The Big One: Stories like these are not told in the mainstream media

Over the weekend of 21st – 24th April 2023, Culture Declares Emergency joined 100,000 others in a peaceful, joyful protest and call to action, raising voice, awareness and community concern toward the climate and biodiversity crises, and the lack of Government action in response. However, we were particularly disappointed by the lack of coverage and willingness to tell stories of positive, non-disruptive, climate action in mainstream media. It demonstrates a failure to fulfil the role of responsible media to inform, criticize and hold accountable.

Esther Abramson, of CDE Ilkley, Wharfedale and Airedale, shares their experience of attending the event in this blog post.

On the weekend of my 26th birthday, I attended The Big One. Four days of peaceful protests in Westminster calling for government action on climate change. The event was organized by Extinction Rebellion, supported by over 200 different groups and attended by thousands of individuals from all over the country. It was an impressive affair and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The sense of community and creativity hosted by the event was as inspiring as the scale of it, and the organizing required to make it happen. It felt reassuring to be united with so many people in expression of love and concern for our planet, and of rage at the government’s inaction. As a young person who has felt increasingly disempowered during my political lifetime, marching through London chanting ‘This is what Democracy looks like,’ seemed a healthy outlet for the rage and disappointment that has built up over the years. 

On the first day, I joined the picket, in the rain, outside DCMS with CDE, asking those that work in the cultural sector to join us in telling better stories, stories of connection, imagination and inspiration surrounding the challenges we face. And, demanding DCMS provides better support for those of us doing this work. On the second day, prior to the biodiversity march, I helped run a CDE block printing station where together with fellow CDE’ers we sent out hundreds of swallows printed on clothing, bags and fabrics. The sun came out for us that morning, there was energy of excitement in the air and joy on faces as swallows were revealed. Swallows are a symbol of positive change and the arrival of brighter seasons. Taking action in communion with 100 000 other people over the four days of peaceful protests definitely felt like positive change was possible whilst I was there. 

The problem is, however, that stories like these are not told in the mainstream media. Certainly not in a way that celebrates the culture, creativity and imagination at play in these kinds of actions. You could be forgiven for not having noticed this event was happening. London is a city that can easily absorb that amount of activity without it being noticed elsewhere in the city.  The BBC thought it only briefly relevant to show on BBC London and a few radio stations. Essentially, if you weren’t looking for it in the news you would be unlikely to find it.  At one point over the weekend, caught up in a crowd of onlookers, I overheard someone complaining about the lack of publicity around the event whilst trying to bypass the biodiversity march. The irony of which was not lost on me.  

The Climate and Ecological Crises can be viewed in many ways as a crisis of imagination. We have the science and we can see some of the solutions. What we lack is the imagination and belief that we can do things differently. Stories of positive climate action can play a great role in shaping these beliefs. The media, as a generator of national news stories, has the potential to play a role in shifting the narrative away from climate change as a nuisance, to an issue we must take seriously and act on. It is also an opportunity to rethink the way we do things and renegotiate our society’s relationships with the natural world, its future and one another. But the media repeatedly fails to tell these kinds of stories. 

Esther Abramson is the Ilkley, Wharfedale and Airedale CDE Hub coordinator and local climate activist, passionate about creative responses to the climate and ecological emergency and working with Climate Action Ilkley and Ilkley Thingery.

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