Glastonbury and Street Green Party is delighted to report that Glastonbury declared an Ecological Emergency at the September meeting of Glastonbury Town Council.
The Ecological Emergency Declaration Motion – proposed by Green Cllr. Serena Roney-Dougal and seconded by Glastonbury’s Green Mayor, Cllr. Jon Cousins – received cross-party support and was passed unanimously. It reads:
This Council resolves to declare an Ecological Emergency – recognising that the planet is experiencing an Ecological as well as a Climate Emergency – and will take this into account in any decisions made.
Background Information for the Motion:
In addition to:
- adopting our ‘Glastonbury Charter for the Environment’ in April 2012,
- becoming a ‘Frack Free Council’ in February 2013,
- banning the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides on all council owned land and public spaces in August 2015,
- committing to be ‘single use plastic free’ in November 2017,
- declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ in February 2019 – pledging to make our operation carbon neutral by 2030 – and
- becoming the second ‘Earth Protector Town’ in the world in September 2019 – calling for Ecocide to be recognised as an ‘atrocity crime’ at the International Criminal Court.
This Council acknowledges that:
- Our societies and economies are intimately linked with and depend on biodiversity and nature. The natural world is essential for the provision of nutritious food (with soil and pollinators having a vital role), clean water, clean air, medicines, protection from extreme weather, as well as being our source of energy and raw materials.
- The recent outbreaks of Ebola Virus Disease in the Republic of Guinea and Democratic Republic of the Congo have highlighted the relationship between people and nature. When we destroy and degrade habitats, we increase the risk of disease spill-over from wildlife to people.
- The State of Nature 2019 report highlighted the critical decline in biodiversity in the UK. Changes in farming practices have had the biggest effect in recent decades and the impact of climate change is now increasing. 15% of UK species are classified as threatened with extinction and 2% are already extinct.
- The State of the World’s Plants and Fungi 2020 report from Royal Botanic Gardens Kew estimated that 39.4% of plants are now threatened with extinction. This is a jump from one in five plants thought to be at risk in Kew’s 2016 report.
- The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs’ Environment Bill will require the introduction of a Local Nature Recovery Strategy and Nature Recovery Networks.
- Actions to restore nature and biodiversity, as well as being vital for their own sake, often have an important co-benefit of storing carbon, so help address climate change.
- People’s access to ‘green spaces’ to understand and appreciate biodiversity and a rich, natural world, private or public, is unequal.
To support this declaration, this Council will:
- Rename the ‘Climate Emergency Advisory Committee’ to the ‘Climate and Ecological Emergencies Advisory Committee’, to support councillors and council officers address these twin emergencies.
- Add ecological impact implications alongside those for climate and sustainability in committee and council reports.
- Ensure that addressing the climate and ecological emergencies and nature recovery are considered as strategic priorities – identifying appropriate areas for habitat restoration and biodiversity net gain, and ensuring that any potential development limits impact on existing habitats, whilst also working on the principle of increasing equality of access for people to natural, green spaces – for example: i) improving biodiversity by encouraging the rewilding of the natural flood plain areas of the Levels and Moors, ii) supporting the competent determination of planning applications by the Local Planning Authority and encouraging Habitats Regulations Assessments to reduce the high levels of phosphates in the Somerset Levels and Moors (designated as a Special Protection Area under the Habitat Regulations 2017 and listed as a Ramsar Site under the Ramsar Convention).
- In keeping with the urgency of this declaration, work with other councils to support the development of ‘Nature Recovery Networks’ and a ‘Nature Recovery Strategy’ for Somerset, as and when required by The Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs.
- Look for opportunities to work in partnership with other councils, local charities, and environmental organisations to deliver nature recovery in Somerset, and support local land management practices that protect and restore the natural world.
- Support the development of a county-wide ‘Tree Planting Policy and Strategy’ to support nature protection and recovery and carbon sequestration.
- Ensure the Council’s Property and Assets Committee considers opportunities for biodiversity enhancements and tree planting on Council landholdings, and formalising purchasing policies that are consistent with this declaration.
- Write to all Somerset’s MPs urging them to support the Climate and Ecological Bill, a private member’s bill, in keeping with the declarations of this Council.
- Listen to members of the community who report concerns or ideas relating to these issues.
Have an ongoing approach to learn from best practice, as well as mistakes, and to share the ‘lessons learnt’.
At the end of August, all five councils in Somerset were targeted by Extinction Rebellion over investments in fossil fuels by the councils’ pension fund.
Somerset is on the front line of climate change. Climate Change has caused, and is predicted to cause, a much greater risk of flooding and extreme weather. After the devastating floods of the Somerset Levels in 2013, Somerset County Council saw the terrible impact of climate change first hand. The Council recognises the potential impacts of climate change yet its pension fund invests over £120,000,000 in the very fossil fuel companies that are causing climate change!
Since 2015, Greens in Mendip have been leading the call for Somerset County Council to divest from fossil fuel.
Green Party district councillor for Frome Keyford, Shane Collins, who is leading the campaign for the SCC pension fund to divest, said: “Somerset County Council recognises that it must do whatever it can to tackle climate change and it has a responsibility to divest from an industry that jeopardises the future of our planet.”
“Instead of fossil fuel investment, SCC Pension Fund Committee should invest in solutions to climate change; investments that protect pensions and planet, joining The British Medical Association, Bristol City Council, and Oxford City Council – who have all recently agreed to make the commitment to no direct investment in the fossil fuel industry.”
Please sign our petition, and share widely.
Over one thousand people so far have signed the petition urging the council to heed the advice of financial experts and remove its investments from overvalued fossil fuel companies, but so far the council seems unwilling to acknowledge how it contributes to climate change with these unwise investments.
“We must never forget – and pledge never again to inflict such mass destruction. That should start with the UK scrapping plans to replace and upgrade Trident, and instead sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”
Caroline Lucas MP.
On Sunday 9th August, Glastonbury’s Mayor, Cllr. Jon Cousins and Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Sue Barnet, observed The Silent Minute at 11:02 a.m. to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic bomb.
A member of the international movement Mayors For Peace, Cllr. Cousins read a message from Mayor Taue of Nagasaki:
“Exactly 75 years have passed since the day our city was assaulted by a nuclear bomb. Despite the passing of three quarters of a century, we are still living in world where nuclear weapons exist.
I appeal to the leaders of countries around the world. Please aim to break down the growing climate of distrust and instead build trust through dialogue... At this very time, please choose solidarity over division. At the NPT Review Conference, which is scheduled for next year, I ask that you show a workable way towards nuclear disarmament.”
“ ‘Only 100 seconds remain.’ In order to symbolize this state of crisis, the ‘Doomsday Clock’, an indicator of the time left until the earth’s extinction, was set at its shortest time ever this year.”
The observation took place at Glastonbury’s Peace Pole which was planted on 26th January 2013 by the Pilgrim Reception Centre supported by Uma Uchima, from the World Peace Prayer Society and Tatomir Ion-Marius, a Romanian Peace Ambassador and international peace worker.
Glastonbury’s Peace Pole has “May Peace Prevail on Earth” written on it in eight languages and also a Braille plate. Located on the grass verge at the front of St Dunstan’s car park in the centre of the town, it ensures visitors and residents all have the opportunity to see and feel the message.
Open the Newsletter as a pdf HERE.
Councillor Jon Cousins, Green Mayor of Glastonbury, pays tribute to Denise Michell, Archdruidess, Elder Ovate and Bard, ‘Fairy Queen’, and twice Green Mayor of Glastonbury.
First published in ‘Green World’ magazine – Wednesday, 24th June 2020.
Denise Michell 11th August 1952 – 22nd June 2020
Denise Michell (née Price) was born on 11th August 1952, and spent her early years in Barkingside, Redbridge.
She came to live in Glastonbury in 1997 and was an Archdruidess of the Glastonbury Order of Druids from 1998 to 2007 – subsequently becoming a founding member, Elder Ovate and Bard of the Gorsedh Ynys Witrin, Glastonbury’s Bardic College.
In April 2007, Denise married the celebrated author John Michell (1933–2009) at a ceremony held in Glastonbury’s St Benedict’s Church. It was a long courtship – they had first met 34 years earlier, when she was 21 and he was 40.
Partly in response to the government’s proposal that Hinkley Point C in Somerset would be one of the eight newly commissioned Nuclear Power Stations, Denise joined Glastonbury’s Green Party branch in 2010, and became an active campaigner encouraging local people to register to vote.
As Archdruidess, her profile helped to build support, and the local branch experienced a ‘Green Surge’ in 2010/11, which resulted in four Greens being elected to Glastonbury Town Council in May 2011 – Denise being one of the ‘Green Four’.
During their first term, Glastonbury’s Green Councillors implemented a Glastonbury ‘Green’ Charter for the Environment, installed solar panels onto the roof of the Town Hall, declared Glastonbury a Frack Free Council, and resolved to oppose the building of Hinkley C Nuclear Power Station.
As Glastonbury’s Green surge continued, reflected by the national surge in membership from late 2014 onwards (turning Greens into the third largest party in England and Wales), Denise was re-elected in 2015 to become the 316th (and first ‘Green’) Worshipful Mayor of Glastonbury. Her first Mayoral resolution was to join the international anti-nuclear movement ‘Mayors For Peace’, a membership that all succeeding Mayors of Glastonbury have maintained.
As a councillor, Denise was a champion of Glastonbury’s ‘Beltane’ May Day festivities and the town’s annual Frost Fayre. Indeed, when she was first elected, she discovered that the 2011 Frost Fayre was in danger of being cancelled – and decided to take on the coordination of the event, helping to turn the Frost Fayre into a huge success, which has gone from strength to strength – so well attended and popular in 2019 that hundreds of would-be visitors were not even able to enter the town.
In their second term, Glastonbury Greens expanded to seven elected councillors, and took minority control of the town council. During this time, they banned the use of glyphosate on all public land – moving to a non-toxic weed control system, became the first council in Somerset to be ‘single-use plastic free’, and the first to declare a Climate Emergency – pledging to make council operations carbon-neutral by 2030.
In 2019, being returned as a town councillor for a third term (as part of nine Green town councillors – a majority!), Denise joined the small company of people who have been twice elected Mayor of Glastonbury.
During her second Mayoralty, she oversaw Glastonbury becoming the second ‘Earth Protector Town’ in the World – calling for an Amendment to The Rome Statute to include a Law against Ecocide.
When asked recently what it was like to be a councillor, Denise replied: “Working within the community I listen closely to what people would like to see happen in our town now and in the future, and – as a councillor – I can help bring change for the benefit of everyone in our community.”
Denise passed away in the early hours of Monday 22nd June 2020. News of her death was announced by her children Zig, Zoe, Rowan and Leah on social media: “It is with broken hearts that we must share with you that our mum has completed her journey here on Earth and is now on her way to join the ancestors in the stars. Thank you to each and every one of you who has been a part of our mum’s life adventures. We ask that you light a candle, say a prayer and send her on her way with love. Love and light. May there be peace in the sacred grove.”
Personally, I am devastated by the passing of my dear friend. Denny was an incredible person, who loved Glastonbury to the core of her being and did so much for our community. She will be greatly missed. On behalf of Glastonbury Council and the local Green Party, I send my deepest condolences to her family.