FALMOUTH, England – It’s no Donald J. Trump in diapers, but this year’s Group of 7 meeting has its own inflatable gag: a floating airship that caricatures President Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, holding hands and waving, each wearing swimsuits in the design of their national flags.
A group of advocacy groups behind the airship took reporters and photographers on a morning cruise Friday through the mist and drizzle – known in Cornwall as the ‘mizzle’ – to see its official launch offshore from the shores of a Cornish harbor where media from around the world is camped to cover the summit.
As the press floated in the waves, snapping photos of Biden and Boris against the backdrop of a castle shrouded in mist, the groups’ representatives explained their very serious agenda to world leaders. They urged them to speed up coronavirus vaccine donations, adopt tougher measures to curb climate change and finally tackle income and gender inequalities.
As they spoke, a few rays of sunlight pierced the fog. It sparked wacky references to hopes that “the haze would dissipate” from leaders as activists did their best to entertain their rain-splashed guests.
“We’re trying to organize optimism to make an impact,” said Jamie Drummond, who founded advocacy group One with Bono, the lead singer of U2. “But there are also many reasons to be very angry. We are not doing enough. “
Rallying anger isn’t easy when Covid restrictions prevent crowds of protesters from assembling, security lines keep them 25 miles from where the leaders are staying, and one of the antagonists of those rallies, Mr. Trump, has been replaced by the more emollient Mr. Biden.
When the baby Trump balloon took off in July 2018 in London, during a visit by the president, police estimated more than 100,000 protesters were in attendance. The Biden-Boris airship will float in Falmouth Harbor, where it can be seen by the press and scattered tourists left in an otherwise locked harbor.
Mr Drummond insisted that a new president of the United States had not taken the breath away from advocacy efforts. There had been no Group of 7 in person last year due to the pandemic, he said, and the combination of a health and climate crisis makes this gathering as urgent as no ‘any previous summit.
“There are hard facts and data – on Covid, on the climate, on ecology and on injustice – that we don’t pay attention to,” Drummond said. “And the response of the leaders is not up to these crises.”
Yet the image of Mr Biden and Mr Johnson casually greeting those on the ground looked less like a cry for help than a reminder of the two leaders’ extravagant display of unity when they first met the Eve.
Advocacy groups will take a darker note on Friday night, when they plan to hold two vigils, in Falmouth and Carbis Bay, to honor the 3.7 million people estimated to have died from Covid around the world.