Bringing arctic stories to the City of London
23 August 2013
Picture this. You’re standing on the north side of the Millennium Bridge (the ‘wobbly’ footbridge) in London, looking south. To your left towers the Shard, in front of you is the Tate, to your right are the Houses of Parliament and the Shell Centre and behind you is the City of London.
And then, the stories begin. Traditional tales of the people of the arctic from Siberia to Canada, from Alaska to Greenland, tales of polar bears and narwhals, caribou and whales, elks and geese. There are tales of animals helping people, people turning into animals, women marrying animals, people learning to live in balance with nature.
And other stories too. Stories of the ways in which the City of London is driving climate change through providing finance for fossil fuel companies, stories of fossil fuel funding of the arts and stories of resistance and protest- be it the Greenpeace activists climbing the Shard to protest against arctic drilling, the Reclaim Tate actions against BP’s sponsorship of the Tate gallery, the Occupy London camp of 2011 or the Climate Camp occupation of Bishopsgate when the G20 was in town.
I am a storyteller with Gearshift Theatre and climate activist and will be joining others – including Richard Solly, Co-ordinator of the London Mining Network and performer Tony Black- on a storytelling tour of the City of London that will begin and end at the north end of the Millennium Bridge at 10am on Saturday 24th August.
The walking tour which will last two hours, will take in banks and pension companies in the City of London. In spite of government target’s to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions, the finance sector pours billions of pounds into coal, oil and gas extraction across the planet. A quarter of the London Stock Exchange is made up of fossil fuel shares. These shares are worth over £900 billion. In between 2010 and 2012 the top five UK banks raised £170 billion for fossil fuel companies. And this is at a time when we know that we can only use twenty per cent of fossil fuel reserves.
As Bill McKibben (of 350.org) says “It’s simple math: we can emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Burning the fossil fuel that corporations now have in their reserves would result in emitting 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide – five times the safe amount.
Fossil fuel companies are planning to burn it all — unless we rise up to stop them.”
24th August is the anniversary of the news in 2012 that the melting of summer arctic sea ice had broken all records. Last month satellite data collected from the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Boulder, Colorado showed ice loss accelerating and approaching the same extent as during last year’s record melt.
Recently, scientists have argued that future methane emissions, triggered by sea ice loss constituted an economic time bomb.
There will be three events in London on this day. After this walking tour, I will be cycling to Paddington Children’s library to do a performance of ‘Tales from the Far North’ for young children as part of Paddington Children’s Festival, followed by a performance of a piece for adults and older children, ‘The Boy Who Dreamed Only Ice’ at Highgate Library.
This will be the ending of a tour by bicycle telling stories in Huddersfield, Rotherham, Doncaster, the Reclaim the Power camp, RSPB Frampton Marsh and Cambridge.
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Come and join us for any of these events- and share your story!