Campaigning Exhaustion

Being a pwME *person with myalgic encephalomyelitis, I live with continuous fatigue. Think 24/7 jet lag, add in a few other delights and you will get the idea. That really is an understatement, but…

Anyway!

Campaigning for Wildlife

You may know that I have spent the last year campaigning for local wildlife and habitat, impacted by an upcoming housing development. Much of the wildlife are Endangered Species. Which may soon only be viewed via virtual reality headsets. According to a recent survey of 1,000 children by the Charity FWAG, the percentages of a child’s knowledge of nature is alarming. With few knowing what an Oak Leaf or Stinging Nettle look like. As more countryside is swiftly excavated. It will only get worse.

A wildlife NGO, one of the few that has helped, recently told me that development sites are made hostile to encourage wildlife to leave. Yes, really! Endangered Hazel Dormouse cannot be located on site here now. Why? Because vast amounts of their established habitat, namely hedgerows, has been removed. Ripped out and shredded.

I will add at this juncture that I am not a NIMBY, but I am a supporter of:

#NatureInMyBackYard.

People need safe, warm, comfortable homes. As does nature. So there needs to be a healthy balance. For the health and wellbeing of all.

After all, there is:

#NoPlanetB

I think we are all so painfully aware of that at the moment.

Campaigning Is Difficult

It is a full on undertaking, (which you naively don’t realise at the time or you would never do it), well full on for my conked out and extremely fragile cognitive capacity, and at the moment that cognitive capacity has had enough. And goes on to impact my already very limited physical capacity. Sadly, once you take on something like this, the immediate perception of some is that you have superhuman powers and that you will do everything and search out the answer to every question, minus impact to yourself. Or maybe have an office full of people helping you, dictating the reams of emails to an invisible PA who then sends and monitors the responses and scrutinise every website and document available.

Nope. It’s just me. And two other lovely people doing the same from their settings. But we do do our best to scrutinise, where possible. Again for me as a pwME it is incredibly difficult, as I struggle with reading, and all daily cognitive tasks. Honestly, am I trying to punish myself? And we question the detail. And as any Campaigner will know, it’s how it is. Well certainly here. And many may well be unaware, or perhaps not bothered, that I can rarely go out. And do most of my campaigning in bed and all via my phone. Harsh, but true.

Some might say: “Don’t do it then.”

My answer: “If I don’t who will? You? And certainly not our elected representatives, that’s for sure.”

I can’t just do nothing, and sit by and lament the passing of nature without at the very least arguing for it. I just can’t. Even though the part I raise a voice for I haven’t been able to access since before falling ill in 2004.

Community Forums are Needed

Add in that since near the end of January this year, 2022, I have been raising the case for the need for a Community Forum, as described on our Council’s website. Writing a 1700 word Open Letter to our District Council Directorate. Asking for people to have the opportunity to raise concerns and feel involved in the process. I am seriously reaching my limit of patience, resources and will. But I think the aim is to wear us down, so that we give up.

I was very fortunate to have an articles published by East Anglian Bylines and our Local NubNews outlet. Both very supportive.

And I am astonished at how animated people become about the possibility of an ancient artefact being dug up, but less so about a RSPB Red List Skylark trying to nest. It makes no sense.

But sadly the people who should be supporting, meaning the elected representatives, do not. Our local council are not interested in people being involved in the immediate changes that will come. I have to say that I find it utterly exasperating. And am seriously wondering why I bother to vote at all. At a local level, unless a serious alternative is an option, I will probably never vote again. And I don’t say that lightly. Considering I am a woman, and women in this country have put their lives at risk to help me gain the right to vote. But what is the point, if those you vote for don’t wish to engage, or represent you?

Does Anyone Help?

One word, few, very few help. This has been my experience by email (and online) over the past almost twelve months?

  • Ignored
  • Gaslighted
  • Deflected
  • Ranted at
  • Sarcasm
  • Patronised
  • Condescension
  • Ignored
  • Ignored
  • Ignored
  • Trolled
  • Insulted
  • Called an attention seeker
  • Told I ask too many questions
  • Waffle
  • Blah, blah, blah

This I might add is from a combination of Local Councillors at District and Parish level, MPs, Developer, PR Voicepiece, Resident Groups, and just people. Not all adjectives are attributable to all. But some are attributable to all. I think I can safely say that one Councillor has engaged in a genuine and meaningful way. One!

Sadly wildlife NGOs can be a bit hit and miss too. The most helpful I have found are my local CPRE. And the London based PTES. Our County Wildlife Trust don’t reply anymore. And haven’t for months. Their CEO has never replied.

The Impact on Campaigners

All of this comes at a price for me health wise. And I am not alone in this. I had planned to participate in a campaign workshop with the RSPB next week. But my cogs are really not up to it. They’re fried. And I find zoom an energy burner anyway. And rarely use it or speak on the phone, as it is equally draining. Disappointed though I am, it’s basically too dangerous for me to do it. And I don’t want to spend the next month horizontal in bed in silence because of one hour spent talking and listening online. And I have emails to reply to. Quite honestly, should I actually bother to reply.

Why Green Fields?

Then there is the concern that there appears to be little interest in redevelopment of brownfield or renovation of the over *600,000 empty properties across England alone, over 200,000 of which have been empty long term. Along with the concern that the more agricultural land that is released for development. The more food we need to import, and less secure the food supply becomes.

Add into that the devastating situation in Ukraine and Eastern Europe and it just becomes more complicated. And yes, in case you are wondering, I have emailed my Member of Parliament about the need for Humanitarian visas three times in three days and help for the disabled who will struggle to flee. Guess what, my last two emails received no response and neither did my tweets! I spend a great deal of time praying for a peaceful end to this dreadful situation.

Am I then at odds with my own argument? I don’t think so, when recent articles suggest that 1 million homes could be built on brownfield sites. There just seems to be no will to do it. And less will to involve people in the process. The very people affected.

Do I Feel Represented?

We vote and hope. And complete consultation, after consultation. One in which I raised the issue of no context on accessibility. Guess what. Ignored again. But it’s not enough. Its not good enough.

I fully appreciate the world is currently a vast melting pot of unease. Reeling from the impact of the pandemic and tragically, war. And I am no more immune to the tension than anyone else. But surely, shouldn’t we work together. And atleast be given the opportunity to communicate and be genuinely heard. Not just fobbed off with a stock answer or paragraph. It really does feel contemptible at times. And there is no one to go to.

Remind me again, we do still live in a democracy in the UK don’t we?

Well, my husband listens, bless him. And the two other people arguing the case here. And their cracking emails and tenacity makes me beam. Without them I would have stopped long ago. But we cannot affect change without support.

And it just isn’t there!

So that’s my beef.

I REALLY needed to vent.

THANK YOU SO MUCH for listening.

Onward!…to rest and sleep.

Doodle of yellow flower in a mint green flower pot.
Flower

Have a blessed day

Penny signing off

*NGO – Non-Government Organisation

*FWAG – Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group

*CPRE – Campaign For Rural England

*PTES – People’s Trust for Endangered Species

*RSPB – Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

*Source: Empty Housing, England – House of Commons Library

One thought on “Campaigning Exhaustion

  1. Oh Penny, I’m so sorry. What an utterly stupid, disastrous, ludicrous situation to have to be fighting in the first place. How can they keep doing this, not realising that destroying all nature here in not a good thing?

    Over 600,000 empty properties, that’s eye-opening! I knew there would be a lot but wow. The choice, and that’s what it is, to keep destroying green over brown sites is costing us a lot more than the developers or the politicians will ever realise. Like you said with kids and their lack of nature knowledge, except soon they won’t even know what a grass field is as this rate!

    As our country gets more and more populated, which it will when counting illegal immigration that isn’t stopped, our country getting busy and having more kids, and then trying to help real immigrants fleeing war. It’s continual growth when the infrastructure just isn’t there. I don’t think destroying nature is the answer, and I can’t understand how anyone can think it is. We need nature, too. We need trees to breathe for crying out loud. And the animals, including the teeny tiny ones, were here first, this is their home too. They can’t have a say in this so kind people like you take it on yourself to speak up for them. Sadly there aren’t enough people like you and nobody in the higher echelons – our reps at local level, bigwigs of development firms, our rich politicos in parliament – seem to know how dire the situation is or care.

    I’m amazed you do what you do when you’re not well. We have to choose our battles, but this is a well-worth it one to fight. I’m still fighting against a surgeon and medical procedure that has ruined countless lives and feel like I’m getting nowhere. Then I fight on smaller, local issues and feel like I’m getting nowhere too. But like you, I feel I can’t do nothing. We can only do our best though. I’m sorry I don’t have any answers or great ideas here, Penny. I just want you to know I see how hard you’re working, how much this is costing you, and how heartbreaking and infuriating it must be.

    Sending lots of love,
    Caz xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

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