4:30am seemed like a very early time to bee meeting at Blackpool North train station, especially as we met there before the station even opened. There was a sense of excitement in the air as a sleepy group of 6 students from St Marys' CAFOD group met together for our special day trip to London on Wednesday 26th June. We watched the sun rise as we boarded the train to Preston to meet the coach that would take us down to London to meet our MP's as part of The time Is Now lobby on climate change. We joined friends from Our Lady's Lancaster, St Mary's Brownedge and Thornleigh schools on the coach down to London and spent some time on our journey getting to know each other, creating flags and reflecting on the importance of the day.
When we got to London, we headed over to Church House for an inspirational interfaith service led by important figures from all religions. They spoke to us about the importance of climate change from their faith perspective. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, told us that "we are living in a bubble, believing that some technology or escape to another planet will be our solution" and that if we imagine the world as a tree, the human race is sawing off the branch we are sitting on". Quari Asim MBE spoke beautifully about the creation story in Islam and described climate change as a smoldering fire that is slowly burning into an unstoppable flame. Anya Nanning Ramamurthy, a Quaker, who has taken a lead role in the recent schools' protests on climate change reminded us that "We have God in us, and it's about time we started acting like it." And many of our students' favourite speaker, Vishpavani, a Buddhist teacher, told us "The climate has no religion. We breathe the same air. It is not left wing or right wing. And it doesn't care about Brexit."
Inspired by listening to such great speakers, our small group headed out to Victoria Tower Gardens to meet with our MP's and tell them how important climate change is to us. We first met Paul Maynard, who told us about his trip to the Philippines with Christian Aid to see the effects of Typhoon Haiyan. He said when he saw what had happened there, he was convinced: "We have to act," he told us. He said that our Catholic faith and in particular Pope Francis' Laudato Si should inspire us to set optimistic challenges that may be hard for us to reach, but we should strive for, and that we should be leading the world, setting an example by reducing our emissions and reaching Net Zero as quickly as possible. We spoke about the issue of rising sea levels in our town and the need for better flood defenses, and he set us the challenge of walking and cycling more, using less energy and wasting fewer resources.
Just after we said goodbye to Paul, the whole place erupted in noise. Nearly 12,000 people had gathered together that day to speak to their MP's, and every one of them had brought an alarm clock set to ring at 2pm. The message was this: time is running out for our planet. We need change, and we need it now! Our students were overwhelmed at the amount of noise that was made by everyone calling for the same thing- climate justice. We were even more surprised 2 minutes later when Steve Backshall from the BBC turned up just behind us for a TV interview! Our students were very pleased to be able to pose for a selfie with him!
We met Gordon Marsden, who told us about the new "green" apprenticeships he had created in the town and how he was against fracking. He asked us about what we do in school to reduce our carbon footprint and challenged us to make some noise by speaking to shops and shopping centres about the need for less packaging and more electric car charging points.
After such an intense morning, we spent some time at the schools zone, taking part in some activities and had a brief site seeing tour before heading home. We were even lucky enough to be given some free vegan ice cream, which was being handed out to everyone who came to the lobby!
Reflecting on our day during the journey home, Hanna said "It felt incredible just to gather with everyone and contribute. I believe that our MP was rather inspired by all the people who turned up, and I feel like he'll help and try to speak about climate change to the rest of parliament." Jess said "I am inspired to recycle more, to set an example so other people will copy." Kyla said "I am going to tell my family and friends: do the best you can to help slow down climate change." A message for us all, and one that the CAFOD group will be considering in our activities moving forward into the next school year.