Extinction Rebellion protest urges Northamptonshire councils to create ‘new normal’ respecting the environment

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Climate change activists have held socially distanced protests outside the eight local council offices in Northamptonshire, urging them not to go back to ‘business as usual’ once coronavirus is over.

Members of Extinction Rebellion’s local branches gathered outside the offices as part of a co-ordinated protest. They warned that a return to the approaches taken before lockdown would lead to ‘catastrophic consequences’ for the planet and the people on it.

They stood outside each of the local councils with signs that read ‘#NoGoingBack’ and ‘Normal was the problem’. At Wellingborough, 15 protesters wore face masks and stood in silence outside the Sheep Street office. Police liaison officers were at the scene to help ensure the protest was carried out within the law.

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A spokesman for the Northants branch of the organisation said: “Coronavirus offers a unique opportunity to rebuild and create an economy that works for everyone, including the planet.

Extinction Rebellion members want 'a new normal' rather than going back to the way things were.Extinction Rebellion members want 'a new normal' rather than going back to the way things were.
Extinction Rebellion members want 'a new normal' rather than going back to the way things were. | jpimedia

“The nature that we’ve all enjoyed during lockdown is being destroyed right in front of our eyes. If we go back to business as usual, floods, food shortages and wildfires will become far more likely. Normal was the problem. It’s time to change for the better.”

Five of the eight councils in the county have already declared climate emergencies, with the majority aiming for their areas to become carbon neutral by 2030. Only the Borough Council of Wellingborough, East Northamptonshire and South Northamptonshire Councils have yet to declare such an emergency, though the latter council has produced a number of environmental targets.

One of the protestors outside the Borough Council of Wellingborough offices, Anthony Loukes, said: “Already things are moving so fast. We need to keep the rise in average temperature down in order to have a liveable future.

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“We don’t want to go back to what was before, because that was what was causing all of this damage.”

The protesters gathered outside the council officers at noon and stood in silence for ten minutes.The protesters gathered outside the council officers at noon and stood in silence for ten minutes.
The protesters gathered outside the council officers at noon and stood in silence for ten minutes. | jpimedia

All the councils are set to be abolished next April however, and it may be up to the two unitary authorities that will replace it to see if they want to continue with the declarations.

Extinction Rebellion has proposed that decision making should be made by the public through the use of Citizens’ Assemblies. It has also argued that the councils that have declared climate emergencies are taking ‘minimal action’ at the moment.

It highlighted a number of climate change initiatives that had been ‘watered down’ by Daventry District Council, and said that plans in Kettering to chop down Weekley Hall Wood for a new warehouse park would go against the spirit of the climate emergency the borough council had declared if its planning committee approved the plans.

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Another Wellingborough protester, Jonathan Hornett, said: “The one positive effect from this pandemic is that nature has taken over. The danger is that we go back to the old way. We want to see a new normal that respects the environment.

The protesters wore face masks and socially distanced outside the council offices.The protesters wore face masks and socially distanced outside the council offices.
The protesters wore face masks and socially distanced outside the council offices. | jpimedia

“We want to have less cars on the road, less aeroplanes in the sky. A lot of people are going to be out of work because of this and the way forward is to create green new jobs.

“We’ve seen the effect of a lockdown. But a viral catastrophe like this is temporary, an environmental catastrophe will be permanent.”

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