How did I give up using my car? By turning it into a protest art roadblock!

It can be hard to give up things. 

One way is to just remove temptation. 

I’d vowed last winter, after waking up to the extent of  our climate crisis, only to use my car for unavoidable journeys.

But I’d found – despite then becoming a climate activist and active travel campaigner, and someone who’d always loved walking and cycling, and a big fan of trams and trains – that I still had trouble avoiding the tendency to jump in the car when it was raining, I was feeling lazy or running late.*

I decided that the easiest way to give up using my private car – was to remove it and go cold turkey.

Deciding to do something, and doing it, are also two different things (as the broken lightbulb in my hallway can testify today, a good month after it blew it).

So, when Extinction Rebellion’s Deansgate direct action rolled around this August, and fellow protestors were looking for an eye-catching protest artwork in the middle of the street… I had just the job…

Continue reading “How did I give up using my car? By turning it into a protest art roadblock!”

What happened when we tried to pedestrianise Manchester’s showpiece street for one day via official channels?

I wrote this piece at the request of the Manchester Meteor as part of a series they’re curating from community groups on the realities of trying to engage with Manchester City Council.
The Meteor series was triggered by blog post from Council leader Sir Richard  Leese urging people to work with the council on solutions to the climate crisis.


I’m one of a group of people who last year set up WalkRide Greater Manchester to campaign for better walking, cycling and public transport in the city region.

One of our goals is for our urban centres to be designed and built around people not cars – and specifically we are campaigning for Manchester’s showpiece shopping street, Deansgate, to become traffic free*.

Earlier this year, one of our group came up with a proposal to turn part of Deansgate over to a large ‘open streets’ event on the longest day of the year, for people to be able to try it out as a traffic-free zone, with fun activities such as yoga, picnics and five a side – as well as to learn more about ‘active travel’.

Deansgate is closed to through-traffic about 10-12 times a year – but that’s in order to use the space for events like parades or races – so people don’t really get to experience it as their own, pedestrian place.

We called our idea, the People’s Takeover and asked for meetings with the council, TfGM and the Walking and Cycling Beelines team to progress it.

This coalition of groups were ostensibly enthusiastic, so we adapted the proposal to meet everyone’s requirements – and then asked what we’d need to do to make it happen. We even found an agreed source of funding.

We thought we had done the easy bit.  Continue reading “What happened when we tried to pedestrianise Manchester’s showpiece street for one day via official channels?”


On 8 July 2019, Manchester City Council declared a Climate Emergency and as a result a new committee has been tasked with scrutinising  progress to the city’s carbon-zero 2038 target.  Here’s what I learnt from attending the first meeting.


1. The new Climate Emergency Scrutiny committee means business.

It seemed clear that this group of seven councillors, chaired by Annette Wright, (Hulme councilor and co-author of the Climate Emergency motion) – seem genuinely set on examining and overhauling everything the council does to bring it in line with the emergency declaration. ‘We want to understand where we are now, where we need to get to, what we need to do to get there, how we’re doing along the way,’ said Wright {paraphrased}.

2. The current Climate Action Plan is not fit for purpose

The meeting spent almost two hours forensically going through each of the 20 points in the existing Manchester Climate Action Plan, thus exposing its inadequacy.

Currently – it’s an eclectic mix of actions, some specific and with carbon reductions attached (‘LED street lights = 8,000+ tonnes of Co2 saved’), some huge and broad (‘meeting our 2050 carbon-zero target’) and some vague with no clear outputs attached (‘participate in the Core Cities Adaptation project’), some covered by multiple points and possible double counting (eg emissions from council buildings covered by four separate points).

Snapshot of the current Climate Action Report – which lists all 20 items on track

As Wright testily made the point again and again, the plan doesn’t contain a breakdown of segment targets, or how each of the 20 actions relate to the cuts we need to make – so there is no sense of where Manchester is on its journey to a carbon-zero future.

For instance – if transport accounts for 31% of Co2 in Manchester, what are the year by year reductions required, how will we make them, what progress are we making and who is accountable for reaching them?

It seemed surprising that after claiming to be a leader in this for so long (2009), this document is what underpins the city council’s climate action; let’s hope what comes next (to begin March 2020) is far better. 

3. There are no council employees working full-time exclusively on the climate emergency.



Waterloo Bridge Extinction Rebellion blockade April 2019

Fear and I, we’re very old friends.

Or should I say fears, plural, as I’ve a whole family – from the grandparents (snakes 🐍, small spaces 🚪) to the baby (motorways); some are older than others, each has their eccentricities.

Fear of small spaces 🎁 , fear of big spaces🌏, fear of choking on a tube train 😝 (in between stations) , fear of driving on motorways 🚗 (smashing self into a bridge or other car), fear of being a passenger on motorways ⛔(fear of opening the door or grabbing the wheel), fear of flying 🛫 (trying to jump out) , fear of heights 🌋 (throwing myself off a cliff, pushing someone else off a cliff), fear of public speaking 🎤 (shouting swear words, running out of air).

I’ve learnt to treat my family of fears as just that – blood relatives to be acknowledged and accommodated come what may, not distant opponents to be conquered and despised.

We get along ok, and some of them have even moved away, though we still exchange greetings from time to time.

You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to realise the genetic root of them all seems to be about loss of control, fear of fear, though I’ve never figured out how knowing that helps. 

Next week, I’ll do something that will severely agitate one of the real old timers – fear of being in a confined space.

In this case, the small space we’re talking about  – is handcuffed in a small cell inside a prisoner van and/or police station.

Video:  Showing my fears over three days at climate protests in London in April, where I watched many everyday people refuse to move, and be arrested.

If it seems like this is an entirely avoidable situation, let me explain why it’s not. Continue reading “I’M PREPARING FOR ARREST IN THE QUEST FOR URGENT ACTION ON OUR CLIMATE CRISIS… AND I’M TERRIFIED OF BEING LOCKED IN SMALL SPACES”

We have a ‘1 million trips a day’ challenge in Greater Manchester – which we can only solve if we stop driving short distances

In this in-depth post I set out compelling evidence why…

    • our climate and health crisis can only be solved with dramatic cuts to car use
    • leaving cars at home for short journeys is now critical, almost obligatory
    • we therefore need a massive programme of measures to disincentivise car use and induce behaviour change including


If Greater Manchester is to meet its environment, civic, and health commitments  – the city region’s transport challenge is very clear.

About one million MORE journeys EVERY day need to be made by foot, bike, bus, tram or train* by 2040, instead of by car.

The trouble is – no-one likes to talk about the last four words of that sentence. 

Our current strategies assume that this massive transformation of our daily habits will just ‘kinda happen’ as a result of new infrastructure, public transport investment and a bit of ‘awareness raising’. 

But a new report from the influential Transport Select Committee makes a clear set of recommendations that spell out this is a car-reduction challenge which must now be tackled head on.

Continue reading “We have a ‘1 million trips a day’ challenge in Greater Manchester – which we can only solve if we stop driving short distances”

Three Climate Emergencies Declared – yay! And then ignored. Oh…

Credit: Dilbert/Scott Adams

You know that uncomfortable, jarring feeling you get.

When your body experiences one thing, but your eyes see another?

It’s known in the psychologist trade as cognitive dissonance – when beliefs are contradicted by information.

When it happens our brains get very uncomfortable and have three options – change our beliefs (hard), change our actions (quite hard), change our perception of our actions (easiest).

Well this has been the experience of being on the environmental campaigning beat in Manchester this week.

Extreme cognitive dissonance – as the city revealed we’re way off our carbon targets, rose up to declare a climate emergency – and it all went completely ignored.

It could have been so different – a momentous, landmark, ground-breaking week.

It started with Monday’s revelation at the Manchester Climate Agency’s annual ‘conference’ that the city had only managed 2.5% of our pledged 13% year on year carbon reductions .

Continue reading “Three Climate Emergencies Declared – yay! And then ignored. Oh…”

What’s the block to creating the world you want? (clue: it’s not what you think)

When I saw this question promoting a talk from an experienced tutor at the well-regarded Northern School of Permaculture, I was intrigued.

What is the block indeed?? Great – here I will find the answer!

So when Angus Soutar asked this question of the 25 or so of us who gathered in the back room of the Briton’s Protection pub in Manchester, a very suitable venue with it’s connections to the Peterloo Massacre, I was ready with my replies..

‘Exploitative capitalist economics’, ‘inadequate government policies’, ‘fickle politicians’, ‘a broken voting system’…What should I pick first?

So I was very surprised when people volunteered very different answers to those on my mind…

Continue reading “What’s the block to creating the world you want? (clue: it’s not what you think)”

Why launch Bee The Change Blog?

Beethechangeblog came from my desire to do something positive in these challenging times – The Great Turning as it has been called.

And to document my own discoveries and difficulties as I and the rest of the world wrestle with the monumental challenge of de-carbonising ourselves and re-balancing our relationship with earth.

Firstly, for myself because the act of transforming thoughts to written words helps me make sense of what I’m experiencing.

Secondly in the belief that they might be useful to others.

Thirdly because it seems, just in these deeply troubling times when we most need an independent media, this part of this agenda isn’t being covered in the way it should be. Continue reading “Why launch Bee The Change Blog?”