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Climate / Sun shines in town as Lerwick joins global climate strike

Some of the event organisers in front of the Market Cross. Photo: P. Johnson/Shetland News.

A BIG crowd turned out at the Market Cross in Lerwick today (Friday) to protest against climate change.

About 200 people of all ages filled the Cross at mid-day to get the message across that climate change is real and needs to be tackled now.

The event was one of thousands across the UK and abroad and was part of the wider anti-climate change movement started by Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg.

This time adults were invited to join in the “Fridays for future” demonstration, which has normally been held by schoolchildren and was organised locally by Eco Youth Shetland on one occasion in the summer.

Placards figured prominently in the protest. Photo: P. Johnson/Shetland News.

It was a very cross-generational and colourful crowd at the Market Cross ranging from pensioners to babes in arms. Placards and protest calls also figured prominently at the event.

Anderson High School pupils Laura Bisset and Celestine Verdcourt-Laurenson addressed the gathering saying the crisis was affecting millions of people.

“We cannot reverse it but we can stop it getting much worse. The window of opportunity has almost closed and if we continue with business as usual we will miss that opportunity,” they said.

“Today gives Shetlanders the chance to join the global climate strikes. It’s going to take all of us working together to succeed in treating this crisis with the utmost priority.”

Members of the group also said they were bitterly disappointed that Shetland Islands Council has chosen not to join the growing number of local authorities that have declared a climate change emergency.

Instead the council says an action plan should be in place before it sees fit to declare an emergency.

Kay Sutherland and Suze Walker joined the protest. Photo: P.Johnson/Shetland News.

Shetland has one of the largest “carbon footprints” per head of population of any local authorities, meaning the isles contribute more than their fair share of greenhouse gasses.

One of the organisers, Isa Kristiansen-Bragg, said it was “really heartening” to see so many people turn out for the strike.

“It shows the strength of feeling in the community and we have been hearing from a lot of people that they feel very passionate about the climate crisis and they have been looking for a safe space to make their voice heard,” she said.

“The climate crisis is affecting people right now, people are having their homes destroyed right now. There is a window of opportunity. We cannot change what’s already happened, but what we can do is reduce the likelihood of it getting much worse.

“I think that people feel quite heartened that the window of opportunity is still open, but I’m not sure for how long people will have hope.”

Marianne Tarrant and Rose Young. Photo: P. Johnson/Shetland News.

Marianne Tarrant and Rose Young had come in from the West Side for the event.

Tarrant said: “We are here for the planet, to try and save it if we can.”

Young added: “I think what we need to do now is for governments to come together, realise that this is an emergency, and do something.

“We can come together for wars, for nuclear power, we need to come together to sort this because it needs everybody.”

She said that the argument that ‘we cannot afford it’ does not hold water. “We cannot afford not to do it,” added Tarrant. “The temperature is rising much faster than predicted. How are we going to be in Shetland if every summer is 40, 45 degrees – we are going to be in big trouble.

“I don’t want to over emphasise it, or scare people, but that’s where we are going.”

Few would have argued with the sun shining in Lerwick near the end of September, but there are schisms within the anti-climate change lobby, with those either disappointed or delighted that Viking Energy has failed in its bid for a government backed contract to supply energy to the grid.

Tarrant added: “It’s getting to be too late but we have got to live with hope. The latest windmill crisis [Viking Energy] does not fill you with hope.”