wasteful consumption patterns of the elite; nevertheless the greatest impact is imposed on the environment by the wealthiest 10%
  • and it breaks down the essential solidarity needed to overcome this destructive system.

We need to be cognizant of the ‘sacrifice zones’, the geographical areas permanently sacrificed to degradation, either social or environmental, the pit communities in the UK, for example. These are characterised by a lack of investment, degradation such as removal of the mountain top for aggregates or the surface of the Earth for tar sands, or the contamination of water, by fracking for example.

So social justice and sustainability are inextricably linked.

The Greenprint

The draft Greenprint is organised under six fronts:

  • Reduce poverty and inequality
  • Housing for all
  • Education for all
  • Health and well-being for all
  • Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees
  • Justice and policing.

Richard gave a couple of examples of practical action to address these injustices:

  • Petros, a small and dynamic trade union organisation which has recruited migrant workers, rattled cages and has won significant victories for the London living wage
  • The convoys to Calais to provide supplies and support to the migrants and refugees stuck there.

Philip outlined the questions we wanted to address:

  • What do these injustices mean locally and how can we address them locally?
  • How do we link up with what groups?
  • What campaigns do we support?

Migrants, asylum seekers and refugees

Philip invited Dean Ryan to speak on behalf of Hackney Stand Up to Racism and Fascism.

Dean explained that there were a number of local organisations, HSUtR, Hackney People’s Assembly, Axe the Housing Act, Hackney SWP, all working on a common theme. While the government is trying to blame migrants for the problems we face, these organisations are raising awareness of the Government’s austerity policy which has, for example, reduced the youth team that Dean works in from 56 to 8 workers. This has nothing to do with migrants. But now the May Government is directly provoking racism.

The natural socialist and social democratic position is to oppose racism and promote integration, support and better pay, conditions and public services for all but there is lots of work to do with Labour and the Greens to promote joint work. There have been a number of lively demonstations of 20-30,000 people for example the 17/9 demo to support of refugees and the Convoy to Calais, all based around solidarity not charity.

The next key event is the annual conference on confronting racism on 08/10 with Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Kevin Courtney, President of the NUT and a Hackney resident, all of whom will be speaking about how we confront racism. About a thousand people are signed up to that conference.

Also in Harlow, where a Polish man was beaten to death after the Brexit vote, an attack with clearly racist connotations, there was a hastily arranged anti-racist demonstration of about 200 people calling for peace. Here in Hackney about 18 months ago, 200 police in riot gear accompanied a right-wing demo but at short notice there was a bigger demo to protest against it. So the key thing we need in Hackney is a bigger network that can respond quickly to any racist attacks on people but also take up issues and support the anti-austerity campaign on an ongoing basis.

What we can do on social justice for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers? The following actions were included in the discussion:

  • Build a network of support and practical action
  • Support existing local campaigns, e.g. join HSUtR, make a monthly donation
  • LBH said they would take 25 Syrian families but this has not happened yet – pursue it
  • Support national demonstrations
  • Good that Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not pander to racism – support this
  • Just say you support HSUtR
  • Develop the SH social justice section of the website – anyone signed up to the website can do this by blogging, posting events, etc.
  • Map organisations to build a picture of activity
  • Make sure messages are put out with actual facts about situation. For example, Harlow’s strong Polish community was established a long time ago (after WW2?) – it is not a recent development.
  • Very important to challenge whenever people repeat the anti-refugee/anti-migrant meme. The problems facing people have nothing to do with migration but everything to do with the system we live in. It’s the same with the scare stories about terrorism, they are created to build fear and make people even scared to go on the tube. Tackle whenever people say things like this.
  • Use existing networks. Hackney TUC has access to 9,000 trade union members in Hackney. We have amazing resources in our vibrant community organisations. Talk to people in the street and on the bus. Wear badges. Respond to people’s questions.
  • Create stronger links between existing organisations and networks so we get messages out stronger and louder.
  • Support on SH website and send out SH twitter supports: James Diamond will make sure we follow the key organisations on Twitter and Facebook. James & Richard will map the organisations but we need HELP to develop this directory. When mapping active groups, be aware of the long history of state infiltration and subverting groups – think carefully about who to promote. 
  • Join the SH website and post related events.
  • Flush out the racism that is there.
  • Go to the Confronting Racism conference on 08/10.

How do we create a better climate? Get out on the streets leafleting and talking to people. Make the link between sustainability and anti-racism – this link and the promotion of peace links directly to the global agenda because the ruling elite keep half the world fighting to maintain control. So avoid division. Build peace and solidarity.

Reduce poverty and inequality

Philip invited Clare Potter, Chair of Hackney Fairtrade Steering Group to speak. Hackney Fairtrade was initiated and is supported by Hackney Council but is community-led. The group has had various successes, particularly achieving Borough Fairtrade Status for Hackney. This is narrowly defined so far, focussing on food but the group is looking to wide it to local fair trade and looking at fashion. Clare is particularly interested in making links.

Various points and action were made in the discussion including:

  • There is a clear overlap with Hackney Food Partnership work, so the two organisations should talk. Issues would include pay and conditions of people working in local restaurants and suppliers, migrant raids, etc.
  • Examine the local clothing and food producers and suppliers.
  • Attend the Fair Trade Foundation breakfast. HF is also reaching out to faith groups, schools, markets. Hackney Museum are involved in the work with schools.
  • Blog and post events on the SH website. Also SH can look at HF having a profile on our website and we will help do that.

General

It was agreed that the six fronts are broadly right. It was also noted we tend to have overlaps in the areas of work rather than gaps.

Summary of key actions to strengthen social justice work in Hackney: 

  • Network – be more proactive, go out and touch base with other groups
  • New initiatives
  • Continually refresh approaches
  • Greenprint gives us an opportunity to focus on specific activities e.g. trade inequality, fairtrade, CETA, TTIP and encourage involvement.

AGREED to review the definitions of social justice and ensure ties to fair trade are explicit. Gilbert Smyth will do this.

Mick Gosling moved that the Greenprint on social justice be adopted. This was AGREED.

Philip said that the Steering Group will review the discussion, the adopted Greenprint and discuss the next steps at the next meeting on 26th October.

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