Last Friday the 20th September saw the advent of the largest climate protest in history, called for by Greta Thunberg when she asked citizens of the world to stand and support the young people who have been relentlessly striking on Fridays for the past year.
It’s estimated that 4 million people across the world took part in the Global Climate Strike. 4 million. Were you one of them?
Greta said: “This is not a single-generation job. We’re asking adults to step up alongside us. Let’s all join together, with your neighbours, co-workers, friends, family and go out on to the streets to make your voices heard and make this a turning point in our history.”
SEEd is based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, and our very own newly appointed Project Manager Isa took a leading role in organising and coordinating the Stroud Earth Strike on the 20th September. She brought together local businesses with residents, colleagues, school students, and other community groups and organisations, asking each and every one to show their support for our beautiful planet. Hundreds of people took to the streets and marched across town from a local school to the Subscription Rooms at the Town’s heart. I joined the congregation at the Sub Rooms, where a range of speakers addressed the crowd, including Green Party MEP Molly Scott-Cato, Local MP David Drew, and Extinction Rebellion Founder Gail Bradbrook. These speeches were joined by voices from many of the young people in Stroud, who told us how they feel about the threat of Climate Change through words spoken loudly, defiantly, and passionately.
SEEd supports young people and adults having the freedom to work together and have a voice in sustainability and climate matters. We are not a protest or campaigning organisation and do not champion any one cause.
On September 20th, the world saw the biggest global climate strikes to date. What Greta Thunberg and the fearless Youth 4 Climate school strikers started over a year ago was picked up by adults of every generation who heard the call of the youth and stepped up in support.
I had the privilege of heading up a small team to coordinate the Stroud Earth Strike with the Youth 4 Climate group of school children. Our aim was to mobilise as many adults as we could to support the already significant numbers of young people who have been regularly striking from school to campaign for climate justice. For anyone who is in any doubt over the motivations for these students taking time off school, let me reassure that everything they’re doing comes from the clear aim of demanding positive action on climate change. As one young student told me “what’s the point in getting an education if there’s no future to use it in?”. It’s difficult to argue against.
Striking for the climate is a new kind of action. It’s not a campaign for higher pay or better working conditions from employers, it’s a universal demand for positive systematic changes to the way we live our lives. Climate change or climate breakdown as it is becoming commonly termed, affects everyone, and therefore our approach to organising the Stroud Earth Strike was to make it all encompassing. We set about inviting parents, individuals, local businesses, charities, churches, freelancers and anyone else we could think of to step up and support the strike. The idea was not to hurt business so we asked people to take a days holiday or unpaid leave so the impact on their places of work would be minimal. At the same time we asked employers to do as much as they could to facilitate their workforce being able to join the strike. The response was amazing. 25 local companies including Good Energy, Darbyshire, Loose, Strangeness and Charm, Star Anise Moonflower and Stroud Brewery agreed to either close for the duration of the Strike, or to facilitate their employees joining the action. One local charity took the further step of writing it into their constitution that employees had the right to strike on climate issues.
As organisers we also felt it was important that the atmosphere on the day should be about celebrating the peaceful unity of the action, so we set about inviting musicians and dancers to join us. The Red Band put together a special marching set, and the all female Morris Dancing troupe Boss Morris enthusiastically agreed support in full costume dressed as mythical Beasts. We also approached choir leaders to teach earth songs to the crowd and invited speakers from a variety of different political and environmental organisations. We ran an Earth Strike Voices workshop, banner making workshops and mini boat making workshops for the little ones. We contacted local caterers who agreed to provide free food in the park after the event to bring people together to share a meal. In the weeks leading up to the day, word spread and the buzz grew. There was a sense of excitement and anticipation that what we were doing in Stroud might be something really special.
Stroud has a proud history of campaigning, raising our voices and taking direct action when we feel it’s necessary. When we see an injustice we mobilise to try and right it. With this feisty outlook we took on the local council in the 1970’s when they wanted to demolish part of the high street in Stroud to build a bypass. We took on Tesco in the 1980’s when they wanted to chop down a row of ancient trees in the local park to widen the road. Now with the very future of our planet at stake, we were stepping up to lend our voices to the millions around the world who believe this beautiful planet is worth fighting for.
We finally reached September 20thand in glorious sunshine people began to gather for the start of the march. The turnout was far beyond anything we had anticipated. Around 1500 people from all walks of life joined together on that day to march into Stroud following the now well established route of the Youth Strikers. The atmosphere was one of determination and hope, a sense that by coming together we can make a difference. We gathered in the square in the centre of town to hear our speakers and opened the floor to anyone who wanted to add their voice. Many who came forward to take the microphone were of primary school age who spoke eloquently about their fears for the future and their hope that by working together we can turn things around. Afterwards we gathered on the green to share food and opinions, listen to music and celebrate this amazing act of solidarity no just in our courageous little town, but over the whole world. Together we are stronger, together we can make a difference, and one thing you can be sure of, this is just the beginning.