The international bridge over the Guadiana river links Portugal and Spain. The wind frets the cables of the bridge structure in a constant and discordant whine, which you wouldn’t notice as you drive across. For pedestrians the noise is disconcerting, but then there aren’t supposed to be any pedestrians there. It’s a vehicle-only bridge. But we were there on Sunday on foot to wave our protest banners from the bridge as a symbol of Portuguese-Spanish solidarity in the pursuit of a clean-energy future.
First we Portuguese groups gathered on our side of the river, then were waved across the bridge in vehicle convoy by traffic police. Over in Spain we joined with the Spanish groups, then, after some directing and misdirecting by the police – it looked deliberate but it turned out to be to avoid a big group of Sunday runners, for whom roads had been closed – we all parked and got out of our vehicles. We unfurled the banners and clambered up the hillside and gathered on the deck of the bridge beneath the whining cables, using what must have been a walkway for maintenance workers.
I don’t know why I worried about the event, other than that I simply do worry about these things: would anybody show up, was the bridge a dangerous setting, was there anything no one had thought of (an unknown unknown), was it genuinely a useful thing to do? Well, some three hundred people came, from both countries. The press were there too. The timing coincided with the Paris Climate Change Agreement coming into force, which in its simplest terms has to mean no new fossil fuel projects anywhere in the world because the delicate system of the planet can no longer sustain them. The science is so overwhelming and so convincing and yet still we have to wave banners from bridges. At the very least – or should I say at the very best – it was a meeting of minds as the participating groups gathered under the bridge after the demonstration to eat and talk and share experiences.