Students marched from Shire Hall to the GuildhallJoe Cook

Earlier today, around 50 school students from across Cambridge marched through the City Centre calling for action on climate change in association with the international group, YouthStrike4Climate.

The organisation’s first UK-wide strike was in February this year. Protests have since increased in the local area with pupils from over 30 local schools and voices of over 3000 citizens and friends marching in the global climate days of action this September.

The march started at Shire Hall at 9:30am and ended at the Guildhall, where participants presented an open letter to councillors. Students waved their signs and shouted chants, such as “Hey, ho, fossil fuels have got to go!” and “Two, four, six, eight, climate change is what we hate!”

As they halted traffic in their path marching down the centre of roads, many pedestrians, shoppers, and workers stopped to watch, take photos, or join in the chants themselves.

Students marched down King's ParadeJoe Cook

Reaching the Guildhall, the open letter was read out to councillors. The letter petitioned the councillors on three main points. It called for them to “act more quickly as a City to make Cambridgeshire carbon neutral, and then carbon negative” and “to work with local scientists, societies and schools to support local climate adaptation and resilience.”

Finally, it called for the council to “support local creativity, courage and commitment towards education and raising local awareness about climate change.”

The protest focused on the theme of trees and students dressed in green and brown, carrying branches above their heads. Some painted their faces with leaves and trees and wore flower crowns or green ribbons in their hair. The theme was chosen so that when the march took place, it would give the impression of a forest walking through Cambridge.

Many signs followed this theme, with large slogans saying: “Save our trees”, “Are we out of the woods?” and “For bole and bough are burning now, the furnace roars - we go to war.” Participants also called out chants relating to the theme “Whose trees? Our trees!” and “Who do we speak for? We speak for the trees!”

Joe Cook

Nico, aged eleven and Co-Chair of the Cambridge Schools Eco-Council, made speeches both at Shire hall and the Guildhall. He encouraged cheers from his fellow students and drew from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax.

“We are raising the alarm. We are going to keep trying to make a difference. Like the Lorax, we are going to keep speaking for the trees.”

Harry, aged ten and treasurer of the Eco-Council, also made a statement: “Koala Bears are going to be extinct before I get my driving license.”

Four year old Arlo, one of the youngest at the march, threw out leaves he had collected from a bag to leave a trace of where they had walked and to give a constant reminder to people on the way about the trees.

The march was smaller in numbers than others they had done in the past. Samaya, aged fourteen, another Co-Chair of the Eco-Council, commented: “Just because it’s smaller doesn’t mean we’re going to have a smaller impact. It’s about the message we send.”

She emphasised the importance of doing a march during the half-term holiday, “It shows that we’re not going to give up and that we aren’t just doing it to get out of school.”

Nico rallied fellow participants by using Greta Thurnberg’s global example, “Like Greta Thurnberg, we are not just going to give up. If we have to do this every month alone, we will do it.”

One parent who helped with the organisation of the march described the children as “the Cambridge version of Greta in the snow.”

Some protestors carried branchesJoe Cook

At the front of the march, the leading banner was empowered by the youthful message of the protest, reading “Listen to your Elders”, with “Elders” crossed out and “Youth” written next to it. Amy, aged fourteen, stated that “people who are older than us are making choices about our futures [...] we want to play a part in our future.”

Councillors also responded in person to the open letter and the protest. Labour Cllr Katie Thornburrow said that the EU and the City Council had provided money to plant thousands of trees.

“We need to work with families because we need trees to be planted in gardens as well as in parks. The Council will help and advise how families can plant trees. We are also asking businesses to plant trees.

“The whole mood has changed because of your kids - your voices have been heard.”

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Having followed the students on the march from Shire Hall to the Guildhall, Liberal Democrat Cllr Cheney Payne also praised the energy that the children had shown.

“Never doubt that a group of committed citizens can change the world - you are those people today.”

Drawing the events to a close, Nico stated the next protest for YouthStrike4Climate in Cambridge is the 25th November; it will focus on water and is due to take form in a bridge blockade.

“We’ve never blocked anything before.”