When we run campaigns at Friends of the Earth, we often call for regulations, policy, legislation, laws – but why bother? What are we doing it for, and for who?
These are big questions worth reflecting on. And so we set out to find the stories of people who could answer them.
Our new documentary series shows how laws and regulation are critical in real people's fights to protect the things they cherish. Across Europe ordinary people are using laws – or calling for them – to help save lives.
We travelled across Europe to collect stories of people affected by regulation – either positively because it provides protection for things they cherish, or negatively because the lack of it is harming them or their loved ones.
On the way, we hear the incredible story of Mals, in northern Italy, the first town in the world to ban the use of pesticides. The unlikely activists who made it happen bring their powerful message of how direct democracy can use tools like the EU's precautionary principle to create change which benefits citizens.
From Italy, we travelled to Bucharest to learn about the terrifying impacts of unregulated industrial farming and health systems. Because of the overconsumption of antibiotics in humans and in animal agriculture, we are faced with a frightening reality: some diseases have no cure and no vaccine. In Romania, the impacts are hitting hard. People are already losing loved ones to routine infections that should be treatable. We then travel to Belgium, where initiatives such as antibiotic-free farms are beginning to surface, but need legislative support.
We find another group of people looking for legal support to help save lives in Amsterdam – a city that markets itself as 'clean and green', but which chokes its citizens with extreme levels of air pollution. It follows four unlikely activists whose health and livelihoods have been affected by this toxic air, and who are demanding laws to tackle air pollution at the national and EU level.
In the final episode, we visit the Białowieża forest in Poland, the last remaining primeval forest in Europe. Last year, extreme logging jeopardized Białowieża's existence. We meet the activists who became the eyes and ears of Białowieża'sprotection, and we hear about how nature protection laws were pivotal in their fight.
Too often regulation is talked about as a bad thing - as a 'burden' or 'red tape'. It's time to recognise the vital role it plays in protecting our environment, loved ones and the things we care about.