Shlomo Dowen, UK Without Incineration Network (UK WIN)
CAMPAIGN HERO: Shlomo Dowen, UK Without Incineration Network
5th April, 2011
The head of the UK's grassroots anti-incineration network on working towards a zero waste economy, encouraging community engagement and avoiding 'defeatist' language
What has been your most successful campaign to date?
Contributing to the emergence of a UK-wide movement for sustainable waste management, i.e. without incineration, that networks more than 80 geographically-based learning communities to form a coherent community of interest that is greater than the sum of its parts. In person speak: turning disparate local groups into an effective campaign movement.
What has been your least successful campaign to date?
Attempting to influence Primary Care Trusts, the Health Protection Agency, the Environment Agency, and/or the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants to look again at the human health implications of waste incineration (and industry self-regulation).
What gets you out of bed when you're at your lowest?
A compulsion to check my e-mail messages (just) before I exceed 3,500 unread messages in my in-box (again!).
Corporations: work with them or against them?
Trick question. UKWIN works with corporations all the time, but for some reason they perceive us as working against them.
What is the best way to motivate people?
Helping people to feel less alone, less isolated, less victimised, and instead to feel more connected to something - a happening - that is larger than their local situation. Helping campaigners to combine a sense of belonging and an understanding of the context within which they are working for change.
What is the best way of reaching politicians?
Remaining accessible to politicians (and indeed media folk) who wish to reach out to me.
What is the most important thing to avoid when campaigning?
Avoid falling into the trap of using 'defeatist' language. For example, I remind campaigners to say/think: 'If the would-be developer's incinerator proposals are granted planning permission, then...' instead of: 'The incinerator will...'. Note also that many a "done deal" has come undone when subject to greater scrutiny. And of course - don't agonise (and don't "awfulise"), organise!
Most important thing government could do this year?
Well, of course government could and should make good their pledge to be the greenest government ever, and the stated commitment to work towards a zero waste economy / society, for example by announcing an end to all state subsidies for waste incineration. Failing that, then at least provide a symmetrical right for communities to appeal planning decisions involving waste incinerators.
See UKWIN's submission to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) consultation, February 2011.
Most important thing individuals could do this year?
Connect with other people in a spirit of sharing a better world right now. Campaigners tend to look to the future for the fulfilment of their ambitions - this needs to be balanced by celebrating our achievement to date. In short, the most important thing individuals could do this year is to be excellent to each other, and celebrate our own and each others' achievements, remembering all those reasons to be cheerful...
What makes a good campaigner?
Critical thinking, self-reflective practise, an affection for fellow human beings (whatever their differing views, perspectives, roles, attitudes, etc.), a commitment to continuous improvement, an openness to learning something new (even if that something "changes everything"), and good friends to remind you of what really matters.
What (other) campaign has caught your attention recently?
No one could have missed the campaign to protect our forests. This issue is especially important for me, as I live in what is left of the heart of the ancient Sherwood Forest.
Who is your campaign hero (past or present)?
Do the Merry Pranksters count as campaigners? Perhaps not.
I feel an enduring affinity with Abbie Hoffman and the other Chicago 7, and with all yippies and hippies through the ages.
Regarding a present-day campaign hero, I choose my friend and colleague Keith Kondakor. Keith is the movement's waste statistician who regularly corrects the official figures, and who actually understand how waste PFI contract payments are calculated! You can read my tribute to Keith online.
UK can achieve 'zero waste' without incineration
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