UK publishers, booksellers and literary agents were among the millions around the world who took part in a climate strike and protests to demand urgent action on environmental change.
The marches, inspired by Swedish environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg, saw students and workers across the UK join protests and marches on Friday 20th September, with many in the book trade taking up the cause.
The Booksellers’ Association announced a new green strategy at its conference earlier this month and encouraged members to take part in Friday's strike. BA president Nic Bottomley closed his shop, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, for an hour to allow staff to attend local marches.
The Bonnier team outside their offices
Bottomley said: “It’s important to me personally because it’s something that all of us should be playing a part in shouting out about quite how urgent the climate change situation truly is. I also believe in it from the perspective of the work I do as president as Booksellers’ Association where we’re also asking all bookshops and the whole supply chain to think about whether it’s doing as good a job as it can when it comes to the environmental responsibility of the whole trade. Not everyone can just shut their doors. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you consider what role you can take in it and consider where we’re at as a planet and what it might be important to think about doing.”
BA m.d. Meryl Halls added: “We’re really proud to see so many booksellers taking part in the Global Climate Strike today. Earlier this year the BA launched its Green Manifesto to work towards a greener book industry. Protecting our planet – and improving the ethics and efficiency of our supply chain – is of urgent importance and it is vital that each of us plays our part within our industry – and of course beyond. However, we also need the action of those in power to ensure widespread and lasting change. We very much hope that governments and legislators will listen to the collective voices of the Climate Strikers today.”
Book Hive owner Henry Layte kept his Norwich shop open but gave away 150 copies of Greta Thunberg’s book No One is Too Small to Make a Difference (Penguin) to customers. “I’ve got children, I’ve taken them out of school and they’re here with friends," Layte commented, "Your kids would miss out on school on a day trip to the beach where they would learn about what goes on there. This is another form of education to be doing something so adults giving it validity by striking with them is really important. That said, we’re not actually striking because I think it’s really important that a bookshop stays open - it’s not like a normal business. This is a place people come and we discuss these things, it’s a great resource for people wanting to learn more about it.”
Edinburgh’s Portobello Books shut its till from 1pm to 2pm and offered readers free editions of Thunberg’s book. The shop remained open throughout the day, with owner Jack Clark inviting customers to use the hour to talk about climate change. Clark said: “It’s a really significant thing that the whole world is seemingly involved in If they care about the climate and the environment. There wasn’t a question of whether we were going to do it or not, I just thought we had to do something. A lot of us wanted to go on a march but we get so many deliveries each day and it wasn’t possible for all of us. A couple of staff are on the march and the rest of us are here giving out copies of the book.
“We work with a really good company that work with great independent businesses across Edinburgh called Changeworks and they do all our recycling. We don’t waste anything unless absolutely necessary. There’s a lot of waste in publishing and bookselling and it’s something we want to raise and improve on it.”
Publishers also felt compelled to join in on the protests. Publishers Association c.e.o. Stephen Lotinga said: “As a society, we are facing down a global climate crisis and publishers have a key role to play, not only as platforms for the likes of David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion, as well as so many from the research community, but also as individuals, as companies and as a whole industry.”
Bonnier Books UK employees either took use of their Friday flexi-time hours of 10am to 2pm to join the march, while a contingent took a half hour break from their working day in solidarity. Staff from Bloomsbury Children’s UK took a poster of a spread from Kate Pankhurst’s Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet! as well as #KidLit4Climate to show solidarity with strike.
More than 1,500 Amazon employees worldwide were expected to join the strike, according to Vox. Ahead of the walkout, Amazon announced on 19th September they are committed to being net zero carbon by 2040 and the ordering of 100,000 fully-electric delivery vehicles.
The team from Profile Books at Westminster
Staff at publishers Profile Books demonstrated as a team at Westminster, with backing from the company. Publisher Helen Conford said: "The escalating climate emergency should be of urgent concern to all of us working in the publishing industry. We need thriving societies to underpin a robust cultural landscape. We need to place the impact of climate change and how we can mitigate it at the heart of our business and social practices."
Profile sustainability committee member Hannah Ross added: “Profile is striking to add our voice to those calling for action on the most critical issue we are now facing. It’s time for real change and we hope that message is heard loudly across the world today.”
Curtis Brown Books’ eco team helped employees who wanted to protest make recycled placards from boxes in their offices and a number joined marches on Friday. Agent Karolina Sutton said: “It was very moving to see the multi-generational turnout with so many school-age children and parents with babies. We are in the climate emergency and we support young people at the forefront of the Student Strike movement led by Greta Thunberg.”
On Friday (20th September) at Bloody Scotland, Manda Scott marked the climate protests by asking to share her McIlvanney Prize of £1,000 with the shortlisted crime authors: Denise Mina, Doug Johnstone, Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman writing as Ambrose Parry. Author Jackie McLean arranged a climate protest on Saturday afternoon outside the Albert Halls, Stirling. Manda Scott, Denise Mina, Chris Brookmyre, Marisa Haetzman and Lin Anderson were joined by fellow crime writers bearing signs saying "I’m with crime writers for #ClimateStrike @BloodyScotland".