This article is part of a new series by Wicked Leeks, Sustainable Cities, exploring what sustainable food means to those living in the city.
Thousands of environmental activists gathered in London at the weekend to demand immediate government action on the climate emergency and spread the message to Londoners.
The protesters, part of the environmental campaign movement Extinction Rebellion, blocked two central London bridges, carried out a mass sit down in shopping districts and marched through central London.
The Metropolitan police arrested 38 protestors preventing traffic crossing over Lambeth and Vauxhall bridge on Sunday afternoon.
It is the first time since the pandemic that Extinction Rebellion activists have taken to the streets as they looked to reengage Londoners with climate action and attract media attention.
“We’re in a climate emergency and we haven’t had a response from our government,” protester and market gardener Sally Hole from Cornwall told Wicked Leeks. “We need civil disobedience, and we need to be raising the agenda.”
Hole added: “We saw that awareness was really increasing and then we’ve had this lull. Covid happened but the emergency is still there.”
It comes as the most recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report called for “urgent, immediate and more ambitious action” on climate change.
The report issued an urgent warning about the consequences of continued inaction and warned that climate change is already happening as billions of people face increased droughts, floods and heatwaves, especially in the global south.
It found that there is an increasing gap between action taken and what is required to adapt to the risks, especially in low-income countries.
“Obviously with the IPCC report coming out it felt even more pertinent, and it gave us a kick up the arse to come out and do something again,” said protester Jimmy Thompson on Lambeth Bridge, a trainee veg grower from Bristol.
“This feels like something tangible, and you can come here with a group of people and feel the power in the collective and enjoy it,” Thompson added.
Speakers from all backgrounds rallied the crowd through speeches and a poet conveyed the urgency of the crisis in a different way.
“We are not separate from nature, we are nature. We may feel divided, but in a deep way, we are already family,” he told the crowd, after reciting verses with the Houses of Parliament in the background.
“It’s no longer us versus them, me versus you; now we all win, or we all lose. What if the enemy was no longer each other but the systems that put profit above people?”
Protesters also shared food and their perspectives and experiences of the unfolding environmental crises.
“I work in community energy, and it’s becoming more and more exhausting,” protester Gemma Knowles, from Cornwall, told Wicked Leeks. “For me personally, coming to this, I think that I’m not alone. We need that connection with ourselves and each other to have any hope.”
An animal activist from Belfast, who declined to share his name, echoed her: “These events are very inspiring and it’s an incredibly enriching experience. To know that there are so many people from so many different cuts of cloth that feel the same way, it’s a universal feeling.”
He added: “But first and foremost, it’s a necessity. It’s not just about myself, it’s about being part of the message, telling the truth and showing up.”