Friday 4th October 2013 will be an historic day. I know this because it cannot not be. In some ways it's just simple predictive history, in others it's a stirring, a surge or the tremors that result in a tsunami. Either way, it will be an historic day. For on this day that thing will happen that pushes a wedge of change, whether it be in the corridors or power or in the thoughts of the individual.
What makes people march? Throughout history people have done it for a variety of reasons and beliefs but no matter what those reasons or beliefs may be, their commonality is that solidarity, that binding emotion that has just had enough of the status quo and wants to be heard. It need not be loud, it need not be large or forceful; however it will be heard.
I doubt anyone would disagree the vast majority of significant social change throughout recent history has been as a result of people marching, protesting, demonstrating or picketing. Iconic images that are more often than not peaceful but so very powerful.
3 March 1913 was a day like that. 'The Suffrage Parade.' Mounted on a horse, Lawyer Inez Milholland Boissevain led a procession of over 5000 marchers in Washington. The National American Woman Suffrage Association raised the money to fund the event that was a hugely significant point in the struggle that seven years later, resulted in Women being granted the right to vote.
12 March 1930 was a day like that. 'The Salt March.' Aged 61, Mahatma Gandhi took a group of 78 handpicked volunteers and marched to the sea. It took them 24 days to walk the 241 mile journey to the beach village of Dandi in the South, where Gandhi simply picked up salt. This peaceful act was in direct protest of salt production which at the time was controlled by the occupying British Government and lead to the start of India's independence movement.
1 December 1955 was a day like that. Despite breaking the law, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama and was arrested for doing so. This led to the 'Montgomery bus boycott' which one year later led to the US Supreme Court upholding a decision that segregated seating was unconstitutional.
28 August 1963 was a day like that. More than 200,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to demand equal rights for African Americans, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr delivered his "I have a Dream' speech.
21 October 1967 was a day like that. 'Flowers vs Guns' anti Vietnam war demonstration in front of the Pentagon. Demonstrators placed flowers in the barrels of National Guardsmen guns. A small but very powerful act of peaceful protest that inspired a generation.
4 June 1989 was a day like that and perhaps the most vivid in my mind. For seven weeks people from all backgrounds joined in Beijing's Tiananmen Square to mourn the death of the pro-democracy leader Hu Yaobang. The crowd grew to the point the Chinese Government deployed military tanks to end the gathering and began shooting. More than 200 people were killed and in their midst I do not think anyone will forget the image of man now only known as 'The Unknown Rebel,' who stood directly in front of the line of tanks.
4 October 2013 will be a day like that. Why? In 15 cities across the globe, thousands will take part in the International March for Elephants, in the single largest demonstration to raise global awareness about the illegal ivory trade and it's dire impact on Elephant populations. Participating cities include Arusha, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Edinburgh, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Munich, Nairobi, New York City, Rome, Toronto, Washington DC and Wellington.
Every 15 minutes an Elephant is killed for it's tusks, that's 36,000 every year. The predicted figures vary however some indicate that at the current rate, Elephants will be extinct by 2025. That's in our lifetime. The ivory trade is fuelled by demand predominantly from China but is perpetrated by criminal syndicates and terrorist groups in Africa who use the profits from the trade to threaten global and national security. In Kenya, where tourism supports approximately one in four jobs, just 30,000 Elephants remain and in one decade, over 1000 wildlife rangers have been killed by poachers.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) have organised The March under the banner 'iWorry.' Their Founder Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick DBE, voices her concerns, "a world without Elephants is hard to comprehend. Their extinction would not only bring heartbreak, but a substantial and severe strain on Africa's political and economic stability." Dame Daphne's knowledge of Elephants' intelligence and human-like emotions is unrivalled, having successfully rescued and hand-reared more than 150 orphaned infant Elephants.
The iWorry campaign has so far gathered the support of many including, comedian Ricky Gervais, Stephen Fry and actress Joanna Lumley who states, "ivory poaching is on the rise, we cannot allow this to happen." She continues, "we can only make a difference if we all stand up together and give Elephants a voice."
UK Director of the DSWT, Rob Brandford, says the UK Government have a vital role to play, "without international cooperation from world leaders and law enforcement officials, the survival of this species hangs in the balance." He continues, "ultimately, the decline of Elephant populations affects us all, whether it be emotionally, economically or morally."
"But wait" I hear you cry, "there is a difference between The Elephant March and the aforementioned historic marches." I concede you are right. The historic marches mentioned have all been in support of a human cause, therefore we must beg the question; are we capable of change of such a historic nature for a species other than our own?
I believe we are. To re-iterate the words of Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick and Joanna Lumley "a world without Elephants is hard to comprehend, we cannot allow this to happen."
So, fast forward to 2025, to a world where potentially Elephants are extinct and when your Grandchildren look you in the eye and ask you what did you do to stop the Elephants from disappearing. What will you answer them?