Nick Hodgkinson’s fight for climate change benefits from his dark sense of humour.
Consider the period when the 59-year-old participated in an Extinction Rebellion rally in front of the Houses of Parliament. Hodgkinson is a retired volunteer with a motor neurone condition (MND). He interacts primarily through typing on his phone because he uses a hefty, motorised wheelchair and has a tracheostomy tube in his neck that links to a ventilator.
According to Hodgkinson, “the cops rushed forward, arresting people and hauling them away.” Then, after asking him to move, they also arrested him for refusing. If they had a van that could accommodate wheelchairs, Hodgkinson enquired. A humiliated cop stepped outside to investigate. The response was “no.”
Hodgkinson and the officer lingered in the road for a few hours until his shift changed and Hodgkinson’s battery was low rather than being taken to the police station. Hodgkinson says, “I told him I’d better be off now.
“Hold on, I have to de-arrest you first,” he said. Hodgkinson makes fun of the fact that “a hefty wheelchair is handy for eluding the police.”
After his health deteriorated to the point where he had to leave his position at Citizens Advice, Hodgkinson got active in the fight against climate change. I completed a few online courses because I reasoned, “I’ve now got time to find out more [about the climate emergency].”
What he discovered was terrifying. He claims, “This might well be the end of life as we know it.” And the individuals who will suffer first and hardest are those who have contributed the least to the collapse of the environment, either because they live in nations that have been colonised and exploited by wealthy nations, or because they are young or have not even been born. He is inspired by the injustice to improve the world as long as his health will allow him to do so because MND drastically reduces life expectancy.
He actively participates in the campaign Fossil Fuel Free West Yorkshire, which is working to convince the West Yorkshire Pension Fund to end its investment in fossil fuels. Hodkingson himself is a contributor to the fund.
He remarks that it is “outrageous” that the fund has millions invested in BP and Shell. The managers of the fund claim that they have a responsibility to protect pension savings, but pensions are really only about security in old age. Furthermore, using fossil fuels is endangering everyone’s security. (The fund previously stated that it has cut its interests in oil and gas and was dedicated to a net zero portfolio for its investments.)
Calderdale, Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, and Wakefield are the five West Yorkshire councils that have passed motions urging the fund to divest from fossil fuels.