Category Archives: Environment

Candidate statement: celebrate freedom of movement

Screenshot 2019-03-12 at 20.02.23

2016 London elections and EU referendum campaign, Southwark

I’m a Londoner, an EU citizen, a Dutch national, who arrived here more than a decade ago, with bags of curiosity and a heavy Dutch bicycle. Already an active Green, having chaired the GroenLinks national Europe working group and having helped foster cross-border links between Green activists, I was immediately drawn into the 2008 London elections campaign, and have felt at home in London and in our Green Party ever since.

Activist without borders

Over the past 15 years, as an activist and delegate in the European Green Party I have built links and friendships with politicians and campaigners of green parties from across Europe, and together we have strengthened and deepened our radical politics: it is now completely normal that as European Greens we go into the EP elections with a common manifesto and with our jointly elected Spitzenkandidaten.

When the 2016 EU Referendum came along, as a through-and-through European, I campaigned my socks off for Remain: I volunteered to coordinate the ‘Greens for an Better Europe’ campaign for the London region and an hour before the close of the polls on the 23rd of June, I was still handing out our leaflets in the South Bermondsey rain. And no matter how the result and the aftermath have affected EU nationals like me, I’ve continued to be active in campaigns for a People’s Vote and a citizens’ assembly.

Climate action triggers radical reform

Look up, Brussels and Strasbourg: a Green wave is coming. It’s coming from Germany, France, and the Benelux, where Green parties are surging in the polls because people know that climate breakdown needs a serious political response.

And it will come from London: I look forward to campaigning together with the excellent other candidates on our list to increase our numbers. We can take great inspiration from campaigns like the school strikes, Extinction Rebellion, and the Green New Deal – and we will take the fight to the centre of European politics.

Climate action also holds the key to badly needed economic and democratic reforms. I will work with Green colleagues and other progressives to force a break from an economic system that prescribes that GDP growth is good and inequality inevitable, and campaign for a universal basic income and taxes that encourage social and environmental justice.

All of this can only succeed if we do it with people and communities, and I will use my professional experience of deliberative democracy to make the case for citizens’ assemblies, collaborative action and cross-border initiatives.

The beauty of free movement

At a time that Brexit and right-wing populism are appealing to nationalist instincts, we Greens continue to defend the human rights of refugees and migrants and to celebrate freedom of movement. We are clear that free movement is not a condition for a competitive single market, but a way for people to be open and free, to learn, and to meet amazing people from different countries – every Londoner can relate to that.

As a migrant myself, I stand proudly for these values. Without freedom of movement we cannot be truly European citizens, able to see beyond the artificial boundaries that national borders represent. With my fellow Green MEPs, I will tirelessly rebuke those who want to withdraw into intolerance, and every time they propose a measure to erode free movement, we will respond with two proposals to help more citizens experience the beauty of a Europe without borders.

This article was published on on 12 March 2019.

The thought that opened the gate

What is common does not necessarily make sense. But the more common something is, the less inclined we are to question its good sense. We are programmed to wonder about the extraordinary, whilst blindly accepting the ordinary.

Yet, sometimes, you suddenly stop to wonder about something that until then had been too ordinary to incite a thought. Next, you wonder how on earth you never wondered about it before. At this point it is already too late: you will not be able to put the thought to rest again, and its subject will never return to the zone of your mind where things too common to think about live.

This happened to me last Sunday, when I was out leafleting in my local area. Street, pavement, gate, steps, door, letterbox, steps, gate, pavement, gate… Gate. Gate? So wonder struck. No longer was my focus on the ‘how’ – how do I open this gate without losing my momentum and without causing inconvenience to residents – it was suddenly firmly on the ‘why’ – why is this gate here?

In London, virtually every house that doesn’t open directly to the street has a gate at the bottom of its entry path, usually integrated into a wall or fence that makes up the property boundary. They tend to be made of metal or timber, open inwards, and have a simple closing mechanism.

Garden gate in PeckhamDespite their commonness, there is great variety to be found. Gates that creak (most of them) and gates that don’t. Gates that run aground halfway in. Gates one needs to lift in order for the closing mechanism to work. Gates with a polite note that says ‘Please close the gate’. Gates with a polite note that says ‘Don’t slam the gate’. Gates with a polite note that says ‘Wet paint’. Gates at the bottom of a long and winding garden path. Gates that are no further than three feet from the front door.

So let’s spend a moment thinking about the practical use of the gate. True, the sound of it opening, if it’s one of those creaky ones, can alert the resident to the imminent arrival of a visitor, delivery person or intruder. And the sound of it slamming shut may signal the departure of said individual. Furthermore, we could take into account gates’ significance to employment, not only for the fencing and gating industry, but also for the Royal Mail, who in the absence of gates would not be able to justify their current numbers of delivery staff.

Beyond that, I am at a loss for pro-gate arguments. They are not terribly effective at preventing anything from entering or leaving, nor do they often represent a distinct embellishment to the property. I’m not aware of them being a haven for wildlife in any way, shape or form, or of their contribution to pedestrian traffic regulation.

Would it be unthinkable to do away with them? De-gate London? Reuse and recycle all the metal and timber currently occupied to maintain a practice that is common but makes no sense? Not only could it save everyone a little bit of time (all the time), who knows it could also reset our minds as to how ordinary ‘closed, fenced and gated’ are in our living environment.

Just a thought.