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“The hope is here today” – Speak Up day of climate action

By Laura Cook, Communications and Campaigns Co-ordinator, All We Can

On June 17 an estimated 9,000 people converged on parliament to urge MPs to back strong action on climate change. The mass lobby called on parliamentarians to support a global climate change deal that will end carbon pollution from fossil fuels by the middle of the century. Constituents also posed questions about cleaner transport options and asked MPs to ensure new sustainable development goals, set to be agreed by the United Nations in the autumn, would reflect the need for committed action on climate change. Christian climate campaigners not only lobbied MPs but also took part in simultaneous ecumenical church services held at St Margaret’s Church and the Emmanuel Centre. There were informative workshops on some of the big issues as well as art installations and digital testimonies from around the world.

A month ago I was sitting on a newly laid concrete floor chatting to Aida, who had lost her home to Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Aida spoke of the devastation the typhoon had caused but also of the changing weather patterns on her island of Samar in the Philippines. It was Aida that came to mind as I walked along the lobby line in London on June 17. It was Aida I remembered when I heard testimonies of a changing climate during a powerful ecumenical service held at St Margaret’s Church. It was Aida that I thought about as I spoke to my own MP about why climate change matters to me. Climate change matters to me because of people like Aida, people who I now know and care about.

Aida in her small shop in Parina, The Philippines.

It is estimated that around 9000 people attended the day of action on climate change in London on 17 June. Constituents included fishermen, farmers, surfers and snowboarders and of course Methodists and other Christians. I had the privilege of helping organise one of the ecumenical services held at midday and had the opportunity to talk with many individuals who had travelled from across the UK to be at the event.

Ian and Ann Leck had travelled from Woodstock in Oxfordshire. Their MP is current Prime Minister David Cameron; while he was unavailable he did send a spokesperson, Rose Rawlings, on his behalf. Of the meeting Ian said, “I was to be leading Friday prayers on climate change and as I got up to date on the issues I really felt that I should be here today. Rose Rawlings seemed pleased to hear from us and listened well to our questions. Our main concern is for the future, for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. As we reach the end of our lives we think about the future. This issue is the thing I feel saddest about leaving the world with. If we could turn a corner it would feel better. We need to fire up the children and young people, the future change makers! Today has been good. It is good to show support for our politicians and to come here to show we care.”

climate lobby 2015

Ian and Ann Leck spoke to their MP’s representative about why climate change matters to them.

One of the most exciting things about the day was the diverse range of individuals speaking out about what matters to them, what they would want to protect from climate change. Birmingham MethSoc students Rachel Allison and Hannah Bristow came to London as they felt it was important to show their faith in action. Rachel said, “I am passionate about ending climate change as it affects the poorest the most. It is part of our faith to help those who are less well of than us and as Methodists we are showing this matters to us. Just because change doesn’t happen straight away doesn’t mean you should give up, there is hope when you see the number of people here today that all want that change.”

climate lobby 2015

Hannah and Rachel travelled down from Birmingham to speak up for the things they love.

I had not expected to see my own MP Sir David Amess at the lobby. I had written to him and had received a letter indicating that it was unlikely he would be able to meet me. So when I walked along Lambeth Bridge interviewing other campaigners I was surprised, and happy, to see that the Southend West MP had decided to come and greet constituents after all. He did not have all the answers I would have liked him to have had, nor did he have a stance on some of the big issues of the day, but the fact he turned up to listen was fantastic and I enjoyed standing alongside other campaigners and having the chance to be heard. I intend to meet Sir David later in the month at one of his open surgeries in Essex to talk further.

Meeting with Sir David Amess to discuss climate change and local environmental issues.

When considering climate change it becomes easy to get bogged down in statistics that seem insurmountable, and it becomes easy to wonder whether there is hope. When I met Methodist campaigner Revd David Haslam in the lobby line, I asked what he thought we could place hope in when faced with issues that seem overwhelming. He replied, “the hope is here today.” Beyond the bunting and the banners the simple message delivered to over 250 MPs on 17 June was that people care. Climate change and its impact on some of the world’s poorest people is firmly back on the global agenda. Hope lives in the words and actions of ordinary people committed to seeing change for the sake of all we love and hold dear.

climate change

From surfers to skiers, so many different people gathered in London.

At the end of the day, as campaigners crowded together to rally and as music blared out of speakers taller than me, I wondered what Aida would have made of the event. I wondered whether she would have joined the thousands gathered in London if she lived here. It can become easy sometimes to separate the lives we live and the lives eked out by people in some of the world’s poorest communities, and yet we have so many connections. Climate change matters here as much as it does in the Philippines, or in Mali, or in Vanuatu or in Bangladesh, and our actions here have an impact elsewhere. I like to think Aida would have been here; when I met her she spoke so powerfully about our interconnectness as human beings. And in a way Aida was with me, as her story has become part of my own.

About the Author Laura Cook

Laura works for All We Can as the Communications Manager. She is also an internationally acclaimed photographer with a passion for women's rights. She is studying MA in Refugee Protection and Forced Migration Studies in her spare time and lives with her husband Stephen in Essex.

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