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 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 draft Greenprint is organised under six fronts:
Richard gave a couple of examples of practical action to address these injustices:
Philip outlined the questions we wanted to address:
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:
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:
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:
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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