Urgent message from climate activists to G7: don’t drown us in empty promises

Drowning in promises, Westward Ho!, North Devon. Message to the G7

Visitors to Westward Ho! on Saturday lunchtime would have been intrigued by a huge message, DROWNING IN PROMISES, inscribed in the sand, and at Ilfracombe’s Wildersmouth Cove on Sunday afternoon they were astonished to be greeted by the spectacle of seven people in suits sitting around a table in the sea as the incoming tide lapped around their ankles.

G7 climate protest in Wildersmouth Cove

The effect of the latter was comical, but the message, reflecting the words in the sand at Westward Ho!, deadly serious. Members of North Devon Extinction Rebellion staged the events to highlight vital decisions which need to be made at the G7 summit, starting in Carbis Bay, Cornwall on 11th June, if the world is to avoid the catastrophic effects of global heating.

Each person at the table represented a G7 leader, complete with face mask and flag of each of the seven countries: UK, Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and the US. Jill Apperly, spokesperson for XR explained,

“North Devon’s actions this weekend anticipate the national movement starting on Tuesday, as a ‘wave’ sweeps down the country towards Cornwall, raising awareness that the tide is coming in and we are running out of time. Global leaders have made enough promises to drown all of us, and that is literally what will happen if action is not taken now.”

The situation could not be more serious, she continued, 

“The world’s leaders must make immediate and binding promises to cut CO2 emissions to zero, if the world has any chance of avoiding the worst effects of climate change: sea level rise, mass extinction of species, vastly increasing instances of drought, flooding, hurricanes and heat waves. Yet, all the signs suggest the world has not fully woken up to the severity of the situation. Only this week a report from the charity Tearfund showed the G7 nations have continued to pump billions more dollars into funding fossil fuels than into developing clean energy.”

Campaigners on the beaches were preceded by a show of banners at Barnstaple’s famous Barnhenge roundabout throughout the day on Friday, so motorists could also get a taste of Cornish events to come.

Protest at Barnhenge roundabout, Barnstaple

Rising sea levels will affect many in North Devon and Torridge

The effects of climate change seemed far away from the sunny weekend, but a leaflet handed out to passers by pointed out the disastrous effects which will affect local communities. Projections of sea level rise affecting North Devon and Torridge indicate a future worst case scenario of many beaches in the area disappearing. Parts of Barnstaple, Bideford, Braunton, Fremington, Westward Ho!, Instow and Appledore will be uninhabitable. The invaluable biodiversity of Braunton and Northam Burrows will be devastated. (The public can see the full report here.

Extinction Rebellion protestors at Barnhenge roundabout, Barnstaple

Lundy Island’s puffins at risk

Out to sea, the island of Lundy looked particularly idyllic; many visitors to Ilfracombe had taken a boat trip to see the iconic puffin there but according to a WWF report, just one of the many casualties of climate change could be that this beautiful bird may soon be extinct.

If the world heats 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, sand eels – a large part of the puffins’ diet – will start to die out with a disastrous effect on the puffin population. The world is already at 1ºC above pre-industrial levels, so this scenario is terrifyingly close.

The climate activists in the sea in Ilfracombe were getting wet for a reason: to send an urgent message to the G7 leaders.