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‘Hommage to the Cenotaph’ as Pram Rebellion speaks out at Cambridge War Memorial

Extinction Rebellion honoured “past, present and future” war victims at the War Memorial on Hill’s Road today as part of its ongoing ‘Pram Rebellion’ which runs to April 11.

Extinction Rebellion supporters plan the order of events at the War Memorial on Hill’s Road. Picture: Mike Scialom
Extinction Rebellion supporters plan the order of events at the War Memorial on Hill’s Road. Picture: Mike Scialom

Citing the impact climate change will have on future conflicts as an unprepared world finds resources scarcer, the three-person protest involved a two-minute silence preceded by a speaker urging the online audience to write to their MP asking that they vote in favour of the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill. The CEE Bill aims to set new legally binding environment and climate objectives for the UK and create a Citizen’s Assembly to support the government in meeting those objectives. These include a comprehensive plan to reverse biodiversity loss and restrict carbon emissions in line with the UK’s commitment to the Paris Agreement’s 1.5° C target.

The CEE Bill was presented by Caroline Lucas as a Private Members Bill on September 2, 2020. It was originally tabled for second reading on March 12 this year. However, sittings for Private Members Bills have been suspended until further notice due to current pressure on Parliamentary time. Only a very small number of Private Member’s Bills ever become law, and almost never without government support.

The protest echoed the controversial XR protest at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday last year, with the same banner wording “Honour Their Sacrifice – Climate Change Means War”.

One activist said: “The way to truly honour their memory is to protect the lives of upcoming generations by taking effective action on the ecological and climate crisis that threatens all our futures. Our politicians are failing us. That is why we are here.”

War veteran Donald Bell, who took part in the London action on November 11 and was at the War Memorial event, said: “Unchecked climate change means a return to a world at war. This government is criminally negligent and young people today will pay the price for their failure.”

A Pram Rebellion speech by bereaved mother Jenny Langley appealed for people and the government to take immediate action to protect her granddaughters’ future. Her art installation, based on a double-buggy, offered contrasting futures for our planet: one teeming with life, the other featureless and inert.

Her speech included a plea from the “as yet unborn”, asking that we not give up on their future, and advocating for support for the CEE Bill as the most obvious next step.

“A massive number of MPs could see this Bill becomes law before the UK hosts the COP26 conference,” she said, referring to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference – known as COP26 – which will be hosted in Glasgow in November. “This would be an inspiration for other countries to follow.

A two-minute silence was then held “for those who have died, are dying and will die in war”.

“The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee recently reported that the government still doesn’t have a plan for achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, despite committing to this almost two years ago,” XR said in a statement. “The CEE Bill is our best chance of a serious and comprehensive plan to tackle the greatest challenge humanity faces. This is an incredibly important moment in our planet’s history and decisive action is required now.”

Pram Rebellion at the War Memorial. Picture: Mike Scialom
Pram Rebellion at the War Memorial. Picture: Mike Scialom

The event was socially distant with mask wearing – with the exception of Donald Bell, who is exempt. No police were in attendance in what one activist at the Memorial described as “a hommage to the Cenotaph”.

Another, describing XR’s increased activity since lockdown started easing, said the group aims “to walk the line between being controversial and being offensive”, and of course public opinion adapts accordingly – though for many, Extinction Rebellion’s walk is its talk.

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