BRISTOL CATHEDRAL provided a base for the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, before her speech on Friday at a rally in the city calling for greater action to tackle the climate crisis.
Despite heavy rain, the 17-year-old, who began the school-strike movement by sitting outside the Swedish Parliament every Friday, was met by a crowd of 25,000 people, including numerous schoolchildren. Many schools had closed, allowing their pupils to attend the rally, while people left their offices to come and hear her speak.
Dressed in a yellow mac and woolly hat, she praised the recent decision on climate grounds by North Somerset Council to reject plans to expand Bristol Airport.
She said: “The other week, the plans to expand Bristol Airport were cancelled — a lot thanks to climate activists. And, of course, this is far from enough; but it shows that it does actually make a difference. Activism works. So I’m telling you to act.
“If you look throughout history, all the great changes have come from the people. We are being betrayed by the people in power, and they are failing us, but we will not back down. If you feel threatened by that, then I have some very bad news for you: we will not be silenced, because we are the change, and change is coming, whether you like it or not.”
Diocese of BristolGreta Thunberg meets the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull
Before she addressed the crowds, and joined them on the subsequent march through the city, she spent time preparing in Bristol Cathedral.
The Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, met Miss Thunberg in the Chapter House. Bishop Faull said on Monday: “It was truly inspiring to listen to Greta Thunberg talk with such conviction about the urgent need for change and to see so many of the city’s children and young people actively campaigning for the protection of our planet and their future.
“The diocese of Bristol has declared a climate emergency and pledged to achieve a net-zero-carbon position for 2030. The climate strikes today really highlighted the need not just to acknowledge the issue, but to act. This is what the Church and all of us must now focus on.”
The Bishop’s Chaplain and a Residentiary Canon of the cathedral, the Revd Professor Martin Gainsborough, said: “It was moving and powerful to see her and her young supporters sat around in the Chapter House, discussing the day ahead. They seemed very calm and relaxed. It’s exciting for the city that she came: there is a real appetite for tackling climate change here.”
It was Canon Gainsborough who moved the amendment at the General Synod to accelerate the Church’s decarbonisation efforts and set a net zero target of 2030 (Comment, 21 February).
He continued: “We have worked hard as a diocese to engage with her visit; so it was nice to be able to host her at the cathedral. The Synod vote to quicken our pace towards net zero made it feel like our coming alongside had more credibility. If we weren’t doing anything much, then it could have rung a bit hollow.”
Miss Thunberg’s visit to Bristol was also welcomed by the Mayor, Marvin Rees, who attends Hope Community Church in the city. He posted a message on Twitter: “Welcome GretaThunberg & all the young people who’ve come to Bristol today. We’re a city at the forefront of action on climate & social justice & have just launched our Climate Strategy with the urgent action needed to achieve #CarbonNeutrality by 2030.”
Diocese of BristolCrowds outside Bristol Cathedral on Friday
For Phil Kingston, who is 84, a retired parole officer, and a former lecturer at Bristol University, the visit was especially significant. A member of Christian Climate Action, he was arrested as part of the Extinction Rebellion protests last year, after climbing on top of a DLR train at Canary Wharf.
He said: “It’s a great privilege to have Greta Thunberg visit Bristol. She has been such an inspiration to so many people around the world for taking a stand on climate breakdown. Sitting outside that Swedish Parliament building on her own taking on the climate crisis, she reminds me of David versus Goliath.
“But David won that battle, and, with millions of others now beside her, we need to win this fight, too. I was fortunate enough to share a platform with Greta at the Extinction Rebellion week of action last April in London. I’m 84 years old and she’s a teenager — which shows you’re never too young or too old to take action.”