The People’s Walk For Wildlife – hope, solidarity and peaceful, purposeful unity

After a tremendously busy weekend, words have been claimed for my book, which I’m hitting a deadline for – but I wanted to pause between school, editing and homework to write a small blog. It hardly seems worth it, to sum up in a few words, how we all felt on Saturday September 22nd. How we all came together in unity and solidarity to stand up for what we believe in. Peacefully and purposefully.

If you search the hashtag on social media you can find all the finer details you need to know. I was lucky though, to be asked to perform my poem and say a few heartfelt extra words by Chief Orchestrator, Chris Packham. I was reticent to be honest, because I dislike being ‘chosen’ for things. I struggled to be honest. I struggle with a lot of things. I felt that other people might have been more deserving…but then I ‘wised up’ as we say here. I thought, well, why not me? So, mum and I rose at 3am to drive to Belfast, catch a plane, get on a train and catch a Tube to Hyde Park. All I saw were non-native things: such a strange feeling for me, growing up with birds all around me. Actually, flying over the vast brown fields with little hedging and tree cover – it always feels like an alien landscape. Parakeets and Grey Squirrels everywhere, they were charming of course, but it was apt.

Mum and I started our time in Hyde Park with Bella Lack and her mum, I haven’t known Bella long but she’s a very eloquent writer and we spent a while trying to warm up in the rain by directing some lost people by The Serpentine lake, to the Reformer’s Tree. It was a nice way to wile away the morning and not focus on the job that lay ahead.

I was not expecting such a crowd! 10,000 people! I couldn’t believe it. This meant that a lot of plans had to go by the wayside and I missed out on meeting many people I’d planned to catch up with.

The day had spectacular entertainment by the amazing Billy Bragg, Grace Petrie and Saskia Eng. There were lots of young speakers too including Mya Rose Craig, Bella Lack and Georgia Locock, who all spoke brilliantly. All of us were looked after by the mega cool and collected, Megan McCubbin, a very welcome presence backstage.

There was a very positive response regarding my poem on Twitter and some people asked for a written version, so, here it is :-

The Holocene Extinction?

When we began, our feet trod lightly

Bare upon the earth, we were weightless.

Travelling, allowing resurgence and Regrowth, leaving enough.

Reverence .

Forging through millennia, we kept on Adding endless weight, leadening.

Heaviness, leaving deep and lasting Indentations, sending shockwaves.

Eliminating.

Cruelty, cavernous greed, no impediment,

Hands and feet became Industrial. Monsters, spewing toxicity, sickening

Deafening, echoing arrows.

Piercing.

Now, thundering, trampling boundlessly.

Decimating pathways once bountiful.

We watch helplessly, numb aching

Hollow, haunting cries to empty spaces.

Waiting.

Stop. I hear hope, purposely striding.

Footsteps pleading necessary action.

Great minds whirring, channeling change

Demanding, respectfully our weight to

lessen.

We want birdsong, abundant fluttering, Humming, no more poison, destruction.

Growing for growth, it has to end

Will my generation see the rightful

rising?

END

The last part was completely ad libbed but my mum made a video – it’s mostly audio as someone is in front of me, I’m fine with that!

[wpvideo yopBRWVY ]

We marched after all the speeches and the rain fell. The birds sang from mobile phones, drowning the parakeets which were squawking above our heads. It was joyous and monumental. A ripple of hope, which will hopefully gather up to form a tsunami of change.

Photo credit – by Luke Dray

When we reached Whitehall, more speakers including George Monbiot, whipped the crowd into a frenzy of ‘yes we can do this’! It was mesmerising and exciting!

It was then time to deliver the Peace Treaty against ‘The War on Wildlife’ to Downing Street. Mya, Bella, Georgia and I were joined by Zach and Alex; two other fine young naturalists. Alongside Chris, we handed the first draft of the People’s Manifesto For Wildlife into the house and we stayed for some photos in the rain. I, look like a drowned rat – we all did!

Photo credit – Luke Dray

The last leg of this journey, which for me, actually started when I was a very young child, was spent with Sir John Randall, Chief Environment Adviser, in Parliament Buildings. Conservation has been a topic around our dinner table, on our walks, at bedtime, since I was born; it’s an integral part of our lives. My dad has been a conservationist for 20 years, but my choices are personal to me. So my heart spilled out and out poured he things I feel so passionately about; I didn’t hold back. This conservative government has not been kind to nature. Badger culling. Not following science. Closing down the Climate Change department. Trying to re-establish fox hunting. Dramatically cutting funding for renewable energies. Increasing the cost of public transport. Trying to weaken animal welfare laws. I could go on…they also talk a lot and then water down the action. Sir John was lovely but will our ideas be blown to the wind of all the forgotten things? Time will tell, but, I will be putting forward my ideas though for the manifesto (draft two) and I urge you all to do the same. I am ready to peacefully negotiate on behalf of young people here in Northern Ireland or wherever else people may need an extra voice. I’ve been waiting my whole, albeit short, life for this.

It was a wonderful day of solidarity, support and positive connections. I’ll never forget it. It was amazing. The highlight was meeting all the people I’ve connected with on Twitter. Over the last 2.5 years, I have been talking and debating and sharing ideas with like minded people – young and old. It was absolutely fantastic to meet them in person. Especially my dear friends Jo Cartmell and Robert MacFarlane – both of whom have been compassionate advocates of my writing. Zach Haynes is exactly my age and I knew we’d hit it off, I wasn’t wrong! I see us meeting again soon. Mum and I stayed a while with Mya Rose and her family, it was fantastic – the most socialising I’ve done in my whole life, combined! A triumph. Hopefully!

Mya, Zach and myself.

Thanks for reading

Dara

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10 Responses

  1. When you get up each morning you can tell yourself that you are doing it all right. How amazing is that. Nevertheless to achieve the environment Monbiot described seems extremely remote and will need upside down thinking which has nothing to do with conventional economics and the aspirations we are brought up to nurture. An inspiring day with inspiring people such as you. Thank you.

  2. This is am amazing post, it made me feel like I was there. I think that so many young people were there and that they were allowed to speak is viatally important. It is the natural world you are inheriting and my generation and the one s now running things are ruining for you and those who come after you. What a wonderful experieince for you to meet your fellow young naturalists/conservationists and spend time with the current leaders of the mocement. There is much work to do, but I will join my voice to yours and do when I write MPs and Minister about the matters that concern us.

    Thank you for the text of the poem. A day like the 22nd is a watershed and the ripples will go out for a long time. Keep the faith. Keep wrting. Stay positive. And above all remain always who you are: passionate, caring, articulate and increasingly deterimed. Good luck with your book, I look forward to reading it and hope all goes well with your studies. Well done, Dara..

  3. Thank you for your blog of the brilliant day, Dara! So enjoyed living it vicariously via your words! I hope the powers that be consider the future of their grandchildren, and generations beyond, when they read it, and the Manifesto.

  4. Great work Dara!

    It’s been fantastic watching your passionate journey over the past year via your twitter and your blog!

    I have followed The People’s Walk for Wildlife event closely and am currently studying the ‘Manifesto for Wildlife’, that Chris Packham has provided for download on his website. I am keen to get involved in subsequent events being a fellow Ulster-man and a keen Wildlife enthusiast and conservationist. I would love to attend a similar event closer to home and am keen to track the progress of this manifesto and wish it every success in the future and look forward to any subsequent revisions down the line.

    I really love how inclusive it has tried to be especially with farmers after-all it is Industrial farming practises that play a huge factor in the problem not individual farmers as such. At the end of the day. I firmly believe that we need to all come together and educate each other and understand each other.

    Like James Rebanks wisely said ‘I love how some people think that ‘farmers’ and ‘environmentalists’ are locked in a fight about nature.I don’t. I think if it becomes a fight, we all will lose. It is time to put egos aside and work together to change things.

    I also especially loved your Poem ‘ The Holocene Extinction? ‘ Fantastic work Dara!

    Here’s to Wildlife!

    Looking forward to your next blog!

    Best wishes

    Russell

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