‘Dying Earth’ funeral march through the streets of Lewes

Photograph by Andy Wing
Photograph by Andy Wing

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Lewes on Saturday in a protest march against climate change.

Led by a bagpiper in full regalia and followed by six pallbearers carrying a coffin symbolising our ‘Dying Earth’ and six people carrying gravestones for dying species, the demonstration was organised by Lewes Extinction Rebellion.

Colourful banners with slogans such as ‘Now or Never: Wake Up!’, ‘Stop Fossil Fools’ and ‘Climate Crisis: Don’t Leave it to your Children!’ were billowing in the high winds and the characteristic yellow and green armbands of the XR group were splashes of colour amongst the black funereal theme.

Participants marched to the solemn tones of the pipes and drums and the prevailing feelings seemed to be anger mixed with hope.

Concerns from participants included: “Species are dying now. We need to pressurise our Government to act immediately; we only have an 11-year window to turn this around. We can create a more equal future for everybody.”

Also: “An alien, looking down at Earth would wonder why this isn’t the only story in town. And yet somehow it isn’t. We don’t want to break the law, but we feel we have no choice.”

And: “I’m terrified for the next generations. My children need us to tell the truth and give them a future.”

People of all ages attended the event, from babies in papooses and buggies to school children and students, fresh from school strikes for climate, along with grandparents concerned for their grandchildren’s future.

The march proceeded from the Castle Precincts, down School Hill and onto Cliffe Bridge, where speeches were led by Rev Peter Owen-Jones, Vicar of Firle and TV personality, who spoke movingly about the destruction of the planet and the need to make peace with nature to ensure children can live in peace and not fear.

Members of Extinction Rebellion spoke eloquently about the threat to animals, birds, insects, fish and plants as well as human beings, who are all threatened by climate change, illustrated by six tombstones, one for each species.

A ceremonial death of species followed on the bridge, with the chalked outlines of the species’ spokespeople remaining on the ground where they had lain.

A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion read out the aims of the movement: for government and media to tell the public the truth about the emerging climate emergency; to enact policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025; to create a national Citizens’ Assembly to oversee these changes.

The event was closed with singing by the Zu Choir from Brighton Their deep, earthy harmonies were carried away on the winds across the river, connecting the crowd to their setting.

An organiser said: “Our procession has shown that the tradition of rebellion in Lewes is alive and kicking, and now, more than ever, we need that rebellious spirit!

“We will continue to act locally and nationally to force the Government to take action. We are holding an open meeting at The White Hart in Lewes on March 28 at 7pm. Please join us.”