Paul Kaufman, Chair of East London Humanists, introduces their March public event on climate change and explains what the Wanstead-based group is up to in the Covid era
Leo Barasi, acclaimed writer and speaker on climate change, will lead a discussion for our Zoom event this month. It takes place exactly a year after a meeting at Wanstead Library featuring Leo had to be cancelled due to Covid. A lot has changed in that year, but addressing human-created climate change remains more urgent than ever.
In his book The Climate Majority, Leo argues that the battle to convince people that climate change needs to be tackled is largely won. The battle now is against the apathy which allows those with power to avoid taking the action necessary. He will examine how this can be overcome and what lessons we can learn from the way governments and people have reacted to the pandemic.
Our group was initially reluctant to hold events on Zoom. We miss the conviviality of meeting in person. On the plus side, Zoom is now familiar to many and enables our reach to extend far beyond Wanstead. For example, our January event featured the editor of The Freethinker speaking from Spain, joined by human rights activist Leo Igwe speaking from Nigeria. We look forward to resuming events which are more sociable, but in the meantime, Zoom helps us thrive.
Our activities involve more than just staging events. Last year, we celebrated Relationships and Sex Education being made compulsory in state schools. This follows 50 years of campaigning by Humanists UK and marks a historic moment in children’s rights. Our group contributes to the working party for the new curriculum in Redbridge. All children have the right to an education that helps keep them healthy, happy and safe, and we will continue to campaign against the ‘opt outs.’
Another campaign concerns Census 2021, which takes place on 21 March. It includes the leading question ‘What is your religion?’ This falsely presumes we all have a religion. It leads many to say they have a religion when they have no religious belief. They simply name the religion in their cultural background. Underestimating how many are not religious results in unfair provision, for example, of non-religious pastoral care in hospitals, prisons and the armed services, and helps perpetuate anachronisms such as compulsory daily acts of Christian worship in schools. We urge those who are not religious to simply tick the ‘no religion’ box.
The last year has seen its fair share of conspiracy theorists, anti-vaccers, intolerance and backward thinking. It remains as important as ever to have groups like ours which promote values based on evidence, reason and kindness.