A Rocha UK banners were lifted high as marchers walked from Temple to Westminster on 21st September, urging world leaders to act on climate change.
‘It was just one of 2,700 events happening across 161 countries worldwide,’ said A Rocha UK’s Policy Officer Stephen Drury, ‘and we were proud to be a part of it!’ These mass marches were timed to coincide with the United Nations summit on climate change, which took place the following Tuesday in New York. More than 300,000 took part in that city’s march.
‘It was overwhelmingly encouraging,’ Stephen said of the London march. He met with volunteers from A Rocha UK at a gathering point for faith groups in Inner Temple Gardens. Stephen said there was ‘an expectant atmosphere’ as marchers gathered there. ‘There was a sense of fellowship and friendship as we connected with different organisations,’ he added.
Bishop of London Rt Rev Richard Chartres gave the first speech. ‘We are tenants, and we must keep the earth fit for our children,’ he said, according to the ‘Guardian’ newspaper. ‘Climate change is a moral issue,’ he pointed out. The march itself was ‘inspiring’, Stephen Drury explained. ‘I was just full of awe,’ he said. ‘There we were, just one humble organisation, among 40,000 other people. We felt we were part of a bigger movement.’
They walked a mile to Westminster. The ‘Guardian’ confirmed the march was peaceful, though there were ‘loud jeers’ as the crowd passed both Downing Street and the Department of Energy and Climate Change. ‘While it was a beautifully sunny day to kindle friendships and connections,’ Stephen explained, ‘we trust that our presence – along with the tens of thousands of others – will be a call to action. We’re hoping the leaders of the developing and developed worlds will act in faith to reduce their carbon emissions and commit to realistic targets to keep the temperature rise under two degrees. And we’ll wait upon the result’.
A Rocha UK volunteer David Beattie joined more than 2,000 others for the Manchester march. ‘I walked to Piccadilly Gardens where the march commenced,’ said David. ‘I looked around to see if there was anyone I knew and found a colleague from Cuerden Valley Park. There were many folk from all over the north. I spoke to people from Cumbria, Yorkshire, North Wales, Wirral and Blackpool.
‘It was very colourful, lots of smiling faces, friendly police officers, families, dogs and a little old lady who carried a folding seat with her for the times we stopped. I had a good look round and noticed a large percentage of silver-haired marchers.’ Led by a samba band, Manchester’s family-friendly march stopped and listened to speeches outside the conference centre where the Labour Party was meeting. ‘We knew we were having an impact straightaway,’ said David, ‘when a passing motorist asked, “What is fracking?”‘
So did it work? ‘The worldwide attention clearly made an impact,’ said Stephen Drury. Reflecting on the march, he quoted Chairman of the UN’s Inter-governmental Panel for Climate Change Dr Rajendra Pachauri who saw ‘a clearly heightened awareness’ of climate change. The New York summit saw a bout of pledges and vows – notably France’s pledge to give one billion dollars to a climate change fund to help developing countries tackle this problem. ‘We hope and pray these pledges do indeed translate into a binding global treaty in Paris next December,’ Stephen added. (Photos: Stephen Drury)