Extinction Rebellion Canterbury held a funeral march for loss of life (human and animal) and biodiversity loss due to climate change last Saturday. A mock coffin was carried as part of the procession through the town centre and poems and other non-religious readings were made.
The group later moved on to St Peter’s Place where they blocked traffic for seven-minute intervals, allowing it to flow for 2 minutes in between those intervals. Emergency services were allowed through and drivers were requested to turn off their engines. While some drivers were frustrated by the delay, many were understanding and supportive of the protestors. Police stood by and no arrests were made. This method was the same as that used at XR Canterbury's previous action, on the 5th January.
The aim of these protests is to get Canterbury City Council to declare a climate emergency and take appropriate measures, protestors said. This is also aimed at the government, as part of the UK-wide XR movement (Extinction Rebellion now has groups in at least 19 countries).
The local council manifesto for Canterbury Liberal Democrats promised to declare a climate emergency, make plans for Canterbury to be carbon neutral by 2030, plant one tree for every four residents of Canterbury and cancel plans for the multi-storey car park, if elected. These measures would be well-received by the protestors, as well as other Canterbury residents.
The XR action comes just two weeks after hundreds of Canterbury students left their schools to march through the centre of town in protest about climate inaction. 15 February was a national day of youth strikes inspired by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg.
Students chanted: “No more coal, no more oil, keep the carbon in the soil!” as well as “There is no planet B!”
Some primary school children attended, including Leila Mourray, 10, who said she was worried about climate change “because of floods in Australia, fires in California and animals dying.”
Maija Facey-Hay, 13, was at the strike to “get the country to start responding to global warming.” She said she would tell people who don’t care about global warming: “it’s your future in your hands. If you don’t do anything about (climate change), you might let that future go to waste … and we won’t have anything left.”
Among the older students, fear for their future was also a common theme. Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School sixth former Jess Waters said: "I want a future, I want polar bears and other endangered species to have a future.” She explained why she would like the government to act on climate change.
Her friend Martha McCutcheon, also a Langton sixth former, added: “the government needs to realise how serious this is, so serious we’d risk our education. Because education is for our future, but climate change is risking our future too. We’re going to be the generation facing the consequences of climate change.”
Organisers of the youth strike called on Canterbury City Council to make sustainable policy decisions, including cancelling the planned multi-storey car park:
“When our young lungs are heaving with polluted air, you decide to build another car park … We are the youth and we are rising up. Let your decisions today ensure a future for us tomorrow.”
“This is just the beginning,” one organiser said. More school climate strikes are planned for March 15th.
Ellie is a student from Canterbury. She is keenly interested in the environment and politics, and is an active member of Greenpeace.
Image: David Holt, Flickr.