Hackney residents have donated hundreds of children’s shoes to Extinction Rebellion’s latest installation at Trafalgar Square.
The square was covered with over 2000 pieces of footwear in a protest urging the government to act on the climate crisis during the coronavirus recovery on Monday.
Protestors followed social distancing guidelines and wore masks. Volunteers held up banners which said: “Covid today > Climate tomorrow > Act now.”
Extinction Rebellion has said the shoes send a “chilling reminder” to the government to protect children and young people during the recovery from the pandemic, as they are the most vulnerable to the climate emergency we are likely to suffer.
Extinction Rebellion has pledged the shoes donated by local neighbours, parents, and teachers will be given to Shoe Aid, a charity working with some of the largest organisations in the UK to reduce shoe poverty and footwear waste, following the protest.
The protest comes as the UK eases lockdown and the government begins moving towards business-as-usual with its carbon intensive industries. XR said: “This may result in them writing off chances of keeping within Paris Climate Agreement promises.”
The action is part of XR’s ‘No Going Back’ campaign, through which they have asked the government not to bail out environmentally destructive industries such as aviation. According to a YouGov survey, only 9% of the population wants to go back to the way things were before the pandemic, and 48% agree that the government should respond with the same urgency to the climate crisis as they have to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Deepa Shah, a GP from Hackney and XR activist, said: “We’re living through one of those rare moments in history when everything can change. British people have shown throughout this crisis how deeply we value our health and well-being. There are now multiple paths before us; we could choose to go back to our destructive past, or we could choose a future that gives our children a chance. Coronavirus will end but climate change is here to stay.”
Poppy Silk, 19, a member of XR Youth, said: “Not enough is being done to prepare for the climate crisis. Many young people feel suffocated by fear of what is to come, and now with this pandemic maybe others will start to understand our fear for the future. This action highlights that, even whilst healing from the pandemic, we must move towards a green transition to prevent future crises.”
XR said: “With eco-anxiety rapidly growing among young people and action on climate change likely be pushed back because of the pandemic, there has never been a more glaring opportunity to protect the lives of young people and address both.”
They added that the government failed to listen to expert warnings and prepare for the pandemic, as they are doing with the climate and ecological emergency.