CLIMATE campaigners from the Forest and Wye Valley headed to London on the weekend to join a mass protest against what they claim is government inaction on the eco emergency.
The protest, dubbed ‘The Big One’, took place in the capital over four days from Friday (April 20) to Monday (April 24), with more than 200 groups taking part, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the PCS Union.
Around 50 members of Forest of Dean Extinction Rebellion (XR) made themselves heard with their trademark samba drumming during action outside the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on Friday.
The protest saw local activists from the Save the Wye campaign group including the ‘Lady of the Wye’ follow up their recent protests against intensive poultry farming in the River Wye catchment during action called ‘Unite to Survive’.
Then on Saturday, which was international ‘Earth Day’, the focus was on a big celebration and a family-friendly march for bio-diversity, nature and the planet.
On Sunday, the action was entitled ‘Running Out of Time’ with XR collaborating with organisers of the London Marathon to engage with spectators when the race came through Westminster.
XR Forest of Dean member Richard Henson explained the title of that protest was a reference to the latest report from an inter-governmental panel, which found the target of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels is likely to fail unless more radical action is taken in the next two to three years.
And on Monday, the action was entitled ‘Choosing Your Future’ with the focus on a march to Parliament, ideas for engaging with MPs, a citizen’s assembly hub and another march focusing on ending fossil fuels.
Richard commented: “As with other actions XR Forest of Dean members have been part of, the coming together and the strong commitments that people make to effect change raise spirits and renew the determination to continue with strong protest.
"And despite the desire by some sections of the press and members of our government to portray all climate activists as troublemakers and play down the extent of the dangers facing all life on the planet, there is now so much more awareness amongst the public that greater and faster action must be demanded to avoid global catastrophe.”
Local campaigner Molly Meager, 78, said: “I went to London on Friday to join the Extinction Rebellion protest. I have become an activist because I have physically seen the deterioration of the world around us.”
She said that although life in the Wye is “suffocating” and around 200 species worldwide are facing extinction every day, she feels change can come if we stop using fossil fuels and “cure ourselves of a dependence on cheap chicken”, which has been the main polluter of the river in recent times.
She added: “Perhaps we would need more of us working on the land to help this happen. A more hands on approach than spending our days in offices.”
Save the Wye campaigner Alex Vernon said: ‘I’ll remember bringing the Wye to Westminster for the rest of my life - I had a proper lump in my throat when we arrived at DEFRA!
"I can only hope that as a result of our performance, more people will care about our mighty river - and, most importantly, help us to save it."