HELEN BURTON: ‘We need everybody to do politics’

Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001
Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001

At the weekend I attended a public event organised by the Wealden Green Party in Forest Row which explored various ethical and Green issues.

There were short introductory speeches from Teo Beavers (a Green event organiser and school outreach worker) Forest Row Energy (a local energy co-operative), Keith Taylor Green MEP and Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party. After the speeches we then broke up into groups to discuss various issues. At the end of the day key points were drawn up from the discussions which Natalie Bennett then discussed in her final speech.

After a delightful lunch sitting next to Natalie Bennett (provided by the Into the Wild Vegan Food Co-Operative) I joined in with a discussion group on local food and resilience led by Transition Wadhurst, and then sat in on a discussion about local democracy. I also chatted with someone who is organising compost toilets to be sent to the Calais refugee camp. The amount of plastics in the ocean was another hot topic, with Natalie Bennet telling us the startling fact that by 2050 the weight of plastics in the ocean will be more than the weight of the fish. Banning plastic beads used in toiletry products is clearly a passion of hers, not surprising really considering the damage they cause to the oceans’ ecology and the fact that they are completely unnecessary.

The EU was talked about at length with Keith Taylor leading a discussion about international issues. The general consensus of the day was that we should remain in the EU and work on reformation from within, the feeling being that the EU offers us many benefits that outweigh the negatives. I missed Keith Taylor’s talk (too busy with other discussions) but he lists the things the EU has done for us and areas where he would like to see change on his website. www.keithtaylormep.org.uk There are so many pressing issues to work on and such a lot was discussed during the day that I left with my head spinning, but there were a few core themes that came through in all of the discussions. Firstly, green issues in general need to be much higher on the government’s agenda. Secondly, (despite the media storm around it) immigration is not the issue, the real issues are low wages, NHS spending cuts, education and housing. Thirdly, building strong resilient communities needs to be everyone’s job. In these times of austerity we need to look after each other better. During the course of the day I talked to many people about my project Pevensey Volunteers and several people thought that as a model it could be replicated elsewhere to great effect. With the cuts we are currently suffering as a country volunteering is going to be even more vital. From little acorns… One line from Natalie Bennett summed up the day best, and it is relevant no matter what your political persuasion: “We need everybody to do politics, rather than have politics done to us”.