Students gather people of all ages in Uttlesford climate protest

PUBLISHED: 11:15 18 February 2020

Protesters gathered in front of the Saffron Walden Town Hall on February 14. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.

Protesters gathered in front of the Saffron Walden Town Hall on February 14. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.

Archant

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.

Student Wojtek Widuch, 18, is an Uttlesford Youth Council representative for ecology and environmental issues. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.Student Wojtek Widuch, 18, is an Uttlesford Youth Council representative for ecology and environmental issues. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.

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."

L-R: Melanie Hughes, Louise Yellowlees (SWACC) and Trilby Roberts (Green Party). Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.L-R: Melanie Hughes, Louise Yellowlees (SWACC) and Trilby Roberts (Green Party). Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.

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."

Olivia Whittle, 18, organised the protest against climate change. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.Olivia Whittle, 18, organised the protest against climate change. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.

"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.

Mother Rebecca Kind came to the protest with her daughters Heidi (4) and Alice (7). Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.Mother Rebecca Kind came to the protest with her daughters Heidi (4) and Alice (7). Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.

"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.

Edward Gildea, Green Party member, working on placards. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.Edward Gildea, Green Party member, working on placards. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.

"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.

Wojtek Widuch, Saffron Walden County High School student and protest organiser. Photo: ALEX BEANEY/ARCHANT.Wojtek Widuch, Saffron Walden County High School student and protest organiser. Photo: ALEX BEANEY/ARCHANT.

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.

Student Wojtek Widuch, 18, is an Uttlesford Youth Council representative for ecology and environmental issues. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.Student Wojtek Widuch, 18, is an Uttlesford Youth Council representative for ecology and environmental issues. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.

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!'".

Olivia Whittle giving a speech in front of protesters.  Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.Olivia Whittle giving a speech in front of protesters. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.

Councillor John Lodge, leader of Uttlesford District Council (UDC), addresses the students of the climate strike in the UDC chambers. Photo: CELIA BARTLETT PHOTOGRAPHY.Councillor John Lodge, leader of Uttlesford District Council (UDC), addresses the students of the climate strike in the UDC chambers. Photo: CELIA BARTLETT PHOTOGRAPHY.

Student Wojtek Widuch, 18, is an Uttlesford Youth Council representative for ecology and environmental issues. Photo: ALEX BEANEY/ARCHANT.Student Wojtek Widuch, 18, is an Uttlesford Youth Council representative for ecology and environmental issues. Photo: ALEX BEANEY/ARCHANT.

Olivia Whittle, 18, organised the protest against climate change. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.Olivia Whittle, 18, organised the protest against climate change. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.

Climate protesters in front of the town hall. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.Climate protesters in front of the town hall. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.

Protesters gathered in front of the Saffron Walden Town Hall on February 14. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.Protesters gathered in front of the Saffron Walden Town Hall on February 14. Photo: ANDRA MACIUCA/ARCHANT.


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