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EarthChat: time for action

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Paige Dawkins

EarthChat: time for action

Paige Dawkins, Social Media Officer at the Epilepsy Society, explains why she has started an internal initiative, 'EarthChat', to work with colleagues to raise awareness of the climate crisis and take steps to reduce the charity's impact.

A head and shoulders picture of Paige Dawkins smiling and wearing a green coat, standing in the woods in Winter

Climate change is no longer a distant scientific theory, or a far-off problem for future generations to deal with. Our world is warming, driven by humanity releasing greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere. The devastating effects of our collective activity on our planet is being felt now across every continent, with droughts, fires and flooding becoming increasingly common. Experts warn of the terrifying consequences of inaction; mass migration, crop failures and extinctions. Evidence has also started to indicate the risks to human health, including the impacts on how neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, will play out in people’s lives.

In 2021, the UN declared a “code red” for humanity, and this November, world-leaders met in Glasgow for COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference to discuss the crisis. We have been here before, when the pledge to pursue no higher than 1.5 degrees of warming was made a legally binding commitment in the Paris Agreement of 2015. Despite this, based on current policies in November 2021, we would witness the Earth warm by 2.7 degrees above preindustrial levels in just 80 years time.

That is why the Epilepsy Society has started an internal initiative new to 2021; EarthChat. EarthChat is a space for all employees at the Society to come together to find solutions to reduce the environmental impact of our work at the charity and inspire each other to take steps in our personal lives to achieve the same. Through looking at the way we travel to work (or work remotely), the suppliers we choose, the waste we produce and more, we hope through EarthChat that we can get ahead of the curve, and reduce our carbon footprint before legislation will eventually force our hand. EarthChat isn’t about talking – it’s about action. It is a symbol of the charity’s ongoing commitment to nature, and therefore, in the same breath, the people we work for; people affected by epilepsy. We believe that the consequences for human health should be higher on the climate change agenda, so it is only right that we start addressing the issue on our very own doorstep.

Paige Dawkins and her dad stand side by side in a stream amongst greenery smiling
Paige and her dad enjoying nature in Cornwall, UK

Through the EarthChat initiative, we have so far:

  • Chosen a vegetarian menu, opposed to a meat-focussed menu, at staff events to reduce the carbon impact of our dietary choices
  • Offered free Climate Change and Environmental Awareness training to staff across the charity
  • Begun preparations to plant a wildflower meadow on our Chalfont site
  • Encouraged staff and the people we support to try a plant-based meal and make plant-based swaps
  • Created wildlife homes such as bug hotels and bird feeders on site and in our homes
  • Encouraged staff to car share where possible and consider walking to their local shops
  • We hope to continue to evaluate our lifestyle and practices at work and at home so that we can further reduce our environmental impact

We all have hopes for the outcomes of COP26. Leaders and governments across the globe must, to quote Sir David Attenborough, “turn tragedy into triumph” by setting more ambitious targets and, crucially, prioritising action over words. The world cannot overcome this existential threat without governments leading the necessary changes in society, and this fact can leave a feeling of fear and powerlessness. However, there is always something that is in our control; the everyday actions and choices that we all take.

Ultimately, it is down to all of us to save our precious planet, safeguard nature, our children’s future and the more vulnerable people in our societies, including people with disabilities. The pandemic has shown us that when we come together, we can achieve great things. We hope that EarthChat, on a small scale for just one charity, will come to demonstrate the same.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb.  

All views expressed here are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the Epilepsy Society.