Preston mum free of cancer launches Climate Action Preston saying she wants “more than ever” to make life count
For many this time of year remains a catalyst for life-changing decisions. As part of a week-long series, we speak to Lancashire folk who have undergone life-changing transformations. MEGAN TITLEY speaks to a Preston mum who has set up a climate action group being told her cancer was in remission.
A mum from Preston who is free from cancer has launched a climate action group saying she wants “more than ever” to make her life count.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer while she was seven months pregnant was a huge shock for Sonia Phillips.
Later, after she had recovered, it also acted as a wake up call to the reality of the threat of climate change.
Now that her cancer is in remission and her youngest daughter is safe, she resolved to launch Climate Action Preston to make a difference for the sake of her children.
Sonia, who is mum to two daughters aged three and one, said: “I was diagnosed with breast cancer while seven months pregnant with my youngest in June 2018.
“After lots of very intense treatment I’m now in remission and my daughter is thriving - thank you amazing NHS! But I still have ongoing treatment for another nine years to reduce the risk of recurrence.
“I’m diving into the realm of clichés but an experience like that changes you.
“I think now that my strength and energy are returning, I want more than ever to make my life count.
“I’ve only recently realised just how serious and urgent the climate crisis is.
“As I learn more and more about it, I honestly think that fighting climate change is the most important thing anyone can do in terms of social justice but also ensuring that the human race is able to continue.
“It’s like the climate scientists have diagnosed the world with cancer and the world is in denial, or just doesn’t want to face the horrors of chemo.
“I watch my children doing everyday things and I’m so thankful that they at least can have an easy, enjoyable childhood free from anything more than the usual level of worry and fear. But in ten years? What will their lives look like? What would childhood be like for my grandchildren?
“My experience with cancer is a big factor in the direction my life is taking.”
At the launch of Climate Action Preston The Larder Cafe was packed with 30 people when Sonia hosted the first meeting in November.
Sonia, who is married to Ben and has a background in teaching, started the group after searching online to find out what she could do to make a difference. She discovered a network of over one hundred Climate Action Groups across the UK in association with Friends of the Earth.
And Climate Change Preston was born.
She said: “I can’t face the idea that my daughters might turn around to me in ten years’ time and ask why I didn’t act to fight climate change.
“I need to do what I can to be part of the solution to the climate crisis. We all do.”
At the gathering the group picked three main targets to focus on initially in the fight for a greener Preston: transport, housing and education.
Members plan on lobbying for better public transport, cycling infrastructure and safer, cleaner conditions for pedestrians.
They also want to see public buildings and homes, particularly of the most vulnerable in Preston, retrofitted with better insulation and green technologies like solar panels which will both reduce energy bills and lower a building’s carbon footprint.
Climate Action Preston will also focus on raising awareness locally of the problems caused by climate change and some of the practical solutions that everyone can get involved in.
They will look into holding events to engage the public such as film screenings, repair cafes and community gardening projects. The group hopes to establish a cloth nappy library and campaign for schools in the area to have solar panels fitted.
Preston City Council (PCC), along with over 70 other local councils passed a Climate Emergency Motion in April 2019.
The document says: “Children in Preston will be in their teens and twenties in 11 years’ time. They deserve a liveable Preston. We must act now to ensure this.”
Sonia said: “The problems we’re experiencing with the environment is something that I have always been aware of but it’s only within the last few months that I’ve found out about the scale of the problem.
“The fact that I’m a mum is a huge motivation for me. We are always seeing the effects of the extreme weather but its my children who are going to experience the worst effects.
“By the time they are adults it will be too late to do anything about it.
“The city council has already declared a climate emergency and the next step is to actually figure out the practical things that we can do to reach net-zero-carbon by 2030.
“We want to mobilise local people who have the expertise to come and think about how they can help. We’re looking for ideas and ways people can help.
“We’ve got a 50-point action plan. PCC doesn’t have any control whatsoever on public transport, that’s Lancashire County Council so we also need to get them involved.
“We want to get local Government supporting renewable energy initiatives and not investing their money in fossil fuels.
“We need people with skills and expertise in renewable energy to help the councils out.
“We want to focus on three issues - transport, housing and educating people about climate change.
“With transport that means figuring out how to support buses, cycling and pedestrians. It’s just not safe to cycle for people in Preston.
“We want better insulation and solar panels for housing. Just doing that reduces our carbon footprint considerably. It will also mean that fuel bills come down so it will have a good effect on people experiencing fuel poverty.
“And on educating people about climate change we want to go into schools and get children involved.
“We hope to change people’s attitudes towards it. People still think it’s all a con or maybe they are scared because it’s a big scary problem.
“People do care and they want to know more and they want to help so that’s encouraging.”
Sonia says that getting involved in Climate Action Preston is a way of ensuring we help to safeguard the future for Preston’s younger generations.
The group is open to anybody interested in tackling climate change in Preston and seeks to be as representative of the local population as much as possible.