The Power of Petitions
Last month Waitrose announced that it will no longer sell children’s magazines which come with disposable plastic toys. This decision was prompted by an online petition to ban plastics from comics and magazines which was started by ten year old Skye Neville from Wales. I remember signing Skye’s petition when it was shared on social media because a) I agree with it; b) I make a point of signing online petitions when asked to; c) I wanted to support a child who is trying to make our world a better place and to let her know that (some) adults are listening.
It’s not the first time an online petition has worked. In 2019 Burger King banned plastic toys from its children’s meals, again as the result of an online petition by two young sisters. Cynics may suggest that the Waitrose and Burger King bans are merely good PR stunts for big business, rather than real signs of change. But the end result (no more plastic tat) is the same and should be celebrated!
Did you know that if a petition created on the UK Government and Parliament website receives 10,000 signatures, the UK government will respond to it? If a petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in parliament. In this digital age, 100,000 signatures doesn’t seem that much anymore! This shows the potential impact which a petition could have.
Of course, not all petitions will work and I read recently that for some organisations the real value of online petitions is to get your details on a mailing list and to subsequently canvass you for donations. Since making a concerted effort to sign online petitions which I support, I have received more emails from environmental organisations, often with updates on the petition’s progress or further actions to take. However, I usually welcome these emails and find them interesting; if I don’t or feel I am being bombarded, I simply unsubscribe. But signing and sharing petitions is a great way to raise public awareness of an issue and if the worst that happens is you get a few extra emails from well-intentioned organisations and charities, I’d say it’s worth it.
With the restrictions in place over the last year, I have not been to any environmental protests, such as the Extinction Rebellion protests of 2019. For me, signing online petitions is a small way of showing my dissent and pooling my voice with those of likeminded people. It is in no way the same as marching and banner waving, but it is a small eco-action which brings me hope. It is something we can all do from the comfort and safety of our homes.
All it takes is a few minutes of your time to sign these petitions and you might, just might, be making a difference. What do you have to lose?
With this in mind, we’ve done a quick round up of some current petitions which we think are worth signing:
*Updated September 2021 to include current petitions and email campaigns
Ask the government to ban urban and garden pesticides to protect bees, other wildlife and human health
This petition by the Wildlife Trusts calls on Rebecca Pow, Environment Minister, and Lord Goldsmith, Minister for International Environment & Climate, to act at once to progress a ban on peat-based products in shops.
The government target of all amateur compost to be peat-free by 2020 has been largely ignored by retailers. Digging peat from peat bogs releases all the carbon that’s been sequestered by the decomposition process over thousands of years, massively contributing to the climate crisis and destroying a unique ecosystem at the same time.
This Greenpeace petition to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth Anne Marie Trevelyan asks the UK government to commit to no new oil or gas projects in the North Sea.
It comes hot on the heels of Boris Johnson giving the go ahead to new North Sea oil and gas licences, despite earlier promises that the UK would “lead the way” fighting climate change.
This petition from Friends of the Earth urges the Prime Minister and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick to stop plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria and to commit to ending the era of coal.
This petition calls on the Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to stop funding the climate crisis and regulate the banks that do.