It’s not about numbers, it’s about love

To count the people on the streets of London for yesterday’s mass climate lobby misses the point, writes Louise Gray

A demonstrator opposite the Palace of Westminster (Pic: Alex Pashley)

A demonstrator opposite the Palace of Westminster (Pic: Alex Pashley)

By Louise Gray

I’ve been on enough protest marches to know numbers can be a fluid thing. 

The Climate Coalition who organised the For The Love Of march in London this week, claim 8-10,000 people turned up.

According to The Guardian it was 9,000 including “nuns, surfers and beekeepers”.

Tweeters called it a fantasy figure.

@BarryJWoods tweeted: i see about 70 people… funny how nobody managed to make to picture of 1000’s [sic] of people attending.

It is not unusual to disagree over numbers on marches. Estimates for the People’s Climate March in New York late last year ranged from 310,000 to more than 400,000.

Looking back at cuts I see that I predicted that 80,000 people would turn up for The Wave march before the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in 2009.

In the end Stop Climate Chaos said it was 40,000 – the Met Police counted 20,000.  Like I said: marches are notoriously difficult to count, never mind to predict *ahem*.

But to get stuck on numbers misses the point. Yesterday’s protest was not in fact a march, it was a lobby.

The Climate Coalition, the new name for Stop Climate Chaos, realised a long time ago that just walking through the streets shouting was not going to achieve anything.

The “For the Love Of Speak Up” event was in fact a direct lobby of politicians and to date the largest UK lobby on climate change.

Instead of marching, participants had come to speak directly to their MPs. The reason it looked like there were so few people was because they were spread from the Embankment all the way to the House of Commons.

Some 330 MPs came out to speak to their constituents, including 150 newbies who had never experienced a mass lobby before.

The Climate Coalition took MPs to their constituents gathered at different spots along the route and in some cases met them inside the House of Commons.

This is why it looked like there were less than the 9,000 or so people who had registered.

Also, it was a Wednesday afternoon and most of us were at work.

Politicians don’t really worry about the people who can get the day off work to go on a march, they worry about the millions who can’t and the Climate Coalition represents 11 million of them across their 100 member organisations.

I know we are just out of an election but that’s an awful lot of votes to make politicians sit up and listen.

The lobby was also an opportunity to educate and inform MPs, some of whom are new to the House of Commons, in the run up to crucial climate change talks in Paris at the end of this year.

The policy asks handed to the MPs in person by their constituents suggest areas where MPs could make a real difference.

We’re not just talking domestically, ensuring energy efficient homes and investing in renewable energy, but globally – by supporting a global deal to keep temperature rise below 2C.

So it’s not just about numbers but if it were, here’s a number: 1.2 billion.

That’s how many Catholics there are in the world and since the Pope has just declared climate change as a major threat, I think we can rely on them to be marching in future.

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