I met with Stephanie Robinson who uses Science, Technology, Art, Engineering and Maths activities (STEAM) to have conversations about how we can transition to a fairer, low-carbon society. Her company, Cyclops Pedal Power uses pedal-powered electronics, and teaches young people practical and leadership skills to address climate change and inequality. Here is what she had to say…
What is the type of activism you do? I’d say definitely creative and finding novel ways to talk about issues that have been around for a long time. I use practical skills to empower people to have the confidence to take on decision makers and power structures. A lot of my activism is getting other people involved rather than working on specific campaigns. Like I do, and have done, a lot of anti-fracking campaigning, but now I am more interested in raising the next generation of campaigners and activists.
How did you get into it? I got into activism when I was 15 because my first boyfriend’s family were really political – anti war, anarchist, vegans and they took me to loads of protests. We went walking around Menwith Hill RAF Base and we were talking about government surveillance and GCHQ and a lot of discussions around civil liberties and history around the world.
When I was 17, I picked up a leaflet about Climate Camp and a protest about a coal-fired Power Station that they wanted to close and re-open with carbon caption storage. So I went to this protest camp – it was like a week in a field with, I think, about 2000 other people and there were loads of workshops – and everyone was encouraged to take some sort of direct action at the end of the week to shut the power station down. There was a really family-friendly peaceful march and they were like we are gonna come for you over land sea and air and they had hot air balloons and even boats and things…a few people did manage to get onto the whole belt and shut it down for the day which was really cool. I remember walking in to that camp and feeling like it was instantly very familiar. It felt like home. At the Climate Camp, everyone was grouped into regions so like there was a Yorkshire camp and we had loads of meals together, and there was also a media tent, where all the journalists could get wifi. That media tent was powered by a pedal power generator.
I felt very frustrated as a teenager that nobody really wanted to listen to the issues like climate change, social and racial justice and when I saw these pedal power generators I just thought thats really cool – you can feel how much power you are generating. This is probably a way to engage people in these kinds of conversations to make the world a more equal place. So then I held on to this idea when I went to ‘uni’ to do an environmental social science degree (which I nicknamed the ‘save the world degree’) and I learnt about energy policy in the uk, refugees and forced migration.
When I moved back to Leeds, I was told about a small funding pot for Young People from 02 and I applied and was successful in getting funding to build a pedal power generator …and then we got a few other grants and built it up, and built it up, and Cyclops Pedal Power C.I.C as a company has been running now for 3 years. We now have 7 pedal power generators and have done loads of activities with communities and young people. And it works the way I wanted it to: it’s engaging people and its bringing people over.
What are you doing now that’s exciting you? What’s great about the integrated city model is that you have these tactile models with a digital interaction which means you can see the cause and effect. At the moment, we are being told that all these things are having these effects but we are really far removed form them. In this game, you are actually seeing the results of our actions in this game which brings it home a bit more. People need a positive vision to aim for and a road map to get there.