I first heard of the Zaragoza walkers about a month ago, and completely by chance. I had wandered into my local Oxfam for a browse and bumped into its manager and local XR buddy, Jess. She told me about a group of people marching to Glasgow – from North Eastern Spain! – for COP 26, and that our spa town of Harrogate would play host to them the weekend of 16th October. I was amazed. But as I´ve never been great with words, all I could offer as a response was “Oh my god! That´s amazing!” So, I teamed up with my eco comrades to give the walkers a proper Northern welcome.
We greeted them with a tasty, locally-sourced dinner, live folk music and, of course, plenty of cups of tea. After a warm welcome, a number of us at Harrogate XR gave a cheery farewell to the walkers, honoured that we could play a small part in their huge journey to climate justice.
Back to today. I am currently sat in a church hall in Blantyre, having accompanied the Marcha a Glasgow on their final leg. I arrived on Friday, where I was greeted with smiles, hugs and scrumptious food. As well as being inspirational (I can´t say I had met anyone willing to walk 1000km to demand climate action before this), the Zaragoza walkers, along with those who´ve joined along the way, are downright friendly. Even after 29 days of walking (with no days off), engaging with hosts and – most importantly – sharing the desperate need for governments and large corporations to stick to the Paris Agreement global warming limit!
Though the limit stipulates a maximum of 2 degrees warming (before irreversible global damage is done), the world´s current fossil fuel consumption puts us on a trajectory of 4 degrees warming. So yes, time to act. And because global leaders won´t, the Zaragoza walkers have. They set off on the last day of their journey with the same passion for climate action that inspired me when I first met them. We began our journey from Blantyre at an early 08:00am, where we were joined by a fellow group of climate activists, the Camino to Cop ´Pilgrimage for Climate Justice´.
Though Camino to Cop are a religious subsidiary of XR, both our groups are united by one hope: that governments seize the opportunity of COP 26 to turn the tide of climate change before it´s too late. We walked to Glasgow in a combined group of 120 people, which made crossing busy roads interesting! Fortunately, most of our journey was made up of footpaths and cycle paths, all lined with the browning leaves of autumn – as well as a few muddy banks!
One path that sticks out was flooded to the point where we really could not pass through it without getting soaked. And so, our joined team of 120 bypassed it by slowly climbing its banks. Trust me, this is no mean feat when you´re carrying massive banners and rucksacks! But still, we managed – and it wasn´t long until we entered Glasgow Green.
Here, we met various other XR and climate activists, as well as the gorgeous XR wellbeing volunteers who supplied food and emotional support. Not to mention, many in the Zaragoza group gave interviews to Press, including LBC and BBC representatives. After stressing the urgency for stopping the planet´s warming to the point of ecological collapse to the press, we marched with our fellow activists to George Square. Our colourful procession, laden with banners, flags and powerful chants, took us through key public areas of Glasgow – and our walk through Buchanan Street, the city´s main high street, gave us the high level of exposure needed to get our message across.
Our Marcha a Glasgow team marched proudly, holding our ´Fair deal for the Global South´ banner and singing ´Bella Ciao´ as loudly as we could, as well as chants created by the Marcha a Glasgow during their walk and some we devised on the spot. A personal favourite is one suggested by Nicki, who organised where the walkers stayed in the UK and who, like all the Marcha a Glasgow walkers, is an all-round excellent being: “Don´t just watch us, come and join us!”
Written by: Beth Andralojc