11 May 2023, The Tablet

It's never too late to go on a march or demo – especially when the cause is the environmental crisis

by John Woodhouse

This septuagenarian went on his first ever demo, because he wants a better world for his three grandchildren.

It's never too late to go on a march or demo – especially when the cause is the environmental crisis

How did it feel at 76 to be going on my first real demo and march? A bit daunting, but the two days I spent at The Big One rally in London on the days around Earth Day were fantastic and fun.

We started at St John’s Waterloo with a service of praise and lament and then we walked to the Shell building where Magda Noszczyk, who leads the European Laudato Si’ Animators (LSM) and had travelled from Poland, read the prayer of Pope Francis from Laudato Si’ . We were also joined by Joseph D'Halluin, LSM divestment.

The Animators are people, mainly Catholics, who have been trained by the Vatican-backed Laudato Si’ Movement, to inform and inspire others to engage in dialogue and action on the current environmental crises. 

Led on by the Salvation Army band, we reached Parliament Square to find thousands more protestors.

On the second day I settled at the faith hub (I had walked 6.2 km with my stick at the Rally the day before) and Fr Joe Ryan celebrated Mass. This was very special. Fr Joe said he had waited 52 years for this day and he produced a copy of Laudato Si’. The Gospel was the road to Emmaus and it was noticeable how the congregation grew during the Mass. This was a fantastic opportunity to meet 20 animators from around the country who had known each other on zoom for two years, and in fact I met lots of Catholic and Anglican friends as well. The variety of protestors was just staggering and all was well organised and stewarded. People from about 200 different groups and movements joined the four-day rally, to demand Government action to tackle the environmental crises. We were demanding that the Government faces the reality of the climate crisis. We need to bring an end to the fossil fuel era, an end to pollution and an end to loss of biodiversity. The primary demand from Extinction Rebellion, who organised the rally, was to call on the government for an immediate end to all new fossil fuel licences, however, multiple groups in attendance were campaigning for their own asks, including a stop to the development of HS2, tackling river and ocean pollution and taking measures to protect and restore nature and biodiversity.

Protest action took place outside several government departments, including Defra, the Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Care and Parliament Square.

Each of the four days had been designated to reflect concerns.

Friday 21 was Unite to Survive – Westminster was filled with flags, banners and people. Saturday 22 was Earth Day itself, a celebration and a family-friendly march for biodiversity. More than 60,000 people gathered at the Houses of Parliament, uniting for Planet Earth Sunday 23 was Running Out of Time, apt given that The Big One coexisted with the London Marathon. And Monday 24 was Choose Your Future.  Parliament returned and our demands were delivered.

It was good to see families taking a full part. Animators who were unable to attend prayed for the success of the Rally, using the Laudato Si' Movement prayerbook

The Animators have agreed to hold an online retreat to consider what comes next and reflect on our experience. The weekend gave us an opportunity to both meet and bond together and we are resolved to continue to work with others of faith or no faith. Around 20 attended our latest Zoom meeting. We meet fortnightly. The reason I am so committed to this cause is that I want a better world for my  three grandsons. We must all do that we can.

John Woodhouse is the contact for Laudato Si’ animators UK Laudato Si’ Movement website.




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