Attending XR's The Big One

When Extinction Rebellion (XR) announced on social media that they were aiming to get 100,000 people outside Parliament to put pressure on the UK government to ACT on climate change, I knew I had to be there. The climate crisis is such a dominating and complex issue that it is easy to feel like the small acts don’t matter. By being there on the 23rd of April I was hoping to make a big impact and ease my anxieties surrounding the thousands of people already displaced due to climate change.

So, with my make-shift canvas sign reading, ‘People over Profit’ complete with a handle made from an old piece of wood I found in the garage at home, I made my train journey from Leeds to London, on the day of the London Marathon to be there. On the way I listened to an episode from Extinction Rebellion’s podcast, ‘The Power to Change with Margaret Atwood and Richard Black’ (Townsend, 2022). From what I heard of the episode, sitting in a noisy carriage, it helped me to form a good understanding of where the UK is at currently with climate change, linking it to the current energy crisis, reminding us all that a shift to dependency on renewable energies with the current national grid is extremely possible.

Extinction Rebellion had a whole programme of workshops and craft activities to get involved in. I met SCM at the Faith hub where young people from a collection of different faith organisations (Just Love, YCCN and SCM) were to lead a service. SCM asked me if I wanted to be part of the service and read from the book of James Chapter 2 verses 14-26. Accepting this invitation, I felt mostly excited. The book of James has always been one of my favourite books of the Bible and to me this verse summed it up quite well, there is no faith without works. Declaring these words right next to Westminster - this was my chance to shout truth to power. Put my faith into action and challenge others to do the same. To play my part in a universal fight for freedom.

However, this was also a peaceful protest and spending time in prayer and signing hymns also felt important. We sang some classic hymns, some I had never heard within a community I felt truly included in. This felt almost restorative- restorative of past hurt but also of a future without hope. The theme of restoration resonated throughout the day. Another point in the day when I felt this was during the interfaith service when we all held hands with one another in prayer. I could feel the love for the earth as we prayed in community with one another, a great sense of peace which I don’t often feel when praying for the climate alone.

Finally, we finished the day with a march to the Home Office, where we delivered hundreds of pink paper boats to Suella Braverman, demanding the proper treatment of refugees seeking asylum with more legal routes to the UK. As a student nurse, and after chatting to a fellow retired nurse earlier in the day, it felt important to remember that to solve climate change we must treat every single human being with the equal respect. Our humanity unites us. And that is a powerful thing.

Emily Harris is a student nurse and a member of ICM Leeds.