“The world has been trashed on our generation's watch, and it is time we rolled up our sleeves and got to work tidying up after the mess we've made.“
Millie is a mum of two teenage girls living in Haringey, North London. She works as a digital services contractor and is one of the founding members of the grassrootsorganisation Parents For Future UK.
Text: Beth Mark
Photography: Sandra Freij
Amid the global coronavirus crisis, Millie took time out from working from home, acting as mum, teacher and friend to talk me through her eco-conscious journey.
“It started a very long time ago. I'm 49 now, and I was a 17 when I first heard about climate change through friends. This was back in the '80’s, when we first started growing a conscious about it. I remember going to events like the ‘Reclaim the Streets’ parties where we would shut down the streets with vans and sound systems. It felt very hopeful at that point. There was this great movement of anti-car, pro-public transport, pro-bicycle people… I was really optimistic about change, but sadly, I soon realised it wasn’t general thinking.”
Millie puts this down to the mainstream media controlling the majority of the messages to the masses. After being branded as a hippy and a nuisance, she felt most people didn’t want to listen and preferred to continue with business as usual. Millie adds
“It soon became apparent that most people weren’t aware of the environmental issues threatening our very existence… I felt like it was a huge taboo to talk about it… like it was impolite to question any damaging practices… for a long time, I felt I wasn’t able to speak my mind.”
For many years, Millie felt muted by her fellow mums at the school gates and by her colleagues in the workplace. It wasn't until the 2018 IPCC report on global warming was published that Millie once again found her voice. ‘Enough was enough’, she thought! With the hard-hitting facts behind her, Millie started to broach the subject with friends, family and colleagues again. She tells me of her shock when still months later she found many people uninformed,
“I thought this is terrible that people don’t know… with something so serious that threatens life and our children’s lives it should be front-page news and in every newspaper."
Millie had followed Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement since September 2018. Back then, youth climate strikes were popping up all over Europe and afar. Still, there seemed to be a lack of representation in the UK, Millie remembers,
"..there was one in Scotland organised by Holly Gillibrand, but no representation in London.”
At this point, Millie talked to her 12-year-old daughter about the movement. How did you approach the subject? I asked,
“It wasn’t easy, I didn’t want to scare her, but with the urgency, I wanted her to understand the importance of it. I approached it by saying how important it was to stand up for yourself and for your future.”
Together they decided to add London to the map of strikers, Millie recalls,
“The first strike in December 2018 was really small. There were about 10 children, including a group of 5 teenage girls, and 10 adults. We didn’t have a big social media following, so it was only a small bunch, but from that, we made some contacts.”
Together, the attendees aimed for the next school strike in February 2019. This time, with the help from Greenpeace and with more concerned teenagers learning about the climate crisis, the strikes really took off. Millie reflects,
“It was like the flood gates had opened… the kids were aware, and they were not going to be silenced.”
Inspired by the youthstrikes Millie started talking to adults around her about organising to provide support for the young people. And with this, the grassroots organisation Parents For Future UK was born.
“Everyone needs to know!" she thought, It’s no time to be quiet anymore… we need to speak to people in a hopeful and non-confrontational way…acting now.”
Parents For Future UK has since developed a large following throughout the country. Once established, they connected with the already existing international groups spanning over 5 continents. Focusing their influence and energy on localised action and global interaction, they work with partner groups to encourage green thinking that works now and for future generations.
When asked about the next steps for Parents For Future UK, Millie expresses where she feels the most significant impact will be,
“Our work in schools is vital! Pressure from parent and teacher associations can have a huge influence on projects within the school and how we teach future generations… we need to start teaching our kids that there is a new way of doing things, which is regenerative. As Parents For Future, we’ve developed a green checklist full of recommended tips. When we all finally go back, we would encourage all parents to go through this checklist with their schools. I would also recommend putting pressure on local Councils and the Department of Education.”
Millie calls on other parents to be the heroes that their children’s generation needs right now.
“The world has been trashed on our generation's watch, and it is time we rolled up our sleeves and got to work tidying up after the mess we've made...“