I am an activist and campaigner and I learned how to be one from the climate justice movement.
As my mental health and then physical health deteriorated it became hard for me to participate in physical actions and so I did what I could online and in my home - and still do.
This week I realised how distant I feel from the climate justice community I was once part of, and for the first time I realised why.
It is nothing new to say that mostly the climate change movement doesn't consider the reality of disablement and nothing new to say that activists and campaigners often do not consider even basic access needs. (Note that this does not apply across the board and I am not suggesting that it is so)
What was a new realisation to me is how much rhetoric and implicit disablism that I had internalised.
I used to walk everywhere when I started uni - anywhere that was within an hour's walk I walked. I would feel lazy and extravagent for taking the bus - just think about the carbon. And then I had no choice but to take the bus because I was too sore and too tired. And then public transport became harder and harder to manage and I had no choice but to take taxis. And then I had to face the fact that I would have to learn to drive. I didn't learn at 17 because driving in a city that had 'good' public transport links was wrong.
I became vegan for the same reason. I can't cook from scratch any more, and my partner will start work as a junior doctor next year, so I am learning to make my peace with packaged, pre-chopped veg and microwave rice pouches to make it easier for us to eat.
You know what sparked the realisation though? My bendy joints and wonky autonomic nervous system and floppy blood vesssels have been joined by stroppy guts. It's been getting slowly worse, along with the rest of it. The list of foods I can't tolerate is getting longer. Another referral to another specialists, another 3 tablets to add to the 20 I take every day. And I've found that while (most) meat and dairy are on the list of foods I can't tolerate in any quantity (along with gluten, most veg, most fruit), eggs are alright.
I feel like a failure. Every time I get in a taxi, or eat something non-vegan because it was easy and I can eat it I feel like a failure. I feel lazy, and wasteful and selfish. I would never feel the same about someone else in a similar situation, but I do towards me.
I have internalised this message that cycling is the only acceptable form of transport and that any form of high carbon convenience is absolutely wrong.
Part of that is my own neuroticism, granted, but a large portion of that is that the temptation as a campaigner or activist (or politician, or religious person) is to think and speak in binary. In right and wrong.
It's in the grey and in the intersection that you find climate justice campaigners supporting the #nogobritain campaign - because the more people who can safely and comfortably access public transport, the more we can tackle our carbon footprint - it's there that you find feminists reminding us that climate change disproportionately affects women, and medics talking about the effect of the healthcare industrial complex on our environment as well as the catastrophic health issues climate change causes and will cause. It helps us to remember that if someone is overwhelmed with financial struggles, health crises, persecution, discrimination, if someone is afraid for their life, or doesn't know how they're going to feed their kids tomorrow, they will not be able to care about the fate of the planet in 5, 25, 50 years time.
That's why we need to make climate solutions cheap and easy, why industry needs to do their part and why we need to think really carefully before turning societal problems into individual problems with individual blame and individual solutions.
Maybe I can remind myself next time I get in a taxi that I'm working to make it possible for me to take the bus. And that even the best public transport system possible will not be accessible to everyone and sometimes it's my job to make sure my fellow climate campaigners understand that.
And here I fail to think of a wise and witty closing remark, so you can make one up for yourself...