Thousands of people, including University of Edinburgh students and staff, gathered in Edinburgh on Sunday September 21 to take part in the world-wide People’s Climate March.
The People’s Climate March, which involved 2,700 separate events in 162 countries, sent a demand for more action on environmental issues to world leaders, who gathered at the United Nations building in New York on September 23.
Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have participated. The largest event was in New York City, where turnout reached about 300,000. Other major gatherings took place in cities such as London, where the turnout may have reached 40,000.
Whilst official numbers for Edinburgh’s turnout have not been released, but was estimated from bystanders as between 3,000 and 4,000 people. Turnout was higher than expected, forcing city authorities to close lanes on Princes Street and North Bridge shortly before the march began.
Speakers at the event, which started and ended at the foot of the Mound, included Green MSP Alison Johnstone, and Dr Tom Webster, a history lecturer at The University of Edinburgh.
Speaking to The Student, Dr Webster called the march a “beautifully various and impassioned event.”
Referring to the result of the recent independence referendum, Webster said, “It was a brilliant turnout. With it being Green, there were a lot more ‘Yes’ than ‘No’ (voters) there, and there was that sense (that there was a) good turnout partly because it was important, but also partly because it was a sort of therapy session.”
Webster continued: “If we can maintain that (politicisation) then that can be used, partly in environmental issues, but also in terms of… poverty, gender and sexuality. If we keep that going then that’ll be a lasting improvement.”
Other figures at the march included Maggie Chapman, co-convener of the Scottish Green Party, and Peter McColl, the current rector of the University and a prominent green activist.
Student involvement was high at the event. One second year student, Ciara Killick, explained to The Student why she believed the students were there.
“Students should care for the same reason everyone else should – because we live on this planet,” Killick said. “Maybe especially so, though, because we fund the university who are funding the destruction of the planet by investing our money in fossil fuels. Which is why events like [the People’s Climate March] are really important to attend – to show the big institutions it ain’t acceptable and the people want change.”
Dr Webster discussed what he sees a recent rise in student activism: “It partly improved when tuition fees came in, and obviously we avoided them [in Edinburgh, for Scottish and EU students], but that struck a chord.”
Webster feels a mixture of optimism and pessimism regarding the follow-up the Edinburgh’s climate march. “It’s good that a voice is being raised, it’s just not guaranteed that it will be heard[…] There’s some grounds for hope, but as with all political stuff, it’s going to take a hell of a lot of fighting and talking.”