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Reflections on plans for a green recovery in Bristol

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Noah Sapla is an environmental activist with expertise in social justice and works as a Wellbeing Administrator at University of Bristol. As a member of the One City Environment Board, Noah has been encouraged by the plans shaping up for a fair and sustainable economic recovery from COVID-19 and shares their insights about these plans in this member blog. 

It is no overstatement to say that we are facing huge challenges on a global scale right now. This pandemic has created new problems to be solved in our local communities and cities, and has also clearly highlighted the hardship and injustice that has existed for many years before now.

Covid-19 has created a very tangible threat to Bristol’s economy, with all parts of the city being affected. Initial surveys and research have demonstrated that those hit hardest by Covid-19 have been BAME led businesses, with 9 out of 10 experiencing significant financial loses according to Black South West Network’s May 2020 Report. Industries that form a crucial part of Bristol’s vibrant cultural scene, such as hospitality, leisure and the creative sector, have also seen drops of over 80% in revenue in almost two-thirds of cases. The numbers are scary, and we’re not out of the woods yet.  

Bristol is undoubtedly a city of innovation, leadership, sustainability and diversity. It was the first UK city to declare a climate and ecological emergency, one of the first in the UK to become a Living Wage City, and has proven to be committed to assessing its progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Our city’s dynamism is showing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic too. The One City Economy Board has worked quickly to develop a One City Economic Recovery Statement of Intent to inform the city’s economic recovery. This statement rightly acknowledges that the city’s success has not reached everyone equally, and that if we are to create a fairer and healthier Bristol for all we absolutely cannot return to ‘business as usual’. Now is the time to challenge ourselves, to consider how we can confront the systemic oppression that exists in our institutions and systems and how we can create a better future where no one is left behind.

The past months have been really difficult for many reasons, but time and again I have been inspired by the resilience, compassion and innovation I have seen in this city. It feels important that the Statement of Intent has a clear people-centred approach with a focus on collaboration, skills, and community. So much important work has already and continues to be done by individuals, volunteers and organisations in Bristol, and this plan serves not to replace or overshadow that work but complement and build upon it. Alongside meaningfully recognising the need for short term and immediate intervention for those who are already struggling and in poverty, the Statement of Intent places a strong emphasis on long term recovery and aspects of the One City Climate Strategy that deliver other important benefits – for health, employment, the economy, biodiversity, culture and resilience. 

As a young activist of colour, I have had so many conversations in environmental spaces about how we can create fairer, more diverse movements and societies. I am encouraged and excited to read a proposal that doesn’t hold back in addressing the disproportionate struggles of our communities, and that paints a holistic vision of a future where equitability, health (both societal as well as environmental) and empowerment are at the heart of the strategy. A future where all jobs are sustainable and fairly compensated, where we invest in upskilling and retraining, where organisations consider the city-wide impact of their decisions, and where all our communities can thrive.

Further information

  • Read Black South West Network’s Impact of COVID-19 on BAME Led Businesses, Organisations & Communities report here.
  • Read the One City Economy Board’s statement of intent here.
  • Read the One City Climate Strategy here.
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