MUCH like David Attenborough, it is the horrifying prospect of what lies ahead for her own kith and kin that has galvanised Hexham octogenarian Janet Storrie into action.

When 93-year-old Attenborough was asked what sort of world he thought his great-grandchildren would live in, he replied: “I don’t spend time thinking about that, because I can’t bear it.”

When Janet (82) headed for London at Easter to take part in the 10-day Extinction Rebellion rally, she was also thinking about the world that’s going to be left to her three grandchildren.

The last time she went on a protest rally was in the 1950s with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. “Bertrand Russell was there, sitting in the streets,” she said. “He was told off by a magistrate, who said ‘you should know better at your age’.”

But age is no barrier in the fight against climate change.

Janet spent five days in Parliament Square, handing out leaflets and conveying the Extinction Rebellion (XR) message to passers-by.

The organisation sprang up in response to Attenborough’s crie de coeur in the documentary Climate Change: The Facts: “Right now we are facing a man-made disaster of a global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years – climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

XR has three demands. The Government must ‘tell the truth’ by declaring a climate and ecological emergency; it must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025; and it must establish a transparent, inclusive and effective Citizens’ Assembly to deliberate on evidence and frame recommendations for action.

There is now a Tynedale branch of XR, launched last month, along with a Hexham Climate Action group that grew out of a public meeting organised by Tom Sage and Liz Osborne in February.

The couple have the next generation in mind too – sons Finn (6) and Emrys (3). They are quick to point out that there are several other, well-established environmental action groups in the Tyne Valley, not least Transition Tynedale and Greenpeace.

The new groups have sprung up, though, in response to the suddenly profound sense of emergency beginning to ripple through the public consciousness.

The Intergovenmental Panel Climate Change Report, published last October, concluded: “Humans have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe. Rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society are needed now.”

Sixteen-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was already raising the red flag. The School Strike for the Climate movement she instigated has been joined by more than 1.5m students worldwide, including a sizeable number in Hexham.

Dr Sarah Coulthard, a Northumbria University lecturer and member of Hexham Climate Action, said: “On May 2nd, the UK Government did declare an environmental and climate emergency.

“This was shortly followed by the 2019 UN Global Assessment report, which revealed that a million species are at risk of extinction, prompting similar emergencies to be declared in biodiversity, habitat loss and waste, especially plastics.

“The UK, a historic leader in the industrial revolution, now faces the challenge, and opportunity, to demonstrate leadership in the new green and social revolution.”

But the Government’s success will rest on the public response, says Hexham Climate Action. Only collective action – locally, regionally, nationally and internationally – can surmount the massive challenge facing all of us.

Liz Osborne said: "Change needs to come from the top down and bottom up. As individuals we can help by thinking carefully about the daily decisions we make, such as how we travel and where we shop."
But when it comes to effecting political change, Liz said: “The guys behind Extinction Rebellion looked at how direct action can bring about political and social change and found that the backing of a critical mass of just three per cent of the population will get a movement on the political agenda.”

Hexham Climate Action meets monthly. Further information can be found on its Facebook page.