AROUND the world in 80 days was the aim of the fictitious Phileas Fogg.
But for Tyneside teenager Rachel Tavernor, 1,000 miles of walking in 80 days has been challenge enough.
Today is the 80th day of the longest protest march in UK history – a 1,000 mile trek from Northern Ireland to London calling on the Government to Cut the Carbon as part of Christian Aid’s climate campaign.
Rachel, 19, from Jesmond in Newcastle, is among a team of 18 marchers from the UK and the developing world, who left Bangor in Northern Ireland in July.
Yesterday Rachel and her fellow walkers were welcomed to the capital by senior bishops and the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who joined the march along the Thames, which wound up at Downing Street to deliver a petition calling on the Government for take greater action to tackle climate change.
Today, more than a thousand supporters will join the marchers for their final mile from near Tower Bridge past the London Stock Exchange to St Paul’s Cathedral for a rally and service. Rachel and her fellow marchers are calling on the Government to commit to a UK cut of at least 80% in carbon emissions by the year 2050 in the Climate Change Bill. They also want businesses to publish their emissions annually and reduce them by 5% year on year.
Rachel, who went to St Mary’s Comprehensive School in Benton, Newcastle, has spent the last year as youth worker with Christian Aid in the North-East.
She witnessed at first hand the impact of changing climate on developing countries during a visit to see Christian Aid projects in Tajikistan on the border with Afghanistan.
Rachel said: “The carbon dioxide emissions per person in the UK each year amounts to 10 tonnes and we are affecting the poorest people in the world, who are trying to cope with floods, drought, and hunger as crops fail.
“Every three seconds a child dies from preventable poverty and this poverty is being made worse by climate change. It is a huge crisis and we must act now.”
Covering between eight and 27 miles a day, the marchers left Belfast, took a boat to Troon in Scotland, and walked to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Bournemouth for the Labour Party conference, and now London.
Rachel said: “We slept on church floors and in people’s houses, and they were fantastic in feeding us and doing washing.”
The marchers urged people on the way to sign petition cards and lobby MPs over climate change.
Rachel added: “There were days when we were walking beside busy roads in the rain with 4X4s speeding past, and others when people would lean out of vehicle windows and shout to us to get a car or get a job.
“There were really tough days when we had blisters and the weather was awful and we wondered what we were doing, but then we thought that the poorest people in the world have it a lot worse, and are facing starvation because of climate change.”
But there were also many uplifting days, she said. “We had a terrific rally in Newcastle and a great response from local people.”
Tomorrow Rachel will be dashing to Durham University to begin her studies in politics, theology and philosophy.