“Streets for Life” event participation, an example of Community Outreach

Andrew Zolnai
Jul 7 · 4 min read

Streets for Life was an all-day event Sat. 6 July 2019 by XR (Extinction Rebellion) Cambridge, UK. The aim was to disrupt traffic in parts of the city. It was agreed with local authorities, which streets were closed and when (parts of Regent and Trumpington Streets, bookending all of Pembroke, Downing, Lensfield and Tennis Streets, to form a perimeter in the Museums area). This in order not to interfere with The Big Weekend (annual summer music fair on Parker’s Piece). Plus emergency vehicles and those with need-to-access (delivery vans and disabled transport) were let through, as well as pedestrians and cyclists. All were however given info on the why’s of this XR Cambridge event.

Interacting with the public is integral to our protest.

The multi-coloured slogan in the back on the banner photo says: "Welcome to Cambridge under the Sea". It refers to the consequences of potential sea level rise in East Anglia as a result of polar ice melts. It tied in well with our Children’s Area activity of showing a sea level rise flood-map (below, at left are North and the potential new shoreline from sea-level rise). We also offered message-in-a-bottle cut-out cardboard bottles (bottom) for kids to add participatory enviro-messages. They were hung up as a crowd-sourced community bunting. All in an effort to raise awareness of the XR Cambridge message.

Public interaction was good, where Pembroke Street becomes Downing Street by the museum entrances (gotta love medieval streets that change names partway through!). Many people were attracted to activities for kids, and not a few asked questions about the flood map. Tying in with where visitors lived, and message-in-a-bottle activity were great hooks.

One little boy just ran his fingers along the map, tracing roads and feeling the floodmap Mylar overlay. Another little girl spotted her house on the Ordnance Survey map, found it on high ground… a heaved a _huge_ sigh of relief!


XR uses civil disobedience as a means to attract attention to socio-political issues that jeopardise our planet’s future. Such action is needed after nothing came from either governments or society after over a generation of awareness campaigns and negotiations among public and private bodies... In fact it’s the upcoming youth generation that spurred this on!

XR operates via cells called Affinity Groups, and we recently started of one for villages north of Cambridge, UK after NVDA training (non-violent direct action). We call ourselves Village People… and no we don’t wear tight leather shorts or North American Indian headgear! Our first action was to man the Children’s Area, under XR Tilly’s lead and ‘a little help from our friends’.


I used floodmap.firetree.net as a source. NASA mapped various sea level rise elevation against local ground elevation — anything ‘under water' was in blue, anything above was white — and @alextingle posted it on Google Maps with Open Street Map backdrop.

I took two Ordnance Survey Explorer maps, one covering Cambridge and the one above covering the villages north, and stuck them back-to-back on cardboard backing. At roughly 1x1 m. they’re easily portable. I slit two black bin bags and taped them together, to cover the montage for protection against the rain.

I traced roughly the Firetree map onto the paper maps. That creates inaccuracies not only from my handiwork, but also from plotting small scale data on large scale maps. And I didn’t bother with the archipelago-like detail of a complex coastline on very flat terrain.

Lastly for effect, I overlaid Mylar sheets cut along the possible shoreline, leaving the sheets above to mimic the encroaching sea... As mentioned people love to spot their house, village or city w.r.t. that shoreline!

I picked 5 m. rise in sea level elevation because the modeled shoreline traverses our villages N of Cambridge. Ditto +15 m. through Cambridge itself. These are simply relevant to the current audience, and not projected sea level rise!

Note this is a global sea level rise model. So for example +5 m. is not the 5m. elevation contour. And it’s impossible to ascertain at present what sea level rise is reasonable and especially when it might happen.

The point is to generally show where the shoreline would move to from the Norfolk coastline to our neighbourhood. And all of East Anglia would be under water, basically destroying agriculture and infrastructure… not a good start for a sustainable economy, now is it?

This is also to instill some real news into the debate. I heard some say that “with 20 m. sea level rise, and Cambridge roughly at 13 m. elevation, that puts us 7 m. that’s two double-decker buses under water”… not! 1-2 m. seal level rise already occurred in some island nations, 2-3 m. may be reasonable here, but certainly not 20 m.! And last but not least, we simply do not know when this might occur?

See also my Climate emergency and the geologic record Medium post.

13 July update: to further establish real facts, see this Arctic sea ice extents dynamic map a) to see how much the Arctic is melting, and b) if indeed is may/not open the Northwest Passage in my mapping blog post.

Andrew Zolnai

Personal posts on Current Affairs and World Views

    Andrew Zolnai

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    Citizen of the World, geologist, entrepreneur and volunteered geographer.

    Andrew Zolnai

    Personal posts on Current Affairs and World Views

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