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229 Covid Today > Climate Tomorrow > Act Now

Date: 18th May 2020
Designed by: Extinction Rebellion 
Credit: Extinction Rebellion

On the 18th May, members of Extinction Rebellion placed more than 2000 pairs of children’s shoes in London’s Trafalgar Square, with a banner saying ‘Covid Today > Climate Tomorrow > Act Now’. This protest took place a week after the UK government lifted limits on the frequency of outdoor activities, allowing people to visit public spaces, providing they remained two metres apart from members of other households. The installation was created by a small group of people who followed social distancing guidelines and wore masks. As shoes retain the imprint of the wearer’s foot, empty pairs signal the absence of those who once wore them. Therefore, shoes are often used in memorials, for example at Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau. The meanings of 'Empty Shoes' and memorials is analysed by Ellen Carol Jones in her chapter in the edited book Footnotes: On Shoes. Shoes as a 'substitute for the self' due to foot imprint is also discussed by Hilary Davidson in ‘Sex and Sin: The Magic of Red Shoes’. This designed protest signifies absence. That of protestors, especially the children who are at the forefront of Extinction Rebellion and other climate change movements like Fridays For Future. More significantly, these shoes represent the current and future generations whose lifestyles and lives are most vulnerable to the climate and ecological emergency. This visually and spatially striking protest sought to urge the government to act on the climate crisis during the coronavirus recovery so children and future generations are not left to suffer a deeper crisis. - Charlotte Lapsa-Brown.