Climate Activists Take to Dumbarton Rock

As COP26 kicked off this week in Glasgow, a group of climbers made a striking addition to the plethora of messaging on climate action which now fills the city. Helped by climate activists from Extinction Rebellion, the group used the Glasgow area's most famous and historic climbing venue, Dumbarton Rock, to stage a message to the leaders at COP26 - "Climate On A Cliff Edge".

Climate on A Cliff Edge  © Extinction Rebellion
Climate on A Cliff Edge
© Extinction Rebellion

A huge banner covering Dumbarton Rock's main wall read "Climate On A Cliff Edge" and sat above a globe symbolically on fire, teetering off the cliff edge below. The intention was to spotlight the failure of global governments to face the climate crisis.

Piper playing once banner is rolled out  © Mark Richards
Piper playing once banner is rolled out
© Mark Richards

On the day, high winds in the morning caused some challenges rigging the banner, but the team pulled through shortly before Greenpeace's boat Rainbow Warrior coincidentally sailed up the Clyde and past the site - a fitting entrance to the COP26 site.

The activists and climbers involved gave their personal opinions of the day and the importance they placed on the outputs from this year's COP.

Ry McHenry, Climber/Doctor/Dumbarton-Enthusiast:

"I'm probably not a natural climate activist. I'm too skeptical about the power of the individual to exert meaningful change when we're faced with a crisis on this scale, and think it's the role of government and policy to lead. However, I can rig a rope and the message is one I firmly believe in, so when asked if I could help, I was more than happy to lend a hand. 

Despite the biting wind and the understandable nerves of rigging a huge banner across a surprisingly complex bit of rock, the day went really well... Hopefully it's made some impact, however small, and lends a bit to the momentum that now sits behind action on climate change."

Simon, 37, Forest Manager:

"Living for the outdoors and working in environmental conservation, I've seen first hand the damage we're inflicting on the natural systems which sustain us and the biodiversity crisis we're failing to avert. But I also see Scotland's potential to lead the way forward with actions like investing in renewable power, replanting our native forests and restoring peatlands and kelp forests to help sequester atmospheric carbon. COP26 must act on the science, finding real solutions to work in harmony with natural systems and support countries around the world to do so too. We can't continue to pour money into fossil fuel extraction, needless consumption and resource depletion that are costing us the earth. As climbers what better tapestry than our iconic local crag for us to raise our banner and demand strong global leadership at COP26 instead of empty promises, insincere rhetoric and collective inaction!"

Graham, 30, urban forester 

"Most climbers are imperfect climate activists (myself included) and any actions we engage in during COP are going to have a negligible impact on global policy decisions being made this week, but I think actions like these can have an important impact in our own small sphere of influence. Like  it or not the Outdoor Industry is now big business (the global outdoor gear market is now valued at USD 12.7 billion) with an associated environmental impact. We can have a direct impact on how that business produces products (super lightweight clothing from otherwise environmentally conscious brands like Patagonia being one of the elephants in the room). 

I think it's vital anyone with an interest in spending time outside engages in these issues - the alternative apathetic viewpoint that i often see from climbers / outdoor people  of 'we have an impact so shouldn't engage in the issue' surely runs counter to a lot of the values we hold as climbers like personal responsibility, problem solving, and connection to the natural world."

Clare, 41, a Scientist and Outdoor Enthusiast:

"I'm here because we desperately need deeds, not words, from COP this time, and history shows that public pressure is needed. Scientists began warning about climate change when I was born and yet the problem is still getting worse. As a scientist now myself, I see growing evidence of the damage caused to people's health, to nature, and to mental health, particularly of young people - their hopes are hanging by a thread. They deserve to be listened to, so we're calling on leaders to act on the science before we pass climate tipping-points that will bring devastation much worse even than the floods, fires and deadly heatwaves already hitting Europe this year".

Fred, 71 who was playing bagpipes at the foot of the cliff:

"For hundreds of years we have pumped pollution into our air, seas and land and somehow thought it would cause no harm. Then we ignored the warnings of the science community and allowed businesses and governments to dictate an agenda where short-term interests superseded the future of the planet. You might grumble if your daily commute is disrupted by climate protests, but on reflection you might be grateful that someone is recognising that it is everyone's problem and calling governments to step up. Everyone has a part to play, even if it's just playing a new tune".

View rigging the banner  © Ry McHenry
View rigging the banner
© Ry McHenry

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4 Nov, 2021

If you are free on saturday 6th why not join the 'climbers for climate justice' block in the cop26 march for climate justice in sheffield . Meet at 12 at devonshire green, look for the placard and join the march . Its a demonstration of support for solving the climate crisis and starting natures recovery.

4 Nov, 2021

There's a 0.4 camalot behind that banner for the brave crag swagger.

4 Nov, 2021

Maybe it will help stop climbers taking flights abroad.

4 Nov, 2021

Interesting standards. OK for a protest group to get in the way of climbing, not OK for a film crew.


4 Nov, 2021

Yes, my mate flying in from California for he weekend psyched for his onsight attempt on Requiem might not be too happy.

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