Above Photo: An estimated 70,000 or more protesters took part in a demonstration against climate change in Brussels, on October 10, 2021, ahead of the COP26 climate summit. (Kenzo Tribouillard)
“What do we do when we destroy the planet?” asked one demonstrator. “We have nothing else.”
Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Brussels on Sunday to demand Belgium’s elected leaders and others from around the world finally dispense with proclamations, broken promises, and half-measures and instead “act” on the climate emergency.
With U.N. climate conference (COP26) set for next month in Glasgow, the estimated 70,000 or more people who took part in the march offered a dramatic show of force for the nation’s climate movement.
Zanna Vanrenterghem of Greenpeace Belgium told The Brussels Times on Sunday that her government’s climate pledges so far “are not ambitious enough,” but that words are no longer enough. “It is one thing to talk about climate,” she said, “and another to take concrete action.”
Ahead of the march, Vanrenterghem said the message from the Klimaatcoalitie (Climate Coalition), which she co-chairs and that organized the march, was a simple one: “We demand ambitious, solidarity-based and coherent measures. We need a Belgian Green New Deal and we propose more than 100 concrete solutions to make it happen.”
The first mobilization since the pandemic exceeded all expectations and sent a strong message to leaders ahead of #COP26 🌍
— Annika Ojala (@ojala_annika) October 10, 2021
According to the Associated Press:
Thousands of people and 80 organizations took part in the protest, aiming for the biggest such event in the European Union’s capital since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which stopped the climate movement’s weekly marches in its tracks.
Cyclists, families with children and white-haired demonstrators filled city streets, chanting slogans demanding climate justice and waving banners in English, French and Dutch. One carried a stuffed polar bear on her head, and others were dressed as animals endangered by human-caused climate change.
The crowds was large—with the march often stretching further than the eye could see—and participants each sharing their various reasons for attending. Signs and banners said things like “Destroy the System/Not the Planet”; “Walk the Talk”; and “Protect What You Love.”
Lucien Dewanaga, a marcher who spoke with AP, asked the question: “What do we do when we destroy the planet? We have nothing else. Human beings have to live in this world. And there is only one world.”
— Robbie Blake (@RobbBla) October 10, 2021
According to Vanrenterghem, extreme weather within Belgium and elsewhere in the world over the past year have offered only more reasons for leaders to turn lofty rhetoric into the concrete policies that scientists say are necessary to stave off the worst impacts.
“The tough climate actions of the past few years have put the climate crisis high on the political agenda,” she said. “Now is the time for politicians to turn their promises into concrete action.”