Emma Thompson leads off the People’s Climate March in London on Sunday afternoon. Vivienne Westwood and Peter Gabriel also attended.
There wasn’t a very obvious NGO presence – the occasional Panda but no Avocets or Badgers. It felt a little like a party where someone had forgotten to send out the invitations. Where were the Chief Execs of the environment ‘movement’? I saw John Sauven of Greenpeace but that was it on my tick list. Did anyone see Andy Atkins (FoE) or David Nussbaum (WWF)? Politicians were conspicuous by their absence or low profile. No sign, that I saw, even of the Green Party.
David Cameron attended the march only in the form of a popular placard…
…but we did give him a wave, and were thinking of him, as we passed the end of his street.
It was a large enough crowd to close Parliament Square, and the throngs were enjoying the fine weather…
…as we walked past Big Ben.
One car, with an irritated-looking driver, was allowed into Parliament Square and tried to get through the crowds – it was the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow and family.
There were some speeches that few people would have heard, but the one by Emma Thompson was brief, clear, passionate and right. I’d vote for her.
Meanwhile, in New York, as many as 400,000 people took to the streets of Manhattan ahead of the climate talks there today. It felt to me as though London had fallen far short of what it could have added to the global voice. Given the number of times we are told that climate change is the biggest issue that we face by environmental and development NGOs, and by scientists, and given that there were at least 40,000 people on the streets of London in December 2009, then Sunday’s march looked poor (even though I enjoyed it myself and met quite a few mates too).
London’s march on Sunday was a middling event whereas it should have been massive. Do people care less about climate change now than they did five years ago? I don’t think they do, but it looked as though they might. That isn’t the message that should be sent to New York.
If we are a movement, then we ought to have moved more people to attend. Many of my environmental friends first heard about the event through this blog rather than from the pack of NGOs they support, and many more had missed hearing anything about it at all. If a few blokes can get nearly 600 people to gather in torrential rain in the Peak District to protest at Hen Harriers being killed (as we did), then surely our environment movement could have filled London on a sunny Sunday afternoon?
At least David Cameron is in New York today – unlike the ‘leaders’ of Australia, India or China. It’s almost his last chance to regain some environmental credentials ahead of the General Election next year. But if he was still in London on Sunday, the windows of 10 Downing Street weren’t exactly rattling to the cries of protest, so he may feel that he is only between a rock and a soft place.