On the gloriously sunny 24th of March, I attended ‘March to the Medows’ for The Saint. The enthusiastic committee of Transition St Andrews gathered on Sallies lawn to stand up for biodiversity following the drastic and enduring loss of native wildlife and flower-rich grasslands across the UK. Those present first heard from enthusiastic speakers - Johanna Willi, Ecological Projects Manager, University of St Andrews, Rory Fyfe from Rewilding at Kinkell, and Anya Bodine-McCoy reading on behalf of Keyuri Ade - that got the crowd feeling inspired to demand change, then began their march down Market Street to the North Haugh Medows.
After speaking to the chairman of organising the event, Nora Krogsgaard, a 2nd-year sustainable development student, the ambition for change was tangible. She summarised the intentions of the march; trying to engage with St Andrews students and the broader Fife community, getting everyone talking about biodiversity and its importance, our role in taking care of the nature around us, and emphasising our privilege to be surrounded by nature.
As a result of their effective advertising, an impressive crowd that shared the members' enthusiasm gathered to support the cause. The crowd consisted of students, staff and community members including children who had missed the end of the school day to attend the event. All in all, an estimated one hundred like-minded people marched in solidarity. One of the parents present with her children, Heather Anderson, expressed her belief in the importance of bringing her children to these rare, local, and peaceful events as “climate change isn't really on the agenda and we need it to be for my kids' generation”. Her children and many others had prepared for the event with a colourful display of posters.
Another community group that was present in the group was the St Andrew’s Church Eco-Network. When asked why they attended the event, Peter Robinson said he felt “incredibly strongly about the issues that the event was championing”. Similarly, Alan Werrity said that he has had “an interest in increasing biodiversity for many years”. Both gentlemen emphasised the mentality of ‘everything helps’ and that “without some sort of action, nothing can be achieved”.
Transition St Andrews’ has widely expressed their aims of encouraging “action at home, action in your community, and to call on your councils demanding they do more to champion the protection and enhancement of your local grasslands.” I asked many participants if they felt that the march would be effective in achieving these aims through the march. Peter Robinson commented that “even if we garner the attention of one or two young people, they’ll have made a difference as it is our grandchildren’s generation who’ll be most affected”. Nora Krogsgaard also highlighted the committee’s priority of raising awareness which was shared amongst the participants. Leela Stoede, a second-year sustainable development student, helped marshal the event and explained that it was “a direct visual into how much people care about biodiversity” and by demonstrating these values they would “hopefully be able to enact change”. She believes that “change happens both through social action and institutional change, and you need both to have that conversation so even if this doesn't have a direct change of action, all of us getting together will create change and be pretty effective.”
During the march, the goal of garnering attention for the cause was definitely achieved as market street strollers and shoppers halted to gaze at the crowd, and their signs, and hear their chants. One on-looker, Angeli Smith, saw the march and decided to join in. When I asked why she stopped what she was doing and jumped into the march she said “it is so hard to get actual physical presence so I want to show solidarity with people actively trying to enact important change”.
Getting any institution to pay attention to matters of climate change, sustainability, and biodiversity can feel like a never-ending fight against the eye roll. However, the palpable passion of these peaceful demonstrators successfully created a fantastic visual of how many people in this town care deeply about these issues. They will very possibly achieve their goals in St Andrews and Fife.
However, marching for change can easily be ignored elsewhere and received as ‘annoying’ but that shouldn’t deter anyone who feels strongly about any issue. Marching for change has surged in recent years. For climate change, in particular, the mass demonstrations in Glasgow during COP26 heard rippling chants of “power to the people because the people have power”. This shared identity is one of the greatest benefits of marches. Participants realise they are not alone in their feelings on social issues. In turn this can generate a new wave of confidence in individuals to encourage those around them to play their part in lessening the problems of climate change. Whether that's switching to Ecosia or petitioning to your MP to demand change, as Peter Robinson and Alan Werrity said, ‘everything helps’.
If you want to show solidarity with like-minded people who care about the effects of climate change, Transition St Andrews is sharing new initiatives, plans, and ways to get involved, so be sure to subscribe to their newsletter. For more national action, you can add your name to the People’s Plan for Nature that demands change from governments, businesses, charities, organisations, farmers and communities across the country.