CLIMATE change protesters who tried to make their point in an historic Roman baths were warned the last person who swam there died of a meningitis-related illness.
Activists from Extinction Rebellion brandished banners declaring ‘We can’t protect our past if we don’t protect our future’ before two people, dressed in white and each holding a white rose, decided to jump into Great Bath in Bath.
But the green waters were closed to swimmers after the death of a girl in 1978. Tests detected an amoeba in the pool that can cause meningitis.
One demonstrator, Hamish Evans, said: ‘This action today symbolised the urgency of the ecological crisis whilst also bringing up the looming issues of water shortages, pollution and loss of water sovereignty. It is also emblematic of the rising waters which will submerge many major cities by 2050, to add to the millions of climate refugees there are currently.’
Until 1978, bathers used to take to the waters in the Somerset city once a year as part of the Bath Festival. The baths were also used for water-cure treatments on the NHS until 1976.
A Bath and North East Somerset Council spokesperson said: ‘The water in the Great Bath comes from the thermal spring. This water is untreated which is why swimming in it is discouraged. The protesters were made aware of this before they entered.’
The spokesperson emphasised that the water provided for the drinking fountains at the Roman Baths is filtered and regularly tested to ensure it is safe to drink.
Extinction Rebellion is asking the government to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025, and to establish a citizens’ assembly to devise an emergency plan of action for tackling climate breakdown and biodiversity loss. Protesters from the group closed off five major routes in central London in April, leading to more than 1,000 people being arrested.
Protester Ossian Radovini, a student at Bath Spa University, told The Bath Echo: ‘We entered the water of the Roman Baths to raise awareness to show people, look, we are willing to break laws, put ourselves at minor risks and even major risk if it comes to it, to share the truth of the climate crisis with everyone.’
He added the group is demanding the government ‘takes this climate crisis seriously, and acts now’.