Youngsters walk out for their future in Fort climate strike

CLIMATE CHANGE MARCH Picture Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

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Dozens of people turned out in Fort William to raise awareness of the climate emergency as part of the Global Climate Strike.

School children, parents and people who work locally were striking to make their voices heard by politicians who they feel are not doing enough to combat climate change.

Marchers came from Lochaber High School through to Fort William High Street to voice their concerns about the global climate crisis. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

Although not in the thousands like other protests across the UK, the Fort William crowd shared their wishes for the future and ideas for change, outside The Wildcat cafe, which closed to accommodate those striking.

Organiser, Lochaber High School student and Lochaber Times environment columnist, Holly Gillibrand, 14, organised the event in conjunction with the owners of The Wildcat. She said: ‘I really was not expecting this many people to turn out, it has been the best one we have had so far.’

Climate activist Holly also attended The Big Picture rewilding conference in Stirling on Saturday and has been invited to a number of other climate events as a panellist and speaker.

Holly Gillibrand addresses the march. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

In her speech to the crowd, Ms Gillibrand highlighted the recent burning of the Amazon rainforest among other reasons for organising the protest and told the Lochaber Times that even a small protest can have a big voice.

‘Even though we’re out in the middle of nowhere, you can still put pressure on governments to act. There is lots more Lochaber can do to combat climate change. So many people are going around in cars, public transport is not ideal and the level of environmentally-friendly housing also needs to increase.’

The Wildcat allowed for strikers to write in colourful pen on their windows with children and adults alike sharing messages of hope and change.

Striking school children were encouraged to share messages of hope on The Wildcat’s window.  Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

Joint proprietor of the vegan cafe and Greenpeace volunteer, Stephen Kershaw said: ‘As a business, I wanted some art on the window, but I don’t have any art skills myself so I thought I would just let the kids do it. I am going to leave it up there for us long as there are no complaints.

‘It’s not a popular opinion, but if we are serious about saving the environment then private car ownership has to end. Self driving electric cars coupled with accessible public transport and safe bike lanes can reduce our dependence on oil, but there does not seem to be any desire for that.

‘This global protest has shown that there is a mandate for change to the regular way of doing things.’

Messages from strikers written on The Wildcat window.

A microphone was set up for anyone who wanted to say a few words and school children from around Lochaber, residents and people from out of the area had passionate messages to share.

Church of Scotland minister Richard Baxter joked that Friday did not technically count as a day of work for him. He said: ‘I am glad to be led by the people who care about the issue and are most affected by it. People of my generation need to learn from those of yours to have the same clarity of vision and willingness to act that you have.’

Margaret Bauhaus, 80, from California was visiting Scotland and wanted to share the strike with the local community. She said: ‘My husband and I think it is fabulous what you are doing here and I want you to know that in California there are thousands of people marching today towards the same ends as you. Even if the President of the USA doesn’t seem like he cares, we do.’

Strikers took part in a symbolic ‘die out’ to raise awareness of the mass extinction currently happening. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

Highland Council declared a Climate Emergency earlier this year and has committed to becoming completely carbon neutral by 2025.

Recent meetings of the Highland Council have highlighted the need for action, with a focus on planting more trees wherever possible, a trial of environmentally friendly weedkiller to replace Glyphosate and a new plan to add more wild flower areas after community consultations.

These efforts are the first moves to help soak up more carbon from the atmosphere with more trees and plants and do whatever possible to reduce the impact the council makes.

More pictures and video of the event can be found on the @lochabertimes Instagram page HERE, under the story highlights section.