We are thrilled to welcome Erica Popplewell as our Campaigns Manager, whilst Amy Slack is on maternity leave. While we will all miss Amy, we are very lucky to welcome Erica to the River Action team.
In our latest blog, we get to know more about Erica and the role that she will play to help rescue Britain’s rivers.
Tell us about yourself…
Hi I’m Erica Popplewell, I’ve just started as Campaigns Manager at Rivers Action. I have worked in the environmental sector for most of my career and love being part of making change happen.
Outside of work I have two young children who keep me busy and like to take on various sporting challenges, I’m doing the two mile Serpentine swim in London later this month.
What first sparked your interest in river protection?
I have a long standing interest in the environment, my education and working life have reflected this. The health of our rivers are a totemic issue that you can see in your local communities and landscapes. As a campaigner I love working on such a live and tangible issue, its exciting to see it gaining real political and media traction at the moment. As a keen wild swimmer I am happy to be working on an issue that makes my swim safer.
You have worked in the environmental sector for over a decade, including roles in Defra, the National Trust and the CPRE – The Countryside Charity. In your experience, what are the biggest changes you have seen towards protecting the environment?
The biggest change I have seen has been climate change moving from being an abstract/future issue to a current issue. Climate change is affecting the UK now, we only have to look at the increasing weather extremes as evidence. This has made it a big political issue but the solution are long term and difficult to deliver in economically constrained times.Brexit has created a huge challenge to protecting the environment, some of our best laws for protection of river, coasts and nature came from EU regulations and we have a fight on our hands to preserve these.
You were previously the Head of Rural Affairs at CPRE. Tell us about the organisation and the role that it plays in campaigning for a sustainable future for the UK’s countryside.
CPRE, the countryside charity works for a thriving, beautiful countryside for everyone. As a charity it has been campaigning for more than 90 years and has a local branch in every county of England. It campaigns at a local level on local housing issues and challenges plans for inappropriate development. At a national level it campaigns for a stronger planning system, and energy and public transport systems that work for the countryside.
Tell us about your role as RA campaigns manager. What can we expect to see from your role in the coming months?
It is such an exciting time to be joining River Action, the need for a strong voice to rescue Britain’s rivers has never been more urgent. I am looking forward to working with the team as we deliver our petition to rescue Britain River to Parliament and the main political parties and then continue the conversation with the political parties at their autumn party conferences for the first time. Looking further ahead there are Local and Mayoral elections in May and a general election at some point in 2024, we want river to be part of the debate. I look forward to working with our local community groups partners and supporting their inspiring campaigning work saving their local rivers.
What has been the most exciting campaign to work on?
I have always really enjoyed campaigning around a local or general election as its the time politicians are most in listening mode and there are so many exciting opportunities to work with local groups to create a local conversation about the issues local people care about. The outcomes of campaigning work like commitments made by political parties or a relationship built with a new local councillor or MP can last for years and be real instruments for change.
And finally, in your opinion, what needs to change in order to rescue Britain’s rivers?
I don’t think the scale of the crisis is well understood by the public, business or political leaders. Citizen science work by River Action and our partners is changing this but there’s still a lot we don’t know.Greater understanding will build public outrage and a stronger voice for change that businesses and political leaders can’t ignore. We know the solutions; better farming and business practice and stronger regulation and enforcement, they just need to happen!