Written by Melissa Watt |
As I battled my way down the streets of Truro, bumping into many a Christmas shopper, I was distracted by a scene of peace and vibrancy. Colourful chalk drawings and gentle acoustic music contrasted sharply with the bitter weather and chaotic traffic. Some oblivious shoppers walked past unnoticed, a tragic reminder of our consumerist lifestyles.
Last Saturday, protesters assembled on Lemon Quay, Truro, to rebel against the British Government’s ‘criminal’ inaction ‘in the face of climate change catastrophe and ecological collapse’. The event, held in solidarity with larger action taking place in central London, attracted a modest- albeit-visible crowd of 100 people throughout the day. With banners in one hand and leaflets in another, Cornish participants readily interacted with passers-by.
The protest positioned itself at the heart of the community, acting “in our accordance with our conscience and as a clear duty to our children; our communities”.
This event was in response to Extinction Rebellion’s call for action, with local efforts co-ordinated by Doyourbit and Café Disruptif. Fed up with vague and tokenistic guidelines, Extinction Rebellion are urging the government to adopt legally-binding policies which promise to drastically reduce our carbon emissions.
“Though a global crisis requires global effort, Extinction Rebellion believe change must start in the UK, where the original industrial revolution began.”
Staging sit-down protests across London and Cornwall, activists were joined by people from all walks of life, united in their concern for the future of our planet. It was striking to see young and old sit side by side. Students, councillors and members of the general public were all in attendance as a visual reminder that this issue affects us all.
Sheelah Goldsmith, Truro and Falmouth CLP’s Officer of the Environment, believes that the older generations should be held accountable. She argued that “we unwittingly did this to you”, therefore “it is our responsibility, and desire, to try to rectify the damage we have caused”. Amongst the litter of banners held up in the protest, there was one that stood out. Held up by a child, with the most simple yet profound messaging: “Save us from climate change (please)”.
Jack Common, a PhD student at the University of Exeter, attended the protest alongside members of FXU’s Vegan and Vegetarian Society. “I think younger people have a huge role to play in environmental issues,” he stated.
“We’re the ones who are going to be most affected by climate breakdown and ecological collapse, and also the ones with the energy to take action to call governments and businesses to account.”
There was a much greater emphasis on local and individual impact in Truro. One leaflet promoted five key changes everybody should make: switching to renewable energies; sourcing food locally; radically reducing our waste; becoming more informed.
The fifth urged constituents to write to their MPs and get them to join the Climate Vision Pledge. This reunited Cornwall’s local emphasis with Extinction Rebellion’s focus on legislative bodies. Campaigning in Bristol earlier this month prompted the council to declare a state of ‘environmental emergency’. This saw councillors unanimously vote to become carbon neutral by 2030.
It is anticipated that the events of Saturday will also spark local legislative change. Sheelah Goldsmith hopes that the local parish councils will install more wind turbines and electric car chargers.
Extinction Rebellion’s biggest aim is the formation of a Citizens Assembly to facilitate such legislative change. This would provide a platform for everyday consumers and scientists to collaborate with the government. Such a huge demand, they argue, will only be met through an equally huge disruption.
In London, thousands of protesters peacefully barricaded five of London’s bridges, bringing parts of the city to a standstill. In a massive act of civil disobedience. In the days leading up to the event, many demonstrators acknowledged the risk of police arrest, viewing it as a precondition for the government to take notice.
“It was reported that over 80 participants were arrested in London.”
Rebellion Day was just one of many recent protests directed by Extinction Rebellion. There has been a rapid growth in momentum with protests occurring nationwide. This can be viewed as a development in the public’s environmental consciousness which stems from the unprecedented global war on plastic. Members of the public are increasingly aware of much larger environmental issues; issues which the everyday consumer feel they cannot solve alone. There is arguably no better time to act than now, with the future of our planet hanging in a delicate balance.
“With the effects of global warming already being felt, is rebellion the best way to force immediate, large-scale and long-term environmental change?”
While the events in London gave our environmental crisis the publicity it so desperately needs, Truro activists encouraged local and individual change. I think Saturday’s protests were both part of a worthy cause: radical environmental change. And, chiefly, change that begins at home.