All Corners of the UK Unite for Climate March
11 Dec 2015 lucyejwoods
Defiant and energized, masses collected in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in central London.
The crowds gathered to fly the flag for respecting the physical laws of the universe once more; in hope humanity will finally get its act together on climate change.
On the 7th of March 2015, the streets of London saw a multitude of blocs, havens, groups and associations descend upon the capital. Thousands thundered down the streets waving placards to identify themselves as the Energy and Trade Bloc, the Vegan Society, to BP or not BP, Portsmouth Trade Council, Avaaz, Schools Run on Sun, One Million Climate Jobs, No To Fracking, No To Heathrow, The Green Party, Ban Private Cars in London: a sea of dedicated activists for a myriad of interrelated climate causes.
Children with stuffed polar bears and penguins accompanied grandparents, aunts and uncles – everyone in the family turned up to cause a racket in the city streets.
But before the festival cheers of climate warriors were to echo off the walls of Westminster, Lincoln’s Inn Fields was quiet.
Mist hovered over the small green with signs of sunshine radiating through twiggy autumn branches, dew still clinging to strands of grass as city workers, dog-walkers and early morning newspaper park-bench-readers, dotted the Field.
When the first flag flew, the first brightly coloured t-shirts formed ranks.
One such t-shirt adorned protester, a young freckled woman named Clair Groom, who works for the volunteer public political engagement group, The People’s Assembly, says she attended to protest austerity and promote climate change jobs.
“People not profit,” states Groom.
“The drive towards austerity is affecting action on climate change. From flood defense budgets to the environment agency budget, they plummeted through austerity. It is intimately linked.”
“I want to make sure we are heard and not ignored.”
So far the UK government has cut flood defenses by a reported £247 million.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) budget has been cut by £500m.
“People are really hurting, it is a real issue.”
Groom explained that she became politically active after she thought “someone else would do something”, when the government reformed the health and social care act to cut care budgets. “That didn’t happen, so it’s up to ordinary people. We can’t leave it to others to fight for services. The People’s Assembly is made up of ordinary people.”
Dressed in rainbows, rallying people towards a multicoloured banner, Miqhael Kannemeyer, who is part of the ‘LGBT Eco Queers for the Climate’ group, said: “Today is to build an alliance between the green and queer movement.”
“It’s very important to link people.”
Although “demonstrating is not for everyone”, this march is a “strong energizer” and a great event for joining people’s interests and local groups to the climate change movement.
Kannemeyer hopes that politicians will “really think about the issue” of climate change and how it links up with “everything from building standards to arms trade to climate jobs.”
When asked what he thinks about job losses in fossil fuels, Kannemeyer says, “We should re-skill everyone, we’re capable. Don’t be threatened. There will be jobs in renewables – politicians should do more.”
A group of students with black and orange plaques and cut outs of Mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s head were eager to spread the message for institutions and companies to divest from fossil fuels – including the Mayor of London’s office.
A young, lean-looking student named Tytus Murphy, from Kings College London’s Fossil Free London Divestment movement tells me he is determined to get the Mayor’s office to commit.
Murphy asks of his fellow students of London “what are you missing?”
Murphy highlighted the amount of UK institutions that have already divested, from University College London, Kings Imperial, Goldsmith University, faith and medical communities.
It seems anyone, plucked at random from the crowd could give firm, well thought out aims, conveying active political engagement and reasoned arguments – far from the anarchic hippy-fest many reporters expect…
Spokesperson for Friends of the Earth (FoE), Guy Shrubsole, while gathering people in a luminous jacket at a corner of Lincoln’s Inn Field accompanied by a giant puppet named “Mr. Frackhead”, notes the great weather and says that FoE is aiming to get a bigger movement for the United Nations Climate Summit in Paris in December.
“UN talks are not going far enough, rich countries need to do far more to keep to the 2C limit and provide climate finance.”
“Politicians need to talk to the majority who want action and to stand up to fossil fuels; that means no fracking.”
Politicians are “not going far enough, they are lagging behind people’s views – the public want renewable fuel for the future. “
A notably older bloc of activists, ready to begin the march for climate action, is also present. ‘Grandparents against Climate change’ read their t-shirts. Member, Nancy Lindisfarne, 70, explains she is one of about 750 “elders” across Norway, Canada, South Africa, and New York.
“We are piggy backing onto other campaigns to support climate jobs, divestment…we are visible and engaged Grandparents “ Lindisfarne explains.
Eager to tell her story, Lindisfarne says, “I have a toddler grandson – 15 months old – it’s very scary” and tears up at the thought of her grandchild facing climate change.
“It’s not just for young people, on the contrary, we love children and the world and want to join in, it’s about love and people and the planet, but, a fierce mother-love.”
There are people of all ages, from toddlers on shoulders to students and grandparents; a family friendly event – violence is the last thing on anyone’s mind; this march strays far from the norm for historic protests.
The drums begin as a leading procession of cycling contraptions with boomboxes, flags and more conventional bicycles take the lead.
People assemble with banners and whistles…when melodic singing fills the air.
A dulcet rendition of ‘strawberry fields’ harmonised in verse lends a somber atmosphere to the corner by LSE, where the parade pours out from Lincoln Inn Fields to Kingsway.
The Red and Green Choir, London Socialists Choir and other singers perform a combination of songs to raise their voices to the occasion.
“We like to sing instead of shouting” says Morag Carmichael, a choir member accompanied by 20-30 other singers – she says 100 more people from Sheffield are on the way.
A few miles down Fleet Street, a few sit-downs, some chanting and dancing, leafleting past Charing Cross, over the roundabout at Trafalgar Square, the thousands of activists march onward to Westminster.
People cheer and shout, giving out leaflets for various follow up events, after parties, community groups and get-togethers.
The celebration continued to a makeshift stage adorned with every recognisable face from within the UK environmental movement.
This included executive director for Greenpeace UK, John Sauven.
“This march is the beginning of mobilisation for this year,” says Sauven.
“This is taster or what will be building for the UN Paris meeting in December.”
Sauven noted the importance of the upcoming election and choosing MPs that want action on climate change.
“This march is only one manifestation of the UK supporting the climate change movement, people have now got solar panels, signed up to green energy and are supporting progressive companies – this is not a one off.”
Greenpeace is currently focusing on its anti-Arctic drilling campaign, as “Shell and fossil fuels have put two fingers up to the people of the world to go to the Arctic and cause more climate change” says Sauven.
“We need to give a powerful response that Shell’s reckless attitude to people and the planet can’t be allowed.”
Sauven also noted the diversity of the march. “There are now trade groups, growing sections of people involved that are not just environmentalists, but also powerful corporations like Ikea, Facebook and Google – they all have renewable energy.”
Previous climate protests have been notable white, predominantly middle class; while other issues protested in the capital often result in riots and violence.
But from ‘Muslim Climate Action’ to ‘Catholic Climate Movement’, it seems every section of UK society is represented in peaceful climate action today.
An impassioned 12 year-old named Laurel, who is part of Children against Climate Change takes to the stage to announce to this diverse crowd: “there is more of us than them.”
In regard to the UN Paris event Laurel asked the cheering crowd: “how many more international events do we need?”
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP marched too, “the march is just wonderful. Full of life and energy and noise; a carnival atmosphere.”
Talking about her colleagues in parliament with elections upcoming, she said, “some people get it, and see strength to push for policies, but parliament is going backwards.”
Also noting the diversity of the march, Lucas said it is “crucial to join up trade unions to demonstrate the green economy: reducing fossil fuels by working with unions.”
Lucas highlighted the importance of transitional policies and investing in retraining for new green industries to allow more people to join the movement without fear of losing their jobs.
On the upcoming UN climate talks, Lucas said: “We have to keep momentum.”