Students gather people of all ages in Uttlesford climate protest
PUBLISHED: 11:15 18 February 2020
People of all ages have answered a call to join an Uttlesford protest against climate change. The Strike for Solutions was organised by students and saw participants listening to student speeches, chanting, and marching across the town to the Uttlesford District Council (UDC) offices.
On Wojtek Widuch, 18, and Olivia Whittle, 18, both organised the protest on February 14.
Wojtek, an Uttlesford Youth Council representative for ecology and environmental issues, is in his final year at Saffron Walden County High school.
Wojtek said: "We want a stern commitment to furthering ecological and environmental protection. This means tackling plastic, energy output and carbon emissions as just a few examples.
"We want to improve coordination between the youth and the council on environmental issues. We want a firmer commitment to tackle and actually find solutions, not just have watered down commitments. We will not settle for symbolism and watered-down commitments. We won't settle for less. It is time we address the climate emergency appropriately."
He added: "We are here in a peaceful show of solidarity against the district council's watering down of the environmental bill."
Wojtek has worked with the Saffron Walden Action on Climate Change (SWACC) and spoken at schools across Uttlesford, such as Helena Romanes and Newport.
Olivia, co-organiser of the protest said the district council is not committed enough to tackling climate change - and demanded action, not words.
"We are all aware of the catastrophic effects of climate change. And there is not enough commitment to change from UDC. We are sick of people telling us they will make it better and not committing to it."
"We are going to start a movement here in Uttlesford and hopefully the rest of the country will join us too. We will make it better for you and we will achieve change."
The protesters chanted 'system change not climate change' in unison.
Melanie Hughes, climate activist and SWACC member, shared her thoughts and hopes about the day.
She said: "People are starting to listen about the climate action that is needed and Saffron Walden Town Council appeared to be stepping up and getting involved with the climate crisis and put things in place.
"A lot of people, regardless of what they voted they are coming out and want to see more put in place. It's different ages and different backgrounds that will get together for the same reason, for the greater good.
"I am hoping we'll get more right-minded people in one place and lead more positive action as if one council starts action others will follow."
Melanie highlighted the students' "massive involvement" despite looming student examinations.
Louise Yellowlees, an active SWACC member who also attended the climate protest in September last year, expressed her delight at the fact that, unlike the previous protest organised by adults, this demonstration was put together by the younger generation.
"SWACC is supporting the young people because they are the ones who are going to feel the disaster that is coming," she said, adding:
"They are not taking this lightly and it's wonderful that there is so many of them here. We can't believe this.
"They just can't trust the adults."
Louise also said humanity is facing an 'emergency', but expressed confusion at the fact that the word has been losing its meaning.
Louise and Melanie both praised the recent expansion rejection of Stansted Airport by UDC, and said the airport in Bristol has followed the example.
"It really does mean that the governments are taking climate change seriously...," Melanie said.
"...at least local governments," Louise added.
Green Saffron Walden Town Councillor Trilby Roberts attended the protest and expressed her party's support of the national UK student climate network and the need for "immediate action". She added the meeting would end with protesters meeting UDC leader John Lodge.
Edward Gildea, Green Party member who helped put placards together on the day, explained the meaning behind various placards, including one which read "Clean up your CO2 mess". He said: "Parents say 'clean up your mess!', and they [children] can say, 'well, you clean up your CO2 mess!'".