In an exceptionally busy week with many ups and downs, what better way to forget about the small stuff than to get out and take action on climate change?
I’ve been on plenty of marches and demonstrations before, but this time the action was physical – I’d signed up to help build a dike in front of the Dutch Parliament in the Hague.
Getting up at 6:30am was bad enough, but worse for one of my fellow activists, who half asleep, forgot that her rail card was only valid after 9AM. A hefty fine later, four of us (from Argentina, the Philippines, Togo and England) were working up a sweat in the February sunshine shovelling sand into bags and carrying them around. There were around a hundred of us, and I’m proud to say we built that 30 metre long dike in just 90 minutes.
There followed another 2 hours of standing around in the February cold, before the speeches began. Though I hadn’t planned on staying around that long, it turned out to be a good opportunity to practice my Dutch, and find out that I even get the jokes.
What was it all about?
We were there to launch a new campaign calling on the Dutch government to bring in a law to tackle climate change.
In the flattest country in Europe, the dike is a powerful symbol, representing the challenges presented by rising water levels. It is an expression of solidarity – water management including dike building is much to important to leave to individuals, when the consequences of a flood can be felt far from the source of the breach. There is even a political/economic framework – called the polder model, which embodies consensus and joint action. So we the people, built a dike, and some politicians came out, if not to join in, at least to show that they were interested.
The Big Ask Europe, a campaign calling for governments in Europe to put their money where their mouths are and introduce legislation aimed at tackling climate change, was launched on the same day.
Yes but will anyone listen?
In the UK where the campaign began in May 2005, the government have introduced a draft Climate Bill. Environmentalists there are campaigning to make sure the legislation will be strong enough to really start to tackle the effects of climate change. It’s a start, but more importantly it shows that change is possible.