A group of student protesters marched through Oxford streets last Monday, demanding climate action both within the University and throughout the country.
Cycling under the joint banners of Climate Rush and OUSU’s Environment and Ethics (E&E) Committee, the students were dressed as suffragettes and chanted “Deeds not words”.
The choice of a bike-mounted protest was to criticise the government’s decision in promoting electric cars as a green solution and their proposals for four new coal fired power stations.
Jake Colman, a member of the E&E committee, praised the demonstration, saying “Bikes, drumming, chanting and saving the planet – I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon!”
The protests began in Wellington Square, with the protesters demanding that the Vice-Chancellor employs Sustainability Officer, a position which has been unadvertised for the past six months. They also wanted the University to follow a year-on-year emissions goals in order to meet a 20% reduction by 2020.
Julia Koskella, chair of the E&E committee said, “We are asking for concrete, achievable changes in the University and town. The suffragette costumes are drawing a lot of support for our campaign – it’s a positive, engaging stunt.”
After riding around the city centre, the Climate Rushers finished on Cornmarket Street to highlight the energy wastage of High Street shops which leave their lights on at night.
The protesters had sent letters to each of the shops which had left their wares well-lit the night before. They asked the shop managers to “Switch Off Climate Change”, by saving energy through switching off their lights at closing time.
Two shops responded, Pret à Manger and Snappy Snaps, and these were awarded with Certificates of Appreciation. Those shops which did not heed the protester’s requests were given Certificates of Disapproval.
Lighting accounts for 20% of the UK’s electrical energy usage. That’s
equivalent to 10 coal fired power stations, or about 73 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
Lucie Kinchin, a 2nd-year Pembroke student involved in organising the protests, said she was appalled by the actions of shops who had decided not to switch off. “Lighting that advertises products to empty streets at four o’clock in the
morning is not only completely unnecessary, but totally irresponsible in the
face of catastrophic climate change. These companies need to switch off.”
“Since climate change is happening now, positive change must
One passer-by commented, “The certificates are a great idea! It’s a really good action, as it’s achievable and fun. Using humiliation and ridicule to get stuff done is very effective.”
The University spokesperson commented on the protests, “The University upholds anyone’s right to protest, as long as that protest is carried out peacefully and within the law.”