October 2016: Sustainability and Climate Change with Divest Hackney

Last month, as part of the WI’s ‘Speak Up Week of Action‘ we invited Athene and Martin from Divest Hackney to discuss sustainability and climate change.
Athene from Divest Hackney


So Athene and Martin, tell us a bit about yourselves and what you do in Divest Hackney…

Martin: I have been involved in the Divest Hackney campaign for about a year and a half. One of the main things I have been doing is liaising with the council on the importance of the financial argument for why divestment makes sense.

Athene:  And I got involved with Divest Hackney in November last year. I’ve mainly been involved with the outreach side of things – holding workshops/talks in schools and at science events to raise awareness as well as helping out with other general things, like petitioning, banner-making, etc…. 

How did you get in to Divest Hackney, and what was your talk at HWW about?

Martin from Divest Hackney

Athene: I’m doing a PhD at King’s College, which itself has an active divestment campaign and as climate change is a cause I care deeply about, I was very keen to get involved with a local group. A friend from the King’s divestment campaign then put me in touch with Divest Hackney.

Martin: I met Gabriel, who is one of our lead campaigners, at the Global Divestment day in 2015, found out we both lived in Hackney and both decided to get more involved with the campaign. We were really happy to have the opportunity to talk to the Hackney Wicked WI – it’s important to engage people and get them involved at a grassroots level.  

Athene: Our talk was split into three parts:

  • The bad news about climate change and the multitude of environmental and economical effects it is having on the world and is expected to have in the immediate future.
  • The positive steps that are being taken at a global and individual level to mitigate the effects of climate change, with some tips on what individuals can do.
  • The concept of divestment, which means taking assets out of the fossil fuel industry, and explained the power of this movement on a global level, as well as about the progress of our local campaign with Hackney council. 

So, how can we be more mindful about climate change and sustainability moving forward? 

Athene: I think there’s already a great deal of general awareness about climate change and the disastrous effects it entails, but that doesn’t always translate into action due to the stresses of everyday life. I think it’s really important that steps are taken on both an individual level and at a structural level, and people can do a lot to support both processes.

For example:

  • switching to a green energy provider, which is fast and inexpensive, can cut your carbon footprint by up to 50%!
  • shopping locally and ethically
  • using more green transport options such as bikes and trains.

Equally, it’s really important that individuals put pressure on politicians, public bodies and businesses to act in line with the Paris Agreement of last year and support local divestment campaigns. 

Martin: There are lots of great online resources available for people to find out about things you can do in your day-to-day life if you are interested in making a difference about climate change.

There are lots of amazing materials online from recycling, to switching your energy provider. If you are interested in divestment specifically, http://gofossilfree.org/uk/ is an excellent website where you can find out about local campaigns, how to get involved and how to make sure your pension isn’t invested in fossil fuels!

Local councils are starting to go fossil free, and here’s how The campaign to divest local councils from fossil fuels is making waves. The overwhelming majority of …

So, tell us a bit about Hackney’s project specifically. 

Athene: Divest Hackney has been going since February 2015 and is calling on Hackney Council to divest the £42 million they have invested in the fossil fuel industry through their pension fund.

The campaign has grown a lot since then, with huge support from the local community and we have come quite far in liaising with the councillors to pass a divestment motion. The overall response from the pension committee has been positive and we are hopeful that steps towards divestment will be taken.

However, at the supposed decision day in October, action was deferred until January due to the possibility of countrywide pooling of pension fund assets. So it’s still really important that we maintain pressure on the council until then and grow our support networks.

How can people apply or find out more? 

Our campaign is totally open for anyone to join and we are also happy to put people in touch with other local London campaigns if you don’t live in Hackney.

We meet every Monday at 7:30pm at the Market Café on Broadway Market and there are lots of things people get involved with according to their interests and how much free time they have!

If you are interested in getting involved, feel free to send us an email to divesthackney@gmail.com. 

Our petition is still going strong and we are happy about every signature! You can find it at campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/divest-hackney-council-from-fossil-fuels

Frack Off London and Divest London, which are affiliated campaigns, are holding an event this Saturday 28th October to peacefully protest Barclay’s involvement in fracking at Golden Square in Soho – the more people turn up, the stronger the message! You can find details for the event on Facebook 

You can follow Divest Hackney’s news and upcoming events on