The day the children roared for nature

Perhaps Troy McLure put it best regarding our previous mindset with this starter:

“Hi! I’m Troy McLure! You may remember me from nature shows such as… “Man vs Nature: The Road to Victory!””

On Friday 20 Sept 2019 there was a massive global climate strike inspired & organised by the movement that was kick-started by Greta Thunberg’s school climate strike (See her column in The Guardian from 26 November 2018). I’m not going to go into detail about her story – far better people have already done a better job than I could do. The politicians cannot say they did not see it coming. But looking at this footage from Congress when 17 year old student Jamie Margolin (one of the lead young climate activists in the USA) took members of Congress (in particular one congressman) to task, it looks like some of them really didn’t.

A few months before her appearance at Congress, Greta Thunberg was in London at the Marble Arch occupation which she gave the speech below:

Me and Puffles also went down to the occupation – if only for the day.

Puffles with Marble Arch in the background during the occupation by Extinction Rebellion activists, including a large contingent from Cambridge. 

But I’m now at a stage in life (40 years) and a situation where the best thing for me to do is to bear witness – with camera and camcorder.  During my university years 20 years ago in Brighton, I spent many an hour volunteering at the Brighton Peace and Environment Centre. It is still going (at different premises from my day), even though the people have inevitably moved on. But the experience & knowledge stayed with me both inside the civil service during a 1 year stint as a policy adviser on climate change, and outside of it later on filming local political meetings, council meetings, and protests.

Above – Dr Rupert Read and the Cambridge Green Party at the Cambridge Central Library, from the 2015 general election that resulted in the highest vote in Cambridge for the Green Party in its history. 

The extended heatwave and drought of the summer of 2018 seemed like a turning point – and not long after, Extinction Rebellion made their presence known.

…and the children of Cambridge started making their presence felt the following year – marching in March 2019 – and forming a new Cambridge Schools Eco Council.

…and when it became clear that children across the country were threatening to have another school strike, the disgraced former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson (sacked by Theresa May for leaking confidential documents but appointed Education Secretary by Mr Johnson) decided to intervene.

And how did the children respond? With the biggest climate strike the country had ever seen. In the case of Cambridge, the children who took part in the strike in March 2019 returned six months later with a few extra friends. Or rather, a few thousand extra friends.

And this is what they had to say.

Above: Speeches by the Cambridge Schools Eco Council: 20 Sept 2019 on King’s Parade.

You can watch the speeches by the adults, starting with Daniel Zeichner MP for Cambridge.

In the meantime I caught part of the speech of Australian climate activist Jean Hinchliffe – aged 15.

Back in Cambridge…

This was also followed up the following day by another protest/piece of performance art by the Cambridge Collective of the Red Rebel Brigade in the Grand Arcade Shopping Centre. Filming it I noticed how differently the shoppers and passers by reacted to the presence of the women in red.

This wasn’t their first protest, as their protest on Castle Hill, covered by Mike Scialom for the Cambridge Independent shows. Don’t for a moment think that everyone who saw what was going on was supportive – absolutely not. One of the things I’ve learnt about any political movement is that the people who are the most involved in them over-estimate the knowledge and understanding that the general public has of what they are doing – irrespective of the intellectual capabilities of individuals. It’s ever so easy to assume that everyone else has the same level of awareness, knowledge and passion for an issue that you do. (I found this out the hard way standing for election with Puffles back in 2014). Hence the use of political parties of slick, easy-to-remember slogans.

The other really important aspect – perhaps easily overlooked, is that Cambridge is full of visitors from all over the world at any time of year. In particular from countries where protesting is banned and/or involves violent reprisals from oppressive regimes. Hence for global issues such as the climate emergency, I can’t help but feel that Cambridge is one of the places that needs to be hosting, holding and organising such demonstrations so that the impact gets out beyond national borders.

“What next for the children?”

The next six weeks will be absolutely crucial – and not just because of the Brexit count down clock. From now the students return to university. The schools and further education colleges are already back. Existing local parties and campaign groups are going to have to figure out a way of how best to involve the newly politicised children and teenagers in their campaigns. I wouldn’t know where to start on how to do this, nor do I think that it’s my place to tell them. Again, I see my role not just creating the digital footage for the people of the city and beyond, but also for the historical archives too. Community reporting with the mindset of a local historian.

Having had such a busy summer and with political turmoil still in Westminster, we’re in for a turbulent autumn.

 

 

 

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