Can sustainable fashion be affordable? A new brand says ‘Yes Friends’

Published in Sustain-It on 23 May 2021.

Clothing brand Yes Friends is making sustainable clothing affordable

One of the biggest obstacles stopping people from shopping sustainably is affordability.

Sustainable fashion brands often sell garments at costly prices due to the increase in manufacturing costs. A new sustainable fashion brand called Yes Friends is here to change this.

The new brand launched on 7 April with a pre-order campaign for its £7.99 t-shirt. So far, they have sold nearly 4,300 t-shirts and there is a waiting list for those who want to purchase the t-shirt.

“We need more affordable [sustainable] brands and that is exactly why we set up Yes Friends,” says Sam Mabley, founder of Yes Friends.

A recent Deloitte survey found that 16% of respondents didn’t adopt a sustainable lifestyle because it was too expensive. People opt for fast fashion because it’s cheap, causing more harm than good, polluting the planet and promoting unethical fashion practices.

The environmental impact

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that each year, the fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions and uses around 1.5 trillion litres of water. A study published in the journal of Nature Reviews Earth & Environment last year concluded that both the production and consumption attitudes in the fashion industry must be changed to minimise its environmental impact.

Yes Friends focuses on minimising the environmental impact by adopting a more sustainable manufacturing process. The independent ethical brand directory Good on You rated the brand “Great”, the highest rating possible, based on its labour practices, impact on the environment and animals.

The t-shirts are made in India, with the organic cotton being grown in Indore and processed in Tirupur. The factories run on solar and wind power.

It might seem like a paradox to try to be environmentally friendly and shipping your clothes from India to the UK. However, organic cotton is not available in the UK. So, even if the clothes were manufactured here, the cotton would have to be imported from another country, like Portugal. But the real issue is that manufacturing in the UK would drive up the costs of production and create a problem with affordability, which Yes Friends is trying to avoid.

The workers

Most garment workers in India live in poverty. Last November, BBC reported that women working in factories supplying for brands like Ralph Lauren, Marks & Spencer and Tesco were subject to exploitative conditions such as being forced to sleep overnight to complete orders, not getting toilet breaks and being verbally abused.

Yes Friends is part of the “Fair Share Scheme” run by its supplier Continental Clothing. According to the scheme, Yes Friends pays an additional premium on every t-shirt produced, which goes directly to the garment workers. The workers also receive an Indian living wage, which comes to around £136 a month.

The main reason Yes Friends has chosen to manufacture in India rather than the UK is due to the living wage in the UK is significantly higher. This would, according to Mabley, make their products unaffordable.

Fair Wear Foundation, an independent non-profit organisation has given Continental Clothing a “Leader” status, the top rating for its ethical practices across supply chains.

Yes Friends’ website states that its goal is to gain enough buying power to ensure living wages for all workers in its partner factory, as well as advocating for other brands to pay its workers a living wage.

Yes Friends was mentioned as an example in the letter by MPs addressed to Nick Beighton, the CEO of ASOS, calling on the brand to ensure that garment workers in its supply chains are paid a living wage.

The verdict

Although the product line is limited to a single item right now. Yes Friends wants to work with designers in the future to sell a wider range of products and hopes to be able to compete with high-street brands.

As they expand their collection, Yes Friends aims to partner with more factories and provide living wages for more garment workers.

As Mabley admits, this model is still not perfect, as importing clothes from India creates a big carbon footprint. It also raises questions about whether fashion can be affordable without relying on the lower cost of labour in developing countries.

However, the model adopted by Yes Friends can be an example to fast-fashion brands that outsource their manufacturing process. Manufacturing clothes in a factory running on renewable energy and paying garment workers a living wage is the right way to go.

You can check out Yes Friends here.

House prices and rents have soared during the pandemic

Written on 22 February 2021.

While the coronavirus pandemic has shrunk the British economy, house prices have seen their biggest rise in six years.

According to data by Office for National Statistics, average house prices in the UK were 8.5% higher in December 2020 than a year ago.

However, not every region in the UK saw an equal increase.

England saw a bigger growth than Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and house prices in England remained the highest in the nation.

December 2020’s rate is the highest annual growth rate the UK has seen since October 2014, when it was 9,4%.

The North West was the English region to see the highest annual growth in average house prices (11,2%), while London saw the lowest (3,5%).

house prices

One of the main reasons prices have gone up is the government’s decision to cut stamp duty.

In July 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak suspended the tax paid on property purchases to help boost the property industry.

This mean that in England, properties up to the value of £500,000 would incur no tax.

With the stamp duty holiday, buyers can save up to £15,000 if they purchase a house before 31 March this year, when the scheme is supposed to end.

However, there are reports that Rishi Sunak will extend the stamp duty holiday to the end of June when he announces the government’s 2021 Budget on 3 March.

This has led to a sharp increase in the number of residential transactions, with December 2020 seeing 32% more transactions than December 2019.

This can allow sellers to request higher costs since buyers’ overall costs are reduced.

A study done by RightMove.com shows where in North West saw the biggest increase in prices.

The demand for suburban areas in the North West, especially near Manchester and Liverpool has grown with places like Wigan, Greater Manchester seeing a 12% increase in interest over the last six months of 2020.

“I think people are starting to appreciate just how convenient our transport links are, because we’re really well connected to Manchester, Preston, and Liverpool as well as Leeds, London and Edinburgh,” said Joel Edgerton, Director at Regan & Hallworth in Wigan.

This pandemic could help England meet it’s smoke-free goal

Pubslihed in Mancunian Matters on 5 March 2021

One of the few positive outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic has been an increase in the amount of people who quit smoking. 

Between 2019 and January 2021, the number of people who said they tried to quit smoking in the past year increased 11,6%, according to the Smoking Toolkit Study. 

Furthermore, the success rate in those who tried to quit increased from 14,2% in 2019 to 29,6% in January 2021. 

Since the start of the pandemic, the NHS has warned of the relatively higher health risk faced by smokers. 

Smoking harms the immune system which leads to an increased likelihood of contracting respiratory infections, infections lasting longer and infections being more serious for smokers than non-smokers. 

Evidence from Wuhan, China cited by Public Health England shows that smokers with COVID-19 are 14 times more likely to develop severe respiratory disease.

But increased concerns over health is not the only reason people have been more successful in their attempts to stop smoking.

According to Hazel Cheeseman, Director of Policy at Action on Smoking and Health, financial hardships brought on by the pandemic and changes to people’s daily routines have also contributed to this trend.  

The national lockdown last year meant that people were no longer having a cigarette during their walk to the bus stop or train station in the morning, while taking a break with their colleagues at work or at the pub. 

“When those places and environments that trigger smoking are taken away, it is easier to stop smoking,” says Hazel.  

Before the pandemic, smoking prevalence had been reducing further and faster in Greater Manchester than in England, particularly in more deprived smoker populations. 

Quit attempts during the 12 months before the pandemic were 10% higher in Greater Manchester than in England. 

There is indication that there has been even more quitting activity in Greater Manchester during the pandemic than in the previous years and this rate has been slightly higher than England. 

The reduction is due to a successful campaign led by a partnership between Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the NHS.

Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership started the “A Tobacco Free Manchester” campaign in 2017 in an effort to make Greater Manchester “smoke-free” by the end of 2027. 

This is a more ambitious goal than the Government’s, which plans to make England smoke-free by 2030.

“Our ambition is to make smoking history in Greater Manchester,” says Andrea Crossfield, Population Health Policy and Strategy Specialist at GMHSCP.

The campaign in Greater Manchester is aiming to reduce smoking prevalence by a third by the end of 2021 so whether people can maintain abstinence will prove crucial.

The partnership also had a special campaign during the pandemic which ran across a range of different media channels and evaluation showed that nearly 1 in 10 smokers who engaged with this campaign made a successful quit attempt. 

Hazel suggests that the most effective way to quit is a combination of e-cigarette use and behavioural support such as counselling.

Lisa Fildes, 49, from Wigan had been smoking for 30 years but quit last July after a chest infection lasting four months left her almost hospitalised. 

Because Lisa was homeschooling her children due to the pandemic, she could not leave them and stay at the hospital so she contacted her doctor who set her up with a smoking cessation advisor. 

“I didn’t have time to be ill so I just decided that that was it I’m going to give up for good.” 

She first started using a nicotine patch, then a nicotine gum and then the inhalator.

A friend of hers advised her to use a vape and that was what eventually worked for her. 

“I use the vape now but I don’t have any nicotine in there at all so it’s purely just the liquid on it’s own,” said Lisa. 

Public Health England’s independent report shows that using nicotine vaping products as part of quit attempts increases the likelihood of success. 

Vaping also seems to be significantly more effective than nicotine replacement therapy. 

GMHSCP suggests using e-cigarettes as an alternative for those unable or unwilling to quit their nicotine habit immediately.

According to the report by PHE, vaping has plateaued since March 2020 which suggests that more people were able to quit without its help during this pandemic.

However, according to Hazel, false public perception about the harms of e-cigarettes undermines people’s efforts to successfully quit smoking.

Lisa had heard what she calls “horror stories” about vaping before she started but thought the risks couldn’t be as bad as cigarettes.

PHE’s data shows that 38% of smokers in 2020 believed that vaping was as harmful as smoking and 15% believed that vaping was more harmful. 

While vaping is not without its risk and PHE advices against non-smokers taking up vaping, it is still far less harmful than smoking. 

Moving forward it seems like vaping will play an important role in maintaining people’s abstinence as well as getting more people to quit smoking; especially when restrictions are lifted and we are no longer faced with a public health emergency.

Campaign group blocks Manchester City Council’s planned car park in Ancoats

Originally published in Mancunian Matters on 21 February 2021.

TreesNotCars has been fighting against Manchester City Council’s decision to develop the former Central Retail Park in Anocats into a 440-space car park.

And the council lost a legal battle in the High Court on Friday against the community-led campaign group. 

TreesNotCars, a group formed by Manchester city centre residents, fought legally against the Council’s decision to turn the former shopping area into a large car park.

Between July 2019 and October 2019, TreesNotCars campaigned by organising events and trying to attract attention to the cause. 

A petition against the car park received 12,000 signatures. 

However, when the council decided to go ahead with the car park Gemma Cameron, a lead member of TreesNotCars, decided to initiate a judicial review of the planning decision. 

The court found that Manchester City Council had: 

  • Failed to consider the impact of air quality on the local area around Ancoats
  • Failed to consider the impact of building a polluting 440-space car park next to the New Islington Free School.
  • Approved the planning application based on the wrong air quality assessment

Julia Kovaliova, an organiser for TreesNotCars, says the group is the first community led campaign organisation to win a court case against Manchester City Council.  

Julia also points out there is a contradiction between the City Council’s ambitions to become a net-zero city by 2038 and their development plans. 

TreesNotCars is campaigning with other local groups to oppose the redevelopment of Great Ancoats Street and the office development on New Islington Green site. 

A plan to build offices on New Islington Green was approved in December 2020 despite a petition to save the space being signed by 5,000 residents. 

She said: “We can show the dedication of local people, spending their own private time on something that helped the community. 

“It is a very good example and sets precedent for other campaigners, to not lose their hope and fight for what is right. 

“We won’t stop here; we definitely want a seat at the table when discussing the plans for the site.” 

Image: Family event organised by Trees Not Cars on the former Central Retail Park site in September 2019

How grouse shooters are threatening UK’s wildlife

Published in Mancunian Matters on 20 February 2021.

The management of grouse moors for the shooting season involves the systematic killing of the predator species. 

The traditional sport of grouse shooting has been subject to mounting criticism over the past years. 

Shooting takes place mainly in grouse moors in Northern parts of the UK including Lancashire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, and Scotland. 

The shooting season starts on 12 August, referred to as the “Glorious Twelfth” and ends in December. 

However, these grouse moors are subjected to controversial methods of land management all year round. 

Moorland Monitors is a grassroots monitoring network that was set up to protect UK’s wild species in these grouse moors. 

According to Moorland Monitors, because grouse shooters want the maximum number of grouse available to shoot during the shooting season they try to wipe out any predator animals that might naturally eat grouse or their eggs. 

The process of systematically eliminating predators involves the deployment of intensive trapping techniques such as snares, spring traps, and stink bins and pits. 

The use of mechanisms such as spring traps is legal as long as the traps are placed in restrictive boxes to catch weasels. 

However leaving the spring traps in the open and using them to target stoats, like in the video above, is illegal. 

Adam, a volunteer with Moorland Monitors, said: 

“Gamekeepers are meant to learn the law in their professional training. 

“So if they use traps illegally, they are either acting intentionally or through incompetence.” 

Moorland Monitors regularly share images and videos of victims on their social media to raise public awareness of these illegal practices. 

When volunteers encounter these practices, they report them to relevant authorities like The Environmental Agency Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Trading Standards. 

Once these illegal practices are reported, they assist with any further investigations.

They also highlight failures by authorities to take these issues seriously. 

Bob Berzins, a volunteer with Moorland Monitors, discovered several illegal spring traps on a South Yorkshire grouse shooting moor in January 2019. 

Berzins says that although the South Yorkshire Police who visited the scene with him recognized the illegality of the traps and made a report, they failed to act. 

He met with South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and the senior officer in charge of rural crime to follow up on the report. 

“During that meeting, the officer was evasive and failed to give a clear explanation for the lack of Police action. 

“The net result of this was unlawful traps remained in use for several months.”  

You can learn more about the work of Moorland Monitors and how you can help through their website: moorlandmonitors.org

Main photo: Peak District. Image via Peak District National Park. 

Climate Change: What Manchester City Council has done over the past year

Published in Mancunian Matters on 9 February 2021

Since outlining its Climate Change Action Plan a year ago, Manchester City Council has made progress in its efforts to tackle the issue

The plan aimed to halve the Council’s direct emissions by 2025 and make Manchester a zero carbon city by 2038. 

The Council’s achievements over the past year include:

  • Investing in 27 electric bin lorries to replace more than half the refuse collection fleet, thus saving 900 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
  • Initiating Tree Action MCR,  a programme which will plant thousands of trees over the next two years.
  • Replacing 56,000 street lights in the city with low emission LED alternatives.
  • Beginning the work on the 6.5 acre Mayfield Park, the first new city centre park in decades
  • Nearing completion of Civic Quarter Heat Network, an environmentally-friendly shared heating system to reduce emissions across prominent city centre buildings such as the Town Hall extension, Central Library and Manchester Central Convention Centre. When completed, this system will save 1,600 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.
  • Supporting the electrification of Council vehicles by installing electric vehicle charging points at the three biggest Council depots.
  • Completing and opening West Gorton’s ‘sponge park’, designed to help prevent flooding.
  • A proposal to retrofit 10,500 social homes over four years to cut carbon emissions is included in the city’s post-coronavirus Economic Recovery and Investment Plan.
  • Delivering carbon literacy training to around 1,000 Council staff.
  • Opening the UK’s first ‘Cyclops junction’, optimised for cycling and walking, in Hulme as part of the development of Manchester to Chorlton cycle route.

As a result of actions taken by the Council, the decarbonisation of the National Grid and the impacts of the pandemic, there has been a 25% reduction in the Council’s emissions compared to the same period in 2019-2020.

The Council aims to cut emissions by 13% each year in order to achieve 50% reduction by 2025.

Councillor Angeliki Stogia, Executive Member for Environment, said: “The benefits of success will not simply be the city’s contribution to combatting climate change, as important as that is. 

“They will include more pleasant and healthier places, cheaper fuel bills and jobs in the green economy – a real win-win for Manchester people.” 

Praying For Rain: The Climate Crisis in Turkey

Men pray for rainfall after the Friday prayers, 12 December 2020

During the Christmas holiday, I went back to my hometown of Istanbul, Turkey. 

While the coronavirus crisis dominated every aspect of our daily lives and took up much of the national discourse, there was another crisis that people were talking about and which you couldn’t help but notice- the water crisis. During the two weeks that I was in Istanbul it barely rained and the temperatures were always unusually high.  

According to the Turkish State Meteorological Service, in December 2020 Turkey in general saw a 53% reduction in rainfall compared to December 2019. In Marmara, the region that encompasses   

Istanbul, rainfall in December 2020 was 47% below the normal and 28% less compared to December 2019. 

The lack of rainfall had a dramatic effect on water levels in the dams and created a panic in the city as news outlets started to count down the days until Istanbul ran out of water. The day I landed in Istanbul we had 63 days’ worth of water left. 

Figures from Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration (ISKI) show that the dam levels in December were at the lowest they had been in a decade. The Municipal Council of Istanbul started to distribute free water-saving devices in an effort to prevent further reduction in water levels.  

Temperatures were also unusually high; the State Meteorological Services indicated that while the average temperature for December had been 6.9℃ over the past years, this year it was 10.5℃. The change in temperatures was noticeable; as I was talking along the coast in Kadıköy on New Year’s Eve, I saw people sunbathing in their swimsuits, whereas I remember welcoming 2016 with a snow fight with my friends on that same coast.

On January 11 2021, NASA’s Earth Observatory published an article warning that Turkey was experiencing severe drought.

“Since July 2020, nearly all provinces in Turkey received below-average rainfall nearly every month,” said the article. The article also points out that the drought has already dramatically reduced grain harvests in some parts of Turkey.

Perhaps one of the more interesting way s people tried to deal with the water crisis was by praying for rain. The Presidency of Religious Affairs announced that on Friday December 12, every mosque in Turkey was going to participate in a prayer for rain. 

Beyond prayers, however, the government policy to combat the water crisis and more broadly the climate crisis is insufficient and the road to efficient policy is paved with obstacles in the form of powerful conglomerates. 

2017 figures show that Turkey is responsible for 1.16% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the world; the UK was responsible for 1.02% the same year. Climate Action Tracker, an independent scientific analysis that tracks government climate action and measures it against Paris Agreement goals, states that the Turkish government’s climate policy is “critically insufficient”. 

Although Turkey has the second-highest solar energy potential in Europe, the coal industry is heavily subsidised and coal generates a third of the country’s electricity. The type of coal used mostly in Turkey is lignite, which is more polluting than other types of coal. 

 Moreover, projects that cause deforestation and destruction of natural habitats are mostly overseen by five companies: Cengiz Holding, Limak Holding Kolin Holding, Kalyon Holding and MNG Group. These companies usually operate in construction, cement manufacturing, infrastructure and energy projects. 

These five companies made up the consortium that built the controversial Istanbul Airport and in the process cut down 13 million trees. Limak Holding is also the second most contract-winning company in the world according to World Bank data; Cengiz, Kolin, Kalyon and MNG were also among the top 10.  

With such close ties between the government and these companies, it is hard and at times dangerous to persuade the government to adopt better climate policies which would cut down emissions and preserve nature. For example, the massive Gezi Park protests in 2013 erupted after environmental activists were met with police violence for protesting Kalyon Holding’s plans to redevelop the culturally significant Gezi Park into a complex with a new mosque and shopping centre. 

December used to be snowy in Istanbul. This photo is from December 31st 2015.

NASA analysis shows that 2020 was tied with 2016 for the hottest year on record. As global temperatures rise, the climate crisis manifests itself in Turkey as droughts, floods and unusual weather events such as tornados and hail storms. However, the climate crisis is never isolated to a certain region. 

In Australia, Brazil and the West Coast of the United States, 2020 was a year of record-breaking wildfires which destroyed natural habitats and left us more vulnerable in our fight against climate change. My experience this time in Turkey was a stark reminder that as we battle the coronavirus pandemic, we are faced with an even more threatening and permanent crisis which needs to be tackled urgently.   

Two photos of the Ömerli Dam in Istanbul taken seven months apart. 

Manchester City Council offers range of services during lockdown

Published in Mancunian Matters on 11 January 2021

Manchester City Council has a range of services and support networks available to help Mancunians during the current national lockdown. 

People who have been cut off from their support networks due to the lockdown or those who are medically vulnerable can use the Manchester Community Response support hub.

The support hub can help with access to food, access to medication, managing fuel top-up payments, accessing online services and combating loneliness.

The Council also urges anyone contacted by their GP in regard to getting a vaccination to stick to their appointment.

The vaccine take times to become effective and does not provide immediate immunity, so residents are urged to get the vaccine when offered.

David Regan, Manchester’s Director of Public Health, said: “It is essential that we stick to the new rules that have been put in place to protect as many people as possible, take pressure off the NHS and social care, and give vaccination teams the time they need to do their vital work.”

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Mancunians are strongest when we stick together and help one another, something we will rely on in the coming weeks.”

More information on Manchester Community Response here:

https://secure.manchester.gov.uk/info/100003/people_and_communities/7941/manchester_community_response

If you have coronavirus symptoms, you can arrange NHS Covid Test here:

https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

If you think your business is eligible for the government’s latest grant scheme, click here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/46-billion-in-new-lockdown-grants-to-support-businesses-and-protect-jobs

Local Restriction Support Grants can be accessed here: https://secure.manchester.gov.uk/info/500362/covid-19/8021/covid-19_businesses_and_employers/2

Exporting Christmas

Published on Mancunian Matters Magazine December 2020 issue

Every Christmas season, Derin sets up the tree and decorates it; as Christmas time approaches, she listens to Christmas music and watches Christmas movies. 

However, no one from Derin’s family is Christian and neither is she. 

She comes from a non-practising Muslim family and lives in Istanbul, Turkey; a country where Christians only make up 0.3% of the population. 

By decorating the tree, Derin is following a tradition that her parents were not even aware of when they were her age. 

Walking around Istanbul, one can see Christmas decorations adorning streets, cafes, bakeries. 

Christmas is a festival that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ; so how come are visuals associated with Christmas adopted in countries that don’t even practice Christianity? 

While majority of people in Turkey do not celebrate Christmas, a large part of the population does celebrate New Year’s Eve on 31st of December. 

They also do not refer to the decorated pine tree as “Christmas tree”, they call it a “New Year’s Tree”. 

So when they put up decorations that are usually associated with Christmas, it is in the spirit of the New Years. 

However, this is a fairly new trend in the country’s history and it was inspired by Western countries’ Christmas celebrations.

Derin’s mother Lerzan claims that decorating trees and the use of Santa Claus to symbolise the New Years only started during the 1980s. 

“We used to buy each other gifts in New Year’s Eve but the streets and houses had only simple decorations- nothing like we see today. Televisions became a household product in cities, which was in the early 70s. That’s when we started watching American movies and saw the Christmas celebrations they had. I think after that, New Year’s preparations became more extravagant,” said Derin’s mother Lerzan.  

Businesses were quick to realise that Christmas sells; and not just only in countries that celebrate it.

As modern globalisation spread rapidly during the last decades, corporations have found a way to market a secular Christmas to non-Christians. 

In countries like Turkey, businesses have turned New Years into a holiday that looks exactly like Christmas. 

While Lerzan’s generation was first inspired by American movies, Derin’s generation became even more devoted to Christmas themes through social media.

“I grew up watching YouTube. Around November/December, every YouTuber that I was subscribed to would post videos of them getting ready for Christmas. I realised that I really enjoyed these videos and that’s when I realised how much I liked Christmas.  

“Decorating for Christmas or just simply listening to Christmas music makes my soul happy; it fills me with warmth. Every year I get excited to celebrate this holiday that is not in my religion but that doesn’t stop me,” said Derin.  

Derin is not the only person who loves decorating for Christmas.  

As the holiday season approaches each year it is interesting to see Şekerci Cafer Erol, a 213-year-old dessert shop in Istanbul, adorn its store with Christmas decorations. 

During this period, Cafer Erol also sells Christmas stockings full of sweets, Santa Claus dolls, candy canes and chocolate boxes with the words “Merry Christmas” written on them. 

Seeing a shop that specialises in traditional Turkish sweets embracing a Western holiday to this extent is astonishing. 

What many Turkish people don’t know however is that the original Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, actually lived in their country. 

Saint Nicholas didn’t live in the North Pole but in a much warmer climate in Turkey’s Antalya province, a top holiday destination for Brits in the country.  

Turkey is just one country in the long list of non-Christian countries that, in one way or another, celebrates Christmas. 

In Japan, where only 1.3% of the population is Christian, Christmas has become synonymous with Kentucky Fried Chicken for everybody.


This is all thanks to an elaborate marketing campaign by KFC Japan. 

Since 1970s, eating KFC on Christmas has become a tradition in Japan; many people even endure long lines to order KFC weeks in advance to make sure they eat fried chicken on Christmas. 

So what does Christmas mean today?

All around the world it seems like Christmas has become synonymous with gifts, decorations and advertising; whether one celebrates it or not. 

According to the Centre for Retail Research, Brits spent a total of £78,580 billion on Christmas shopping in 2019. 

That seems like huge spending to celebrate the birth of Christ, who said in Luke 12:15 “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 

The tree in Derin’s house
Şekerci Cafer Erol in Kadıköy, Istanbul
Kentucky Fried Chicken in Japan © Quality Stock Arts/Shutterstock

Twenty one activists arrested in protest against HS2

Published originally in Mancunian Matters on 16 October 2020

Activists around the UK staged actions against the construction of High Speed 2 on October 9. 

Activists blocked the Chiltern Tunnel compound at West Hyde Hertfordshire, the largest HS2 work site, from seven o’clock in the morning until dusk with high bamboo structures placed in front of the entrance. 

Twenty-one activists were arrested at the site. 

One Extinction Rebellion activist said: “Arrested people were charged with wilfully stopping lawful workers”. 

This charge is in accordance with Section 241 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act. This law has historically been used against fracking protestors, workers striking in their workplace and various types of environmental protestors. 

Activists argue that if the construction HS2 is completed, it will cause widespread damage to the environment. 

Phase 2b of the planned high-speed railway will see the construction of a new station near Manchester Airport and the expansion of Manchester Piccadilly, as well as the construction of a new railway.  

Woodland Trust, UK’s largest conservatory charity, reports that HS2 is a direct threat to ancient woods, with 108 woods at risk of loss or damage. 

HS2 also puts some animal species under threat of local extinction. These animals include Willow Tit bird, White-Clawed Crayfish and the Dingy Skipper Butterfly.   

On top of being a threat to the environment, HS2 also has impacts on social life. According to HS2 Ltd., the company behind the project, around 888 homes and 985 businesses are being demolished to make way for the project. Some people were thrown out of their historic family homes and communities. 

Activists pledge that they will not stop staging actions until HS2 is halted.