11-Year-Old Environmentalist Takes On 200 Mile Journey After Noting ‘Climate Change Isn’t Waiting’
An 11-year-old boy from Hebden Bridge has set himself the task of walking 200 miles in his summer holidays to support a petition calling for a nationwide carbon tax.
It’s not every day you hear of someone so young taking such strides to raise awareness surrounding climate change.
However, Jude Walker, despite his young age, is a climate activist who has committed to a 200-mile walk in 20 days, from Hebden Bridge all the way to London.
Jude is walking the 200 miles in the hopes of raising awareness of a petition in Zero Carbon‘s #PriceOutPollution campaign. He set off on his trip on Sunday, July 25 and will be walking 10 miles a day until August 14.
Speaking to UNILAD, Jude explained how he first became a climate change activist, saying it was a ‘very gradual thing’. Eventually, Jude started reading books around climate change and soon realised how important a carbon tax would be.
I realised how companies would only change if the government made it profitable. From there, I started reading more about climate change and carbon tax and decided that I needed to do something.
Jude started his journey as a young climate change activist a few years back, however decided to fully commit to the challenge around January this year.
When Jude first decided to get actively involved in the issue, he considered doing his own petition to raise awareness.
However, upon getting in touch with MP Matt Pennycook, the Labour MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, Pennycook’s office made the suggestion that he look at existing petitions to support.
Jude subsequently chose to support Zero Carbon’s #PriceOutPollution campaign due to that being the petition he ‘most agreed with’.
The young activist also contacted other members of parliament via email and letter – including Barry Sheerman, Gill Furniss, Miriam Cates, Barry Gardiner, Holly Lynch, Tulip Siddiq, Dawn Butler and Karen Buck – asking the MPs to join him on his walk from West Yorkshire to London.
He received a particularly ‘positive’ reply from Barry Gardiner, who wrote back to share his admiration for the 11-year-old’s efforts.
Gardiner joked how he had done a ’26 mile walk the other day for charity and that was far enough’.
While he was unfortunately unable to join Jude on part of his walk, he told Jude that he had spoken with the Chair of the Environment Committee on Brent council who would be ‘delighted’ to meet up with him.
Gardiner concluded that he was ‘really sorry’ to not be able to meet Jude, but that if he was ever in the area he would be sure to come and ask Jude how the walk went.
The MP praised Jude as ‘one of our next generation of climate leaders’, telling the 11-year-old, ‘we need more people like you to speak out’.
Jude said: ‘I wasn’t prepared to get any responses. So, I was really really glad to have the MP’s respond.’
When asked why he decided to choose a walk to raise awareness of the petition, Jude mentioned how he ‘had been doing a lot of walking’ and wanted to do something which could be ‘realistically achievable’ in the summer holiday period.
However, the young activist wanted to make sure what he chose to do was ‘unusual’ enough so people would ‘pay attention to it’, meaning he would be truly raising awareness for the petition.
He decided that due to having experience in walking, if he did ‘two training walks every weekend’ he could walk to London.
When asked how she felt about Jude choosing to do the walk, Jude’s mum Sarah said:
Overall we’re really proud. When Jude first suggested the walk we didn’t think we could really do it logistically and didn’t really want to spend the whole family summer holiday doing it!
But he’s totally schooled me on that level, as I knew nothing about carbon tax. We put up obstacles to doing it and he countered every single one of them.
Sarah and Tamsin, Jude’s mums, asked if he wanted to wait until he was a bit older, but the determined 11-year-old told them, ‘climate change isn’t waiting, so why should he’.
Sarah told UNILAD, that while there’s a lot to be gained from making small personal changes like turning the heating down, Jude educated her about the work which is ‘really needed’, in the form of reforestation and carbon pricing to reduce the production of greenhouse gases. He told his parents, ‘The government needs to act, rather than people just making individual changes.’
Sarah continued: ‘We thought if an 11-year-old knows this, then we really need to get out there. Especially as there isn’t much in the news about carbon pricing.’
Tamsin explained how she agreed with her son that there was no better time than now to take a stand against climate change. She feels the coronavirus pandemic ‘distracted quite a lot from the climate emergency’.
Tamsin went on to say how she felt partly responsible too: ‘It sort of feels like we, as a generation, have handed down a lot of these problems to our children’s generation.’
She continued: ‘Well, it’s not the world I would want to leave behind for them, so I feel like we have a responsibility to support our kids to do the right thing for our planet.’
Jude is currently on day 14 of the 200-mile challenge. He told UNILAD that some days are ‘much harder’ than others.
Jude said the weather has also impacted how far he’s been able to walk on some days: ‘One day was really, really wet and so we didn’t get all the way. We were meant to do 12 miles but only did 10 so then we had to do extra the next day.’
As for the perfect weather for walking? Jude described this as being ‘cold but not rainy’. But ‘On the positive side, it’s really flat since leaving Yorkshire’.
Jude had to complete training for the walk before the summer holidays began, with the young activist admitting to finding it hard at times to balance the practice walks alongside school due to weekend practice walks resulting in him not ‘getting any rest days’.
He even completed a few long practice walks after his days at school: ‘I did a nine-mile walk after school one time. The training walks were quite difficult but I managed.’
Sarah joked that Jude’s height has helped him slightly with his efforts, explaining: ‘He’s really tall, he’s actually five foot ten, which helps as he has such long legs.’ Tamsin echoed how the walking is really hard, but Jude is ‘so determined and works really hard’.
When asked what Jude would say to other young people to encourage them to get involved in learning about climate change, he said: ‘ I would encourage you to learn about it, and decide what you as an individual can do.’
He went on to say:
If you want to do something to raise awareness for climate change or carbon tax, set yourself a date for it and try to get everything done for that date.
If you really try hard by that date and find something you can be really passionate about, you will get it done. Everyone has a specific thing they can do to raise awareness of something. The hardest part is deciding to do it and committing to it.
Jude’s parents said how privileged they felt to be able to support Jude’s walk. Sarah spoke of her ‘lucky position’ in how her ‘work has been very flexible’, allowing her to take time off and take leave.
Tamsin is currently doing a PhD and so similarly has been able to help with Jude’s trip, walking with him each day.
Sarah works in a low carbon industry too, so noted how her boss said ‘full power ahead’ to the family.
Jude isn’t planning on easing off from campaigning about climate change any time soon either, telling UNILAD he would definitely like to do more campaigns in the future.
He hopes to ‘raise awareness of carbon tax in different places across the world, not just the UK’, as it’s a ‘really important’ issue.
Jude notes that he felt it was particularly important to raise awareness now due to the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference taking place in November, which will be hosted by the UK.
Hannah Dillon, Head of the Zero Carbon Campaign, said:
We are truly blown away by Jude’s support of our campaign, and his resolve and determination to hold political leaders to account with regards to their climate commitments.
At 11 years old, he understands better than most adults the severity of the climate and ecological emergency, and the imperative need to implement effective, economy-wide solutions to address it.
It is outrageous that we continue to enable and actively subside the dumping of toxic greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere. As Jude has shown, the time has come to make polluters pay.
Sarah reflected on the experience so far, saying how much she and Tamsin have enjoyed supporting Jude on his journey: ‘At the end of the day, it’s three weeks of walking. It’s really healthy and productive, as well as being amazing climate and environmental action.’
She added: ‘We’ve seen beautiful villages, met lovely people and been so supported. Of course we’ve had our stresses and difficulties but overall so far it has been so lovely.’
When he spoke with UNILAD on Thursday, Jude was setting off on day 11 of his walk, hoping to walk 11 miles. Today marks the 14th day out of 20 as he continues to make his way down to London.
You can follow his journey via his Instagram, @carbontaxwalk.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
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