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In pictures: Extinction Rebellion’s Ocean March brings blue wave to Cambridge




The first Ocean March, a new expression of Extinction Rebellion’s climate activism, went off peacefully in the centre of Cambridge on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon.

XR’s Ocean March in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
XR’s Ocean March in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Dressed in blue, turquoise and green, the second march of the bank holiday weekend was a family-friendly alarm bell for the plight of the oceans and seas, whose mood was more of a carnival than a funeral.

Protesters showcased their hopes for a more sustainable future with biodegradable, recycled and upcycled materials used in a flock of craft creations which included flags, papier mache sea creatures, umbrella jellyfish and tin can samba shakers.

XR’s Ocean March in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
XR’s Ocean March in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

The campaigners – from XR Youth Cambridge (ages 18-30), XR Cambridge Next Generation (under 18s) and Animal Rebellion Cambridge – gathered on Christ’s Pieces at lunchtime, and the march moved on through town and on to King’s Parade, where speakers delivered their oratory on the lawn of King’s College, highlighting that the “beauty and diversity” of the natural world is under threat due to the climate and ecological crisis - and “the plight of the oceans and seas” in particular.

“The government is distracting us from the seriousness of the crisis,”said one speaker. “We’re on target for a four degree rise in temperature from pre-industrial times, with floods in Bangladesh and rising water in Pacific Islands - 30 per cent of the world’s population is experiencing water scarcity.”

Shamira, another speaker, from Cambridge March Against Racism told the crowd of around 250 people: “The ocean is, through the destruction it is facing and the protection it is giving, on the frontline of the climate and ecological crisis. Similarly, frontline communities and ecosystems are at the forefront of both environmental devastation and the defence against it.

“Today, we are using the ocean as a metaphor to explain why we need to dismantle the systems of oppression that create and maintain this frontline if we want to prevent further global overheating, biodiversity loss and pollution.

Taking the knee for March Against Racism as Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ places on the sound system. Picture: Mike Scialom
Taking the knee for March Against Racism as Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ places on the sound system. Picture: Mike Scialom

“Indigenous Pacific Islanders, who are experiencing these injustices first hand right now as their land is among the first lost to rising sea levels, have a message for us: ‘We are not drowning, we are fighting.’ Here, in Cambridge, we must be part of this global fight.”

Shamira then invited those assembled to take the knee as Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ was played through the sound system.

XR’s Ocean March in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
XR’s Ocean March in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

An XR East of England activist at the protest said: “Life on Earth depends on the ocean. It regulates and regenerates everything we need for survival – providing nutrients, fresh water, weather systems, and half of the oxygen we breathe – and hosts countless biodiverse ecosystems.

It is also shielding us from the worst impacts of global overheating – storing 28 per cent of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans since 1750, and 90 per cent of the excess heat trapped by these emissions since 1970. However, this is putting the ocean under serious threat.

“Rising temperatures are causing ocean water to expand (contributing to sea level rise) and dissolved oxygen to evaporate (depriving sea creatures of a vital life support system), as well as disrupting weather systems (intensifying storms and increasing the frequency of extreme weather events).

“Meanwhile, increasing amounts of dissolved carbon dioxide are making the ocean more acidic. Together, these factors are driving catastrophic biodiversity loss – such as the collapse of reef ecosystems across the world due to coral bleaching – and flash flooding.

XR’s Ocean March in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
XR’s Ocean March in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

“This year began with floods in Jakarta, Indonesia that killed 66 people and displaced 60,000.

“Within just the last month, floodwaters have covered a third of Bangladesh – with the overall death toll of the South Asian monsoon season, which has also torn through India, Nepal and Pakistan, now over 1,300.”

“It was a terrific feeling leading the wave round Cambridge,” said Red Rebel Linda Richardson , who led the blue dancers, “and even more vibrant because it brought some beautiful energy to the centre of Cambridge. I think people were happy to see us.”

The march comes ahead of two weeks of nationally-coordinated protests in London, Cardiff and Manchester tomorrow (September 1), coinciding with the reopening of Parliament.

Last Friday, XR’s Oily Handed protest in Cambridge led to nine people being charged.

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