Helen outside houses of parliament

The Big One

Our visit to London to join the Unite to Survive action, April 23, 2023

So on Sunday morning I set off down to London with my family to Unite to Survive at The Big One – Extinction Rebellion’s non–violent direct action against Climate Change. The train journey wasn’t terribly straightforward, but mostly due to user error (forgetting the credit card we’d booked on and discovering we’d actually booked for next weekend!). Having, finally, made it to Parliament square it was very busy (a good thing!), but everyone we met was really friendly and lovely in directing us to the right place and letting us know what was on and fun things the kids could get involved in. And stickers, which immediately boosted the kids!

Helen beside sustainability banners

Having made our way from the square to the stalls, I had a really interesting conversation with a scientist for extinction rebellion about energy storage and batteries and the challenges of sustainability within battery manufacturing and whether there were any specific brands that might be better than others in terms of their ethical and sustainability credentials. The scientist (who’s name I forgot to ask 😔) had some really useful information. She mentioned the fact that there are only relatively small amounts of metal used in batteries (and some batteries use less than others, although this isn’t necessarily easy information to gain as a consumer) especially when compared to that used in copper cables. We also discussed the fact that using batteries that have previously been in cars. House batteries don’t need to charge and discharge as quickly as those in cars, and they also don’t need to store as much in a very small space, so this is a great way to reuse car batteries. I want to investigate this further as I think that Tesla still have some sort of ownership over the battery or electricity and I want to find out exactly how that works and what other brands are available. But this certainly seems like an excellent route to take. I’ll keep you posted on my research!

Following this, we saw a brilliant piece of artwork showing the beautiful green world we are currently lucky enough to inhabit, alongside a much less pleasant vision of a possible future, which elicited interesting discussions with my young children. I feel it is important to ensure they are aware of the seriousness of the climate crisis, but was grateful that there wasn’t an effort to frighten people into action – just a really concerted effort to all gather together and make a difference.

Our next adventure was fascinating stall with games including a race to save the planet and matching up vectors and diseases. We found the race to save the planet in 5 minutes very interesting, but also pretty impossible – the kids really enjoyed it, though. The vectors and diseases were thought–provoking and my older son and I had an intriguing discussion with the stall holder about climate change impacts on diseases with the increasing proximity of people and animals due to the reduction in space for the natural world.

Helen beside sustainability banners

After that we found some really fun art–work to get involved with. The children created stamped fabric patches supporting unite to survive which I’m looking forward to sewing on to various bags and other items. We then managed to extract children from t–shirts and put lovely fabric stamps on the backs of them. A beautiful yellow bee, which looked spectacular on the back of a black t–shirt; a glorious orange octopus on the back of a green Doc Ock t–shirt (couldn’t have been more perfect if we’d tried!) and a spectacular purple snail on turquoise with the word rebel underneath it, much to my daughter’s delight. The artists and stallholders were all utterly lovely and patient – helping the kids find exactly what they wanted (whether they were very clear, or still undecided). I saw several different ones as we went backwards and forwards three times (not all at once, that would have been too easy!). We were never rushed or put under pressure despite it being very busy and as a parent of small children that makes a world of difference.

Although we’d snacked, we were all starving by this point, but we’d just assumed there would be food stalls or cafes around – we could have been looking in the wrong place. Next time we need to bring lunch as well as snack, but we didn’t manage that this time! After a bit of a walk, we found food, but I was upset by the amount of packaging, especially after how hard we’d worked to take the train and bring snacks in containers, but it’s ok – none of us get everything right and we’ll keep trying. Everything we do manage makes a difference. And it was important to get us all food at that point, especially the starving, verging–on–hangry children. Next time, we’ll be better prepared (and almost certainly forget something else)!

The journey home was slightly complicated by the marathon, but my husband was brilliant at finding us alternative routes and the train was slightly less busy, so we were able to colonise a doorway (we even chose the right side away of the train!). Tired, but very content. We’d had a fun day, learnt lots and felt inspired by others working alongside us to turn the tide. Thank you to everyone involved in making it such a wonderful, motivating day. And that reminds me, I’m off to write to my MP now. What can you try next?


Sustainability Protest London Climate crisis Energy storage Batteries