Celebrating action on climate change

Darragh Martin attended an event to celebrate the campaign which helped end council’s investment in fossil fuel industry

Divestival at Waltham Forest Town Hall

Campaigners and councillors celebrate the successful Divest Waltham Forest campaign on the steps of Waltham Forest Town Hall

Those curious as to what exactly a ‘divestival’ entailed found out last month as Friends of the Earth Waltham Forest celebrated the council’s landmark decision to divest its pension fund from fossil fuels.

The event started outside Waltham Forest Town Hall where people from the campaign and the council held up a ‘forest’ of large letters that spelled out ‘Divest Waltham Forest’. Neither the drizzle nor the challenges of group-spelling could dampen spirits and the crowd reconvened across the road at YMCA East London’s community café for the remainder of the planned Divestival festivities; live music, poetry, speeches, a giant paper maché tree decorated with people’s positive messages, a raffle in aid of communities impacted by climate change, and food from Walthamstow’s popular Hornbeam Cafe.

The speeches were made by local politicians as well as campaigners, both outlining the urgent case for divestment. Other speakers included representatives from local environmental groups such as Organiclea.

Councillor Yemi Osho noted the terrifying impacts of climate change already being felt: “I’ve seen the damage that energy companies have done to the climate, most especially in Africa, in countries like Nigeria.”

Councillor Simon Miller described the compelling financial arguments for divestment as well as the opportunity it presents to tackle environmental pollution: “We should all be working towards delivering a cleaner, greener future, not just for fund members but for our residents and families.”

But nine-year old Lilly Obregon stole the show with an inspiring speech about the joys of being a climate campaigner, from making cupcakes and banners for marches in Paris to helping convince the local council in Southwark to divest from fossil fuels. Lilly said of her part in the mass climate protests in Paris: “I felt extraordinary marching with so many people.”

The ultimately successful campaign in Waltham Forest might have been on a somewhat smaller scale than that in Paris in December 2015 but it did feel extraordinary to be surrounded by so many local people working to create a brighter future.

Before I got involved with the divestment movement myself, I felt quite overwhelmed by the enormity of tackling climate change; now I see the value of taking local action that can have an international impact and lead you to meet inspiring people and eat delicious cake.

Anybody interested in getting involved with London’s divestment movement is invited to check out some of the upcoming actions scheduled for May. I can’t promise that it won’t rain but there’s nothing like taking action for a better future to keep you warm!

If you’d like to get involved in the divest movement aimed at persuading large organisations to divest from fossil fuels:

Visit globaldivestmentmobilisation.org/uk