Hope for the Future coordinator, Jo Musker-Sherwood reflects on her experience at the London Climate March on November 29th.
Joining 50,000 people marching through the heart of London this weekend was a rare moment when it felt possible to shout about climate injustice from the rooftops. We marched past Park Lane’s BMW car showrooms, through The Strand where Londoners gathered to look down from the buildings above, and passed Downing Street’s heavily protected number 10 to arrive at the Houses of Parliament. Being aware of past disappointment and recent developments in our own Government’s climate policies, I hadn’t expected to feel much in the way of excitement, but I did and it took me quite by surprise.
All eyes have turned to Paris in recent weeks, and I am left with the feeling that truly anything could happen.
We marched for those in Paris who couldn't, for those picking up the pieces every day in the aftermath of each new and increasingly frequent extreme weather event, and for future generations here in the UK., that all may have a full life. It was a joy to see the thousands of signs and placards from hundreds of different organisations representing millions of people from all over the world, but I was left with a couple of questions about how the climate movement talks about itself.
“Our leaders have let us down… we are on our own” came one rally cry from the front. For sure that statement resonated with me deeply, but simultaneously alarm bells started to ring. We are at the beginning of the Paris Climate Conference- the negotiations have not yet failed. Surely at this stage the message from a march like this cannot be ‘you have let us down’ but ‘do NOT let us down!’? As much as we may be provoked by those resisting action on climate change to start narrating the story as a battle betweem ‘us and them’, we cannot because immediately the discussion moves away from solutions.
Speakers from Labour, Green and the Lib Dems started off the rally, but we heard that the Conservative party had declined to send a representative. Given the party’s record with climate policy in the last few months, this is perhaps unsurprising, but representation from across the mainstream political parties - indeed, from the party that currently leads this country- is absolutely essential.
Of course there are green campaigners within the Conservative party (The Climate Change Committee chair, Lord Deben, is a Conservative politician for example). They must be particularly encouraged that their voices are welcome. It is vital that we work hard to ensure that climate change is not framed as a left wing issue because it isn’t, it’s a human issue. Increasingly I am sure that we need the full spectrum of worldviews on board with the crisis because the battle to halt climate change is going to need a response from all sides.
This is not an issue of left or right, nor can we do this without our leaders. We need them. That is why we are marching to the Houses of Parliament. We need everyone. As a campaigner encouraging churches to engage their MP with this issue, I would urge you- don’t give up on your MP, however frustrated, however let down you feel. Search for what brought them to politics in the first place, for what issue most makes them tick, for why they are ambivalent to action on climate change, and show them that the climate crisis has deep relevance for them there.
The aim of Hope for the Future campaign from the beginning has been to explore what happens when churches seek to develop a relationship with their MP about climate change. We have had some incredibly encouraging results, but we are small and relatively new to climate campaigning and so everyday our approach shifts and grows. If you would like to join us in this campaign, would like support in lobbying your MP or would like to comment on our approach, please get in touch here. We always welcome feedback and input as to how conversations between those of us passionate about action, and those still on the fence- or on the other side of the fence, can be better enabled.
Finally, if you haven’t already, please consider sending a letter to your MP about Paris COP21. We have a template that you may wish to use here.