COP26: Party atmosphere at a protest that dares to hope - Alexander Brown

It was a protest where you had to be there. Not on time, but you had to be there.

Organisers invited protesters to arrive from 10am, but the march did not start for hours after that, meaning those in a rush to save the world and arrived early got to stand around for hours in the pouring Glasgow rain.

And what rain it was, the kind of miserable weather that makes American pundits debase themselves by saying climate change isn’t real.

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It was the sort of day you’d look at and go back to bed, cancelling plans in favour of coffee and the quilt.

Climate March in Glasgow. Picture: Lisa Ferguson/JPIMedia

A day greyer than parodies of Scottish weather, the kind that sees you wear a mask outside not be Covid compliant but to stave off the cold.

Yet they still came, despite it appearing at least superficially that they do not need to.

COP26 is literally happening, world leaders are meeting to try to save the world, but having met 25 times previously, perhaps this is a cause to not stop shouting about.

And people have not. There have been protests throughout COP26, with around 30,000 people marching on Friday, but the weekend numbers blew it out the water.

An estimated 100,000 marched in Glasgow because a climate emergency is not just for Christmas, it’s forever, which isn’t very long if we carry on like this.

And it was a party atmosphere. The world is burning, and these people were here to have a good time trying to save it.

The day combined all the best bits of similar protests with none of the conflict, featuring an atmosphere so infectious even the weather showed solidarity, sprinkling sunshine across the afternoon.

Communists marched alongside socialists, trade unionists stood with environmental groups, and absolutely everyone was smiling.

There was drumming and dancing, jazz musicians, and inexplicably some wonderful Bristolians dressed up as Ghostbusters.

It was hard not to dance walking past each section, or find yourself warmed by the pure joy radiating from those waving flags.

So often protests can descend into violence, or have an edge of nastiness under the surface.

And while there were a few slightly unsavoury signs, it was all done with a warmth and humour from people brimming with enthusiasm, despite everything.

It was also, and I cannot stress this enough, not just vegans and hippies.

This is a diverse and representative block of the population who have given up their day in a week where everyone has been talking about climate change to make it clear urgent action is needed now.

They were informed, satirical, and well aware of exactly what they wanted from those that govern us.

It’s easy to dismiss these things as pointless protest to world leaders disinclined to listen, but that’s not really fair.

Nations are negotiating and discussing the issues right now, and all next week. Glasgow and the rest of the world have made it clear that the public are watching.

What’s more, they’ve had a lovely time doing it, which is probably what’s required if the world is going to end after all.

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