climate action cafe

A space for discussion and analysis within the global climate movement

“Anarchy and Tradition for Radical Climate Action?” and “The Political Theory and Practice of Anarchist Simplicity”

Posted by KM on January 25, 2010

It’s just before the COP-15 summit and soon we will hit the streets in
Copenhagen. Being involved in the radical climate action movements
throughout Europe (mainly Germoney and UK) I found it quiet crucial to
have some political theory backing our actions. I used my time at uni to
exercise such reflections. In the first part I attempt to answer the

„What are the differences and commonalities between ecological anarchist
and post­development political theory and how can it inform key issues
in the radical climate action debate?“

As a result I found the self-developed concept of „Anarchist Simplicity“
quiet useful. What exactly I mean by this is elaborated upon in the
second part of this article:

„The Political Theory and Practice of Anarchist Simplicity“ – One
possible perspective for radical climate action.

The full articles:

Anarchy and tradition for radical climate action?

The political theory and practice of anarchist simplicity



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Criticism without critique

Posted by KM on January 11, 2010

Dysophia and Shift Magazine have joined forces to put together a Climate Camp Reader, “Criticism without Critique”, published in January 2010. This reader hopes to encourage and faciliate debates at the next climate camp gatherings. Get it here.

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Climate Anarchists vs Green Capitalists

Posted by KM on November 6, 2009

Someone suggested I add the article Climate Anarchists vs Green Capitalists, by Alex Foti, but it includes some nifty tables that are difficult to paste into this little WordPress blog, so I’ve just linked to it instead.

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Towards an unnatural economy

Posted by KM on November 6, 2009

by The Fearless Theorillas

In this piece I’m going to make four connected points about how the climate movement, as a large group of people acting against capitalism, can move our ideas forward collectively.

– The first point deals with where Nature fits into our politics.
– The second and third points look at some core components of any economic theory: production, distribution and consumption.
– Finally, based on these idea, I make some suggestion about how the movement relates to the Copenhagen climate treaty.

Frequently, we pretend as if the message we put out there and the process of bringing people into the movement are separate activities. Often, this leads us to hide some of our radicalism, or even to change our message in order not to ‘alienate’ people. But surely a movement of people who would be alienated by our radicalism isn’t a movement worth building?
Instead, the right message should bring people in: we must have faith in our politics, in the fact that what we are saying actually is for everyone. When we get our messages of democracy out there, people like them. What we often fail on is articulating alternative solutions when people finally do give us the time of day.
So below is a short way out of this, attempting to construct some ideas for how we could talk about the economy on our own terms, in our own words. In the immediate, this is a contribution to the discussion around Where Next? for the Camp for Climate Action UK network. But I hope that it also acts as a contribution to more general discussions within the movement.

The central question we face is how to really know, how to believe, that climate change is occurring, that ecological disaster is round the corner. How can we get a point where we don’t just stare at numbers and statistics, but – on mass – undertake climate change as the central challenge of our generation. What lies at the heart of this is our shared understanding of Nature.
Previous ‘green’ movements have focused on protection – of trees, fish, mountains. But with climate change it’s not so much a question of the piece by piece protection of plants and animals, but a question of international political will – whether grass-roots or top-down. In this way, the climate justice movement has more in common with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) than the green movements of the 1970s.
Odd as it may seem, the current blossoming of the ‘green’ movement isn’t really very green at all. ‘Nature’ is not inherently anti-capitalist; indeed, Capitalism can be ‘natural’. Or rather, capitalism has the ability to inhabit all the concepts of Nature which we share: it is cyclic (boom and bust); it cares for the status quo; it has large, inter-networked distribution chains… And it is these competing concepts of Nature which are forcing people from their homes in the names of forest protection.
This could mean that we should abandon Nature, and instead continue to abstract ourselves further and further away from what we conceive to be natural, in a desperate attempt to undermine the organic component of capital. But this would lead us into the strange territory of technological nodes and sci-fi cyborgs, interacting on a purely mathematical level. There are no black-blockers saving white bunnies here.
Alternatively, we implement the notion of the Commons, not just as a crudely nostalgic term, but as a serious economic and political idea. To elaborate: just as it is life, not peace, that is the opposite of war, so the opposite of the Commons is not Property, but Resource. It is this concept on which we can build an Ecology of People: we are bound up together not as natural resources for the capitalists to plunder, but as participants in the Commons.

To be in Commons concerns the creation and sharing of goods – in other words, production and distribution. These areas also reveal the central problems which are pushing us towards catastrophic climate change: we make too much stuff for the wrong people, and we also make too much of the wrong stuff.
In order to deal with ecological catastrophe, the imperialism of the technologies of the global North and new forms of apartheid, we must take these problems head on. To reformulate: How can we, in Common, create the right amount of stuff for the right people?
Our criticisms of distribution usually focus on the pattern of Waste in our society: freegans lapping up food-waste, squatters filling in housing-waste, carbon rationers clamping down on energy-waste. Waste, however, is not solely a post-capitalist concern: it’s very capitalist. Capitalists abhor waste: it’s really expensive. Dealing with waste can be dealt with by capitalists quite easily; indeed, it’s a prime concern. What they can’t deal with is the distribution of that which is not waste. In many ways, our concern should not be about the goods which we have access to through the inefficiency of supermarkets and governments, but the non-wasted things to which we do not have access.
But we should also be aware that consumption is, in itself, a form of distribution. Capitalism is not only creating goods intended for no-one (waste), but also goods intended for people who do not need them. Capital power does not provide individuals with the ability to make certain choices, but makes the choice for us. Rather than goods being distributed along lines of social utility/need, capital enables the invisibility of a skewed distribution system.
The distribution of money is, in effect, our collective system the distribution of goods. These concepts of distribution are being challenged in an effective and progressive manner by a number of NGOs, and through the lens of climate change. Sometimes activists try to distance themselves from NGOs, and I can understand the need to not want to act as the strong arm of the lobbyists, the threatening calling card. However, it’s not as if they don’t get their hands dirty: that ‘we’ often includes activists from these organisations.
Post-capitalism requires new economic ideas. And now is a time of economic reconstruction: there will be regulations along different modes. Much of this will involve climate change as a bargaining chip, and as an excuse. But rather than lament our lack of pure anarchy, we could embrace our ability to threaten the state based on the research and policy of progressive NGOs. In so doing we could help the radicals within these NGOs achieve certain goals, such as a progressive banking system, enable the efficient workings and influence of corporate watchdogs, etc.

The flip side of distribution is production. If nature is not a resource, but held in Common, then the way in which we produce goods must reflect that. The vast majority of energy use is for the production of goods: China may be constructing a coal fired power station every week, but a quarter of that energy makes good which we consume. Whereas with distribution we make too much stuff for the wrong people, when we examine production we can see that we also just make too much of the wrong stuff.
To deal with production we need a movement which relies on the tactics of workers’ movements, whether wild cat strikes or through an organised labour movement. This does not mean that workers are the only force of any relevance in our struggle, or that only workers can challenge production. Communities are intricately involved in processes of production. For example, unpaid labour of many women the world over supports the paid labour of male production.
What we can tell from Vestas, in terms of organising in and around the work place, is that while the vast majority of unions are actively discouraging their members taking action (for the same reasons as, and in the same manner as, the political parties), the remainder of the unions lack many of the skills necessary to support serious industrial action. The unions’ strengths are not, however, in effective media, legal and/or action support. It is in its membership and their ability to take mass action from the inside out.
There are some great Unions out there, building membership, radicalising disuptes. Those of relevance to the climate justice movement, as far as I can see, fall into 4 categories: Energy, Transport, Production and Information. In energy the main Union is the GMB, which has been organising disuptes at the Lindsey oil refinery, and the National Grid. Around Transport, we have the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport workers Union), fervently progressive, leading the Tube workers’ strikes, and of course at Vestas (not really their sector, but they made a specious argument to do so). The production category could include Vestas, and certainly Visteon – the car parts factory that was occupied by its workers during the London G20, with suuport from climate activists.
Information might include the Communications Workers Union (CWU), except that their campaigns are really around banking, not progressive communications, strangely enough. This is the most difficult sector to organise around or talk about – in some ways, perhaps we’re not there yet. Open source internet projects perhaps show the way, as do Pirate Parties, the Open Knowledge Foundation, etc. But if we could organise as knowledge workers, employed as such or otherwise, we might have a way of fighting with the tool becoming most inherent to the functionings of Northern capital.

As said before, capitalism can be natural: Green Capitalism is here, it happened right in front of our eyes. The green New Deal as a phrase has been absorbed into the political vocabulary, and Obama crowned as green-banker-in-chief. As we approach Copenhagen, statements from politicians and the media continually focus on the potential commitment of China, the industrialisation of India, and the financial reparations from the Global North to the Global South.
The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China – the fastest and largest industrializing states) should not be seen simply as some kind of inept and inconvenient phantom, a pawn used by the US and the EU to allow ever greater climate crimes. Instead, we should recognize the huge struggles within these countries and understand their relevance to our own resistance.
The same applies to the commitments of aid to countries threatened by climate change. Much of the time this so-called recognition of the needs of the Global South in adapting to climate change is a patronising way of denying the need for the Global North to adapt as well. Increasingly the calls for a sharing of information between North and South in how to deal with Climate change is actually a byword for a Northern imperialism.
As public awareness of the Copenhagen treaty grows ever greater, we should not stand back and simply join the throng of voices calling for greater and greater promises from the political elite (‘Can our leaders please be nicer! Can our leaders please be nicer!). Talk of 50, 60, 80% cuts in emissions deals neither with distribution not production – it deals with the idea of a treaty itself. Our voice should be a clear and loud ‘How?’, contrasting with the confused ‘What?’ of other groups. And in doing so, we should be confident that we do have the tools to express an alternative economy: one built not on Nature as a resource, but on participants living in Common.

Alex Foti, Climate Anarchists vs Green Capitalists:
David Graeber, Fragment of an Anarchist Anthropology:
k-punk, Anti-Organic Anti-Capitalism:
Larry Lohman, What Next?:
Slavoj Zizek, Ecology against Nature:
Tadzio Mueller and Alexis Passadakis, 20 Theses against green capitalism:
The Fearless Theorillas, Violence and red-green:
Toni Negri, Alma Venus (Poverty, Love):

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Mass action concept Reclaim Power! Pushing for Climate Justice

Posted by KM on July 15, 2009

A proposal to take over the COP negotiations in Copenhagen for one day

This is a proposal that is on the agenda for the July planning meeting of the Camp for Climate Action that will be in London 27 Aug – 2 Sept 2009. The meeting hasn’t happened yet so I don’t know it this proposal will be accepted, modified, or rejected, but I thought it was interesting enough to include here as an article. -Editor

by Chris Kitchen

At the start of the ministerial phase of the UN-climate negotiations we will take over the conference for one day and transform it into a people’s climate justice summit. The UNFCCC is failing to solve the climate crisis. We are no closer to reducing greenhouse gas emissions than we were when international negotiations began fifteen years ago: emissions continue to rise at alarming rates, while carbon trading allows climate criminals to pollute and profit. Together, we, thousands of people active in the emerging global movement for climate justice, are saying enough! No more business as usual, no more false solutions! Together, we will reclaim power and push for climate justice.

Our goal is not to shut down the entire summit. However: this day will be ours, we will speak for ourselves and decide what is, and what is not, on the agenda. In particular, the voices of those affected by climate change from the Global South will have a forum. Using the force of our collective body to achieve our goal, our Reclaim Power! march will push into the conference area and enter the building, disrupt the sessions and take over the podiums. To this end, we will overcome, move around, or flow through any physical barriers that stand in our way, we will also carry tools that will
help us overcome such barriers. We do not intend physical harm to anyone, and will not respond to any attempt by the police to escalate the situation. Our action is one of civil disobedience, open to people from all backgrounds, ages, and levels of experience.

We will meet at a common starting point, which will be legal and announced to the police and media – there will be a police liaison. From this starting point, we will march towards the conference centre and begin our push for climate justice. We are planning for multiple action scenarios, in order to be prepared for different kinds of responses from the police as well as changing situations. In order to facilitate action planning, and to be able to take quick decisions during our action, we will set up an action council drawn from the various groups and networks participating in the action.

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Is the Camp for Climate Action challenging or embodying capitalist consumerism?

Posted by KM on July 15, 2009

This article discusses the fact that Climate Camp t-shirts have been sold as a fundraiser, and problems this raises, from the perspective of having a critique of capitalism and consumerism.

This is a proposal that is on the agenda for the July planning meeting of the Camp for Climate Action that will be in London 27 Aug – 2 Sept 2009. The meeting hasn’t happened yet so I don’t know it this proposal will be accepted, modified, or rejected, but I thought it was interesting enough to include here as an article. -Editor

by Neil Page


The Camp for Climate Action (Climate Camp) initially grew out of the anti-globalisation and anti-capitalist movements, notably the mobilization around the G8 at Gleneagles. Most of us involved in Climate Camp seek to embody these politics in our daily lives, and this year we have already agreed to try and make explicit the link between the economic system (i.e. Capitalism) and the environmental crisis. Capitalism is a system based on relationships of violence – withholding access to essential goods and services that we all have a right to (e.g. food, water, a place to live etc.) unless you can pay for them – and the cultural manufacture of wants for unnecessary commodities, that seek to force people into wage slavery and play their alloted (i.e. dis-empowered and disenfranchised) role in existing power structures. If Climate Camp is seeking to critique this existing economic structure and its concomitant destruction of the planet due to dogmas such as infinite economic growth and overproduction/consumption, we surely need to embody this political analysis in the way that we function as a movement. This is also part of our aim to demonstrate sustainable alternatives, so we seek to manifest the kind of society we would like to live in by organising non-hierarchically, eating communally with food for donation rather than charge and generating power ourselves from renewable technologies.

Capitalism is also very good at subsuming people’s ethical concerns within itself, so that for many people the choice to live in a more environmentally sustainable way is converted into another consumerist choice around commodity. So, for example, people are told that solving Climate Change involves buying low energy light bulbs, a new Toyota Prius, ‘green’ electricity from your energy supplier etc. and choices such as consuming less, gaining control over the means of production and sharing resources within communities are neglected and ignored as viable options because they challenge rather than uphold the existing capitalist power structures and our relationship to resources and each other.

Capitalism has also sought to commodify our relationships to each other, so that people pay money to belong to dating agencies, social clubs etc. as in our society we have become so fragmented and alienated from one another, that for many people it is inconceivable that you could have a genuine connection with another human being without paying for the privilege. This tendency also manifests itself in the need to belong in society, so that you don’t ‘fit in’ to your social group unless you are wearing the right clothes, drive the right car, fly on holiday to the right places etc. In this way social relationships have been linked to (over)consumption and commodified through capital. So it is for many people that they gain that sense of ‘belonging’ to a socio-cultural group by their consumerist choices i.e. the clothes they buy etc. If Climate Camp is to be the vibrant and confrontational social movement that many of us want it to be, our connections with each other should be based upon substantive affinity and community, not apeing this commodification of social relationships that we see in the capitalist system we are trying to challenge.

Recently there have been worrying developments within Climate Camp in terms of our relationship to and critique of capitalism as the dominant economic system. This has been seen recently with the printing of a large quantity of new t-shirts with the Climate Camp branding (along with other merchandising such as badges, bags etc.), and the subsequent attempts to sell these goods for profit to the general public (for example at Glastonbury) and people associated with the Climate Camp movement. The design and production of these goods was not agreed through any consensus decision making process, either at a national gathering or in any working group who was empowered to make these decisions. An individual designed, produced and fronted the money required for this production, as well as individually determining the price at which they would be sold, believing that they should re-coop these costs from monies given to Climate Camp where these goods are being sold before any money goes to Climate Camp itself. This all happened without any agreement through Climate Camp processes that this was a desirable thing to do. This seems
problematic on a number of levels:

1) We are producing goods that people don’t need (but may want) and thus engaging in the same overproduction and overconsumption that we have already identified as a problem with capitalism that we want to change.

2) We are providing or withholding access to these goods based on people’s ability to pay an amount of money that is predetermined by and profitable for Climate Camp.

3) We are commodifying a social movement and playing into people’s assumptions and understandings (from capitalism) that expressing your affinity with other people and gaining a sense of social belonging can be done through buying stuff.

4) People who want to contribute to our movement because of the affinity and solidarity they feel towards Climate Camp may be sold commodities instead – thisalienates some people who perceive the conflict of this model with their (and Climate Camp’s supposed) anticapitalist views/aims, and subverts other people’s intentions based upon solidarity, affinity and community (i.e. human interpersonal tendencies) and converts them into a relationship to Climate Camp based on commodity and capital (i.e. an economic and exploitative relationship based essentially on violence).

It is important to note that this applies both to people wanting to donate money to Climate Camp and those who may want a deeper involvement in doing things with Climate Camp. We may be sending a consumerist message to some people that they can tackle climate change by buying a t-shirt!

Our process of organising in a non-hierarchical way has broken down on a number of levels:

1) Although I am sure that this project was undertaken to try and benefit Climate Camp, one person has taken control of a project that affects us all, without any sanction, empowerment or input from the wider group.

2) Funding provided to Climate Camp (be it in the form of a donation or loan) should be at the consent of, and benefit to, the movement. We must be able to decide whether we want to accept money (and from whom), and to make sure that accepting any funds will not affect our ability to decide what we want to do as a group. There have been cases where people wishing to donate money to Climate Camp, not wanting a t-shirt etc. have been ‘sold’ one and the money that could have gone straight to Climate Camp has gone instead to cover the costs of producing these t-shirts with no benefit to the movement.

It seems clear that this merchandise was produced outside of the Climate Camp process, without any consensus decision having been made about it, either at a National Gathering or within a working group empowered to make these decisions.
We therefore need to think seriously about how this is avoided in the future.


There seem to be two issues that can be resolved without a full discussion of how Climate Camp is critiquing, challenging or apeing capitalist consumerism (which I would obviously hope can happen at the Camp and/or at another National Gathering when we have more time). The first is what to do with the merchandise that has already been produced. I would propose that the Camp agrees and makes the following statement:

Whilst we recognise that the recent design, production and sale of merchandise with the Climate Camp branding was done with the intention of promoting and raising funds for the movement, it is clear that this has happened outside of any consensus process at either a national gathering or within a working group, and this is not acceptable. It is obvious that decisions like this affect Climate Camp as a whole, and therefore should have been brought to a national gathering. As such Climate Camp cannot accept any financial liability that may result and will not cover any deficit if
these goods fail to cover the cost of their production. As well as subverting and/or ignoring the non-hierarchical way in which we organise within Climate Camp, the production of these goods has been extremely contentious as through the production and sale of this merchandise we are embodying many of the failings of capitalism that we are seeking to critique as well as effectively commodifying the Climate Camp movement.

As this merchandise has already been produced and cannot be unmade, we recommend that:

1) The merchandise should be given away for donation rather than sold (this means that people can have a t-shirt etc. for whatever amount of money they decide, and can still have one if they can’t pay anything for it).

2) All money generated from these donations (and any sales to date) should be accounted for and go into the Climate Camp funds towards the summer camp.

3) After the camp, the finance working group should be empowered, in light of our financial situation at that time, to pay whatever proportion (up to 100%) of the costs of production to the individual concerned. The second issue is how to prevent this kind of thing happening again. I would therefore propose the following guidelines for any further fund-raising or merchandising activity:

1) Any decision to produce goods should go through a consensus process within the networking working group to agree the design, method and cost of production. This should be done in consultation with the fund-raising working group if the aim of producing the merchandise is to raise money for Climate Camp.

2) In making decisions about how to outreach or fund-raise for Climate Camp, groups should consider what the aims of their project are and how these fit in to Climate Camp’s more general aims (Education, Movement Building, Sustainable Living and Direct Action) as well as our specific priorities at any given time. The environmental and social impact of creating new goods should be considered carefully and we should question whether we really need to produce new goods in order to meet the aims of the project (e.g. old t-shirts could be screen-printed rather than producing new ones).

3) In designing any goods we should seek to include some sort of political message in their design, so that we are saying more than that Climate Camp exists. We should be stating something about what we stand for wherever possible, otherwise we run the risk of becoming an apolitical entity and changing nothing.

4) No goods should be sold for profit. They should be given away for donation, so that no one is excluded from accessing them due to lack of funds.

5) Any funds donated or loaned to Climate Camp should be to the general camp funds which can then be used as the camp sees fit. Specific projects of Climate Camp that are seeking funding should only do so once they have been agreed at a
National Gathering and should include the provision for these monies to be used a Climate Camp sees fit, so that our priorities are not determined by external funders.

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Rossport: Safety begins with team work?

Posted by KM on July 15, 2009

Original version of this article at Shift Magazine

by Steph Davies

Shell plan to build a pipeline from offshore in the Corrib gas field, through Broadhaven Bay, ending up in a £545 million refinery at Bellanaboy. Since 2000 the people of Rossport have been working with activists from across Europe and beyond, fighting this project with amazing determination, and a wide diversity of tactics. The solidarity camp and house act as bases where activists from outside the area can converge, live and take action from.

Many actions, from blockades, to car cavalcades, kayak flotillas to sabotage of police vehicles, occurred last summer in Erris. In August the Solitaire arrived to lay the pipeline required for Shell’s project. Its work was successfully disrupted and no pipes were laid. This was due to close collaboration between the local community and activists from outside the area. However, as with any campaign, there are ideological tensions and conflicts in politics, strategy and messages. This article does not provide a historical overview of the campaign, but analyses some of the events and issues that arose during the Solitaire’s presence last summer. The events and individuals described in this article are no more important than others that have taken action, or the actions that preceded them.

Shell’s Tactics

The potential value of the Corrib and surrounding fields for Shell and its partners is in excess of €50.4 billion. Shell have the provision of 100% tax write off’s on development, exploration and operating costs connected to the pipeline. The government has been supporting Shell at everyone turn, through tax rebates and providing ‘security’. In 2006 the state spent €8.1 million on policing for the Corrib project.

The community in Erris have been torn apart by Shell through their tactics. They have also shown a stamina, courage and strength in persistently facing up to the threat which is truly remarkable. Shell have been buying up the community and intimidating and bribing individuals for information. This has caused strong divisions, but has also brought those together who are united in the resistance to Shell and Stat Oil. The solidarity people displayed, for example in connection to the famous ‘Rossport 5’ who were imprisoned in 2005 for 94 days each for their refusal to give up land and fishing rights, or Maura Harringtion’s hunger strike, are examples of this.

Community Responses

The most famous response to the threat of the Solitaire this summer was the hunger strike that community activist Maura Harrington undertook for 11 days outside the compound of the pipe complex to demand for the Solitaire (the large pipe laying vessel employed by Shell) to leave Irish waters.

By day 10 of the strike tensions were running high as the local community and the camp had been maintaining a 24 hour vigil at the compound and doing actions everyday against Shell and the Solitaire. The camp decided it was important to support Maura and that individuals should participate in the vigil and any solidarity actions organised by the local community during this time. It was difficult at times because the hunger strike was never agreed with the consensus of the community, and was not part of a particular political strategy. However, people rose to the challenge in supporting Maura and her family, taking action in a variety of ways, from solidarity demonstrations, to a kayak armada including members of the Harrington family to directly confront the Solitaire.

During the ‘Reclaim the Beach’ action international activists and the local community worked together to take down the fence and re-establish a public right of way on the beach in Broadhaven Bay. Meetings to plan the action were attended by individuals from the camp and the wider community. Decisions were made by consensus and the camp and the wider community worked together during the action to stick to agreed decisions and support each other.

Whilst most actions taken against Shell by the local community and the solidarity camp are broadly agreed upon, some tactics revealed ideological differences. The car cavalcade, first done to celebrate ‘the Chief’s’ (Pat O’Donnell) release from prison, and repeated during the hunger strike, was an example of this. A three hour car rally including 500 cars drove around Bel Mullet and Bellanaboy. Certainly, in a campaign calling for environmental awareness, a protest dependent on fossil fuels seemed an unusual course of action, but this tension did at least provide an opportunity to explore some of these ideological differences.

The solidarity camp and house are both examples of sustainable living. Power comes from the sun and the wind and there is a compost toilet. However, controversially, the camp is not vegan. The local community often delivered diary products, and sometimes the fisherman even dropped off fish. This was a major challenge to many living on site. The danger of refusing gifts from the local community is alienation, and some did not consider the ‘vegan issue’ one of importance in relation to the issue of the pipeline. I found this deeply challenging however, as mass produced animal products depend on high levels of suffering to animals, and can play no part in an environmentally sustainable future. The tensions that arose from lifestyle differences also proved to be fertile areas for discussion and exchange, and it was interesting to compare different view points and talk with people who hadn’t thought about emissions from animal consumption and animal rights previously.

‘Shell to Sea’? Or Shell to Hell? NIMBY-ism in Rossport

The biggest white elephant of all in Broadhaven Bay is the ‘Shell to Sea’ message. Fearing for their land, homes, livelihoods and community, locals in Erris have adopted this slogan for their campaign. The ‘Shell to Sea’ demand was a source of controversy on camp. How can so called environmental activists endorse slogans such as ‘Shell to Sea’ and nationalistic turns of phrase such as O.G.O.N.I ‘Our Gas, Our National Interest’ (a reference to the struggle of the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta, a place similarly torn apart by Shell). Surely the concept of nation-state is not helpful when we should all be calling for this unstable pipeline to remain unbuilt, whether at sea, or on land? The Shell to Sea website states that it would ‘wholeheartedly welcome any open forum’ with the government and all those involved if better tax breaks and an off shore refinery were considered. However, on off-shore refinery would still have devastating environmental effects. This pipeline represents a line in the sand for new infrastructure at a time of increasing wars for resources and unstable energy projects.

It is often easy for climate activists to refuse to compromise on issues such as the development of new infrastructure. It is undeniable that it is easy to deal in absolutes when we are dealing with ‘climate’ as a broad topic, but hard to put this into practice in specific struggles, but the concept of Shell to Sea is a compromise that would have terrible consequences for the wider geographical area beyond Erris. Many activists who have come to fight with the community return and feel a close link to the area and the struggle, but all are aware of the ideological differences which abound in the campaign.

As the campaign grows momentum a sense of urgency of the wider climate problem and the need for international networks of resistance (such as links with the Ogoni people) is growing in what began as a localised struggle. People involved in the camp for several years have described how the involvement of activists from outside the community has helped bring the climate change agenda into the campaign, and also brought new methods of organisation to the struggle, such as the consensus process which is now used in the regular meetings at Glenamoy.

The people of Erris are fighting to halt gas extraction and are taking on a giant multi-national intent on profits at any cost. The work of the Solitaire was successfully disrupted this summer, through collaboration between the immediate community and activists from outside the area, and despite tax payers’ money being spent on drafting in the Irish Navy to ‘protect’ the vessel. This is an amazing achievement and an example of how, by acting with real on the ground solidarity, environmental activists (to use a clumsy label) can work with specific communities to support them in their struggle and move beyond the rhetoric which we often try to impose on people through local networking without meaningful community led actions.

The Solitaire will be returning in the spring and with it will come new problems and challenges, but I have no doubt that the people will continue to be united in their fight. This pipeline can be stopped, if people from many backgrounds work together to fight it. The diversity of tactics and creativity shown in response to the huge threat continues to be a major strength for this campaign. My time in Rossport was one of the most inspiring and challenging experiences of my life, and I encourage anyone to get involved in the campaign.

Steph Davies has been working on various campaigns, from Climate Camp to No Borders and animal rights, for several years. She is committed to direct action as an effective form of protest but is aware of its limits when used as a form of movement building in isolation. Because of this she has also worked on various forms of networking and skills sharing in order to make sure that ideals such as sustainable living, autonomy and freedom of movement move beyond the ‘activist ghetto’.

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Violence and Red-Green

Posted by KM on July 15, 2009

Original version of this article at Shift Magazine

by The Fearless Theorillas

Anarchists are communists too. The question of climate change cannot be adequately dealt with by a philosophy, but to inform how we organise ourselves to stop the causes and deal with the political effects of climate change, we must look to communist philosophies. For us, this is the challenge of Red-Green: not to provide a Marxist or Anarchist reading of climate change, but to eke out the strategies and tactics where we can in order to progress our politics. In many ways, this distinction is well thought through by the term Ecologism (rather than environmentalism): Ecology suggests a total reworking of how we live and interact with each other and with a world beyond ourselves as human individuals or units, or rather, suggests a total unity of the world outside and inside. Is this not, at the heart of it, the same as the Communist hypothesis?

When we say that anarchists are communists, this is based on the premise that the entire concept of party-communism is essentially dead. There can be no serious attempt to resurrect ghosts of one-party states and voting for the revolutionary party. But this does not mean turning our backs on the concept of a labour movement, or the very basis of the communist hypothesis: that of a single humanity, working as a whole – albeit a diverse, fractured and fragmented unity. What follows is essentially a very brief intervention, in which we want to breath some life into what is currently seen as a subsection of our movement, but should be (and possibly is) its very core.

Violence & (power)

Common-sensically, there are two essential ways of getting what you want: violence and power. The general adage is that power comes through violence: the government gets to do what it wants because it has the police and the military, and use their violent means to achieve their ends. Another equally common phrase attests otherwise: ‘violence ensued because of a vacuum of power’. In other words, where there is no power, there is violence. Similarly, where there is no violence, it is because there is power.

Let’s think of it in terms of a cocktail. In the first instance, our two ingredients of violence and power are in the same glass, mixed up together. Violence and power, whatever their individual flavours and colours, are always presented in the same drink. In the second formulation, they are always in two separate glasses: violence in one, power in the other. If you’ve got one drink, you certainly don’t have the other.

However, there is another way. What if there is actually only one cocktail, and the other one is just imagined? Let’s assume that violence really does exist – it certainly seems so when baton meets body. Now, in order to have a drink, we need to also know that the drink may not have existed at all, and may not in future. Its entire existence is based on this idea of its own non-existence. So our one and only drink – Violence – is defined by the possibility of an empty glass. Nothingness makes us uncomfortable: it’s too difficult to understand. So instead we fill in the idea of the absence with something else, fantasising that there is something in the empty glass. This imagined drink would be power.

So what is power? It’s a catch-all term for anything that isn’t violence, for a fictive opposite of violence. That’s why we spend so long trying to work out where power lies: the media? Charisma? The public? The solution is that power is not a thing in itself. This is really important for understanding any potential labour movement. We cannot look to fictive focuses of change in order to actually affect change. So it would seem that the media, party politics, opinion polls- all these are quite literally nothing, compared with the actuality of material effects of violence.

Imaginative Labor

As has been pointed out by socialist feminists in the 1970s and Italian economists more recently, our modes of labour have fundamentally shifted. To what geographical extent this is true is a moot point, but certainly in the UK cognitive, immaterial and affective labour has become a dominant part of capitalist life. It would be quite possible to argue that the unpaid labour which occurs in the upkeep of a material labour force (more often than not women maintaining men) has always been dominant. But we can vaguely separate out two kinds of immaterial labour here, which we’ll label Upkeep and
Office Work.

What has all this to do with violence? Well, the sheer materiality, the physicality of violence helps support the case for organising and agitating the workers within the structure of a material labour system. Old-style communisms often focus on the ability for workers to change what is happening because they have material control over society, because they quite physically control the factories themselves. But if this has shifted, where are we left?

Yes, Office-Workers’ Climate Action sounds a bit strange, but it’s movements like this which might actually be able to salvage the red from the green. Capitalism gives us things, it creates the seeds of its own destruction, to paraphrase a dialectic. And that which capitalism creates in the processes of imaginative labour are often the exact things we need and use for activism in today’s world.

To mention two examples: Firstly, the Internet. During the wave of university teach-ins prompted by the atrocities in Gaza earlier this year, it became apparent quite how powerful a tool the Internet has become. Not simply through its own technology, but our familiarity with it. Every teach-in had a facebook group and a blog, some events actually seeming to start online before they ruptured into the campus itself. A range of Internet forums and email lists may unfortunately confuse the matter, and the whole process is certainly not perfected. But the degree of spontaneity and ease with which the virtual occupied space was created was really quite incredible.

Secondly, the Visteon occupation. Not seemingly spurred by the student movement actions or the G20 actions, except in perhaps providing an opportune moment for Ford to hide a bad story behind the glare of politicians’ smiles, the Visteon occupation was quickly seen by socialist and anarchist groups as a site of political importance. What could have happened, I’ll come back to. But what was important is that the solidarity the workers seemed most interested in was the offer of being taught consensus decision-making. This is not just a symptom of desiring better management, but for some kind of genuine imaginative expression – through the political.

Better tactics, not just theory

What did become clear during the Visteon occupation, was that, as campaigns acting in solidarity, we lacked the tactics necessary to really help the workers in any immediate way. There were, however, some good ideas proposed: to set up a mini Climate Camp outside the factory; to bring a tea stall or kitchen, so that we could provide food for supporters. As a possible eviction grew in potential, locking-on and barricading bubbled up in conversation. This was all a deep contrast to the Red-Green solidarity of Put People First on March 28th, where Workers Climate Action (and the Alliance for Workers Liberty) marched side by side with the Rail, Marine and Transport Workers Union. Making banners and writing flyers is important – but if we are to progress with a workers politics, especially with regards to climate change, our tactics must be more inventive, and more direct.

Of course, the political breaking point is that a workers movement must be organised from within, that we cannot bring direct action to the workers. But once we realise that imaginative labour is the workers movement for us, it becomes clear that the ways in which we use the limited skills of imaginative labour in order to take control is what we’ve been doing all along. What was astonishing at Visteon, was that with the G20 protests having just occurred, it turned out we were less organised, rather than more. During the G20 itself, as the police presence increased, it became apparent that we hadn’t developed in advance the tools we needed to make good decisions quickly: affinity groups, consensus decision making, spokes councils, and the like.

We are a workers movement. We are students in marketised universities and office workers constantly in the process of imaginative labour. Sometimes we are material labourers too. Taking the tools capitalism provides us with is still a question of revolutionary discipline, and the key to this is tooling up for democracy. If we’re serious about climate change and building a mass movement quickly, we need to encourage imaginative insurrection as much as an insurrectionary imagination. Violence in Red-Green is not a question of finding a way for Communism to bypass violence and direct action in the name of power (or of the People), but realising that we as a labour movement can provide the imaginative tools necessary to dream up more effective
ways of organising and affecting change – violent or otherwise.

The Theorillas [Theory-Guerillas] are a theory affinity group set up to throw some questions and thoughts into our movement – think of it like little thoughtful gifts. Kudos to all other gift-givers, both thought and actions).

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Faffed, Knackered… and Knicked(!)* – Reportback from the June 2009 Climate Justice Action meetings in Copenhagen, Denmark

Posted by KM on July 10, 2009

Original version of this article at Rising Tide North America

At the end of June, two of us representing Rising Tide North America and the North American Mobilization for Climate Justice attended the international Climate Justice Action (hereafter: CJA) meetings held in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The network convened in an old textile factory turned meeting hall/theatre in world-renowned Freetown Christiania, a 90 acre squat (formerly a military base) that is comprised of many smaller collectives and which has maintained an inspiring and victorious 37 years of autonomous operation. From a slow start with introductions, the meetings quickly crescendoed into a space of tangible possibilities; the atmosphere held a contagious enthusiasm.

Discussions ranged from the structure of the network to its purpose to its future. Plans for the organizing around the December UN Climate Change Meetings and related events were brainstormed and hashed out. What follows is a bit of background and a summary of the meetings, including a synopsis of significant discussions and decisions reached through the consensus process.

The CJA is a unique and powerful combination of autonomous groups, activists representing broad grassroots networks from the global South, climate justice NGOs, and radical researchers. The CJA was formed in the Fall of 2008, when autonomous groups based in Copenhagen, Denmark began a mobilizing effort centered around the COP15 climate talks, slated to take place late in 2009. Radical grassroots groups gathered to discuss the (il)legitimacy of the COP’s “business as usual” process and to strategize around how to best intervene in and expose the process by wielding an platform and message of climate justice.

The organizers made special efforts to include grassroots organizations from the global South, and consequently representatives from over 20 countries were present; this first meeting formed the basis of the international CJA network. The next meeting was held in March 2009 in Poznan, Poland. Here over 40 countries were present, and the CJA came to agreement on some common principles and goals1.

Who Showed Up in June?

By the first day of meeting around 100 folks had manifested and numbers rose to around 150 by its end. The majority of attendees were European, with a showing from Germany, France, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Holland, the UK, Russia, Scotland, Ireland, and the Czech Republic. Delegations from the South were also present: Colombia, India, Nigeria, Togo, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Brazil, and Thailand.

List of organizations present (possibly a few left out):

ATTAC France, Third World Network, Geneva networks mobilizing against the WTO summit there, Klimaxx (Copenhagen), Hamburg Collective, Focus on the Global South, CJN!, Klimaforum, Carbon Trade Watch, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Czech Anarchist Federation, Social Youth Network of Denmark (students and unions), Young Christians for Social Justice (Holland), Belgium/Dutch border Climate Camp, UK climate camp, Rising Tide UK, ATTAC Togo, Central Ireland Climate Camp, Action Aid, Klimax (Sweden), Corporate Observatory (Brussels, Belgium), Transnational Institute, Institute for Policy Studies (U.S.), Climate Justice Network, German Young Greens, Nigeria Climate Justice Forum, Thai Networks, India Social Action Forum, Jubilee South (South America and Asian Pacific Network), and Oxfam.

Perhaps you’re noticing the diversity of groups, in terms of aims and mission? It wasn’t long before questions arose as to why larger and more mainstream Northern NGOs such as Oxfam and Greenpeace were present without an articulated desire to collaborate or share resources (or really state their aims/objectives, for that matter). Both GP and Oxfam are part of a coalition of big NGOs called the Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA – that is doing some joint messaging around COP15. It remains unclear what the GCCA’s goals are beyond having their members share a common “tck tck tck” logo on their websites, as they have no common policy platform. Historically, these organizations have at times sold out broad-based and grassroots movements in exchange for watered-down policy “victories” that end up advocating for false solutions or otherwise exacerbating the problem. They have also issued “friendly fire” against non-aligned efforts/organizations, and in many respects behaved as enemies to genuine grassroots organizing. Many folks at the CJA meeting expressed concerns about the potential for these larger groups, who have limited political affinity, to compromise of the CJA’s mission and message.

Representatives of these Northern NGOs expressed an interest in fostering more communication and collaboration, and the discussion unfolded into an examination of the finer points of collaborating with groups of their magnitude. It became obvious that resolving the issue was a bit unwieldy, and so it was left that it would be at CJA’s discretion to determine the level of impact these groups had, as well as what information they were privy to. Direct asks were made of the NGO representatives for there to be no exertion of influence on the plans of the CJA, nor friendly fire emanating from their organizations. The conversation about NGO dynamics continues on the international list-serve…

There was another meeting (in the same building in Christiania) that commenced the day before the start of the CJA meetings, called ‘Never Trust a COP’ (NTAC). NTAC describes itself as “non hierarchical radical left individuals and groups” and has issued a call advocating for decentralized actions to “stop the capitalist flow” during the December COP15 meetings. Some NTAC members were also present in the CJA meetings and described NTAC’s position as being in solidarity with, but not directly affiliating itself with, the CJA. NTAC kept a relatively closed circle about action planning in relation to the December summit, but some in the network did express interest in collaborating with folks in the US who are interested in actions targeting fossil fuel infrastructure projects during the COP15.

Deal, or No Deal?

Is no deal better than a bad deal? Should the COP15 be shut down? Two ad-hoc CJA meetings occurred in Belem, Brazil in January 2009 during the World Social Forum in which, among other things, the “Is no deal better than a bad deal?” debate was had. Ending without a definitive conclusion, members of the network agreed to respectfully disagree on what level of involvement in the UN process is strategic. While some groups are participating in the official process, others are not, believing that the UN climate negotiations are fundamentally flawed, inherently undemocratic, and unable to deliver what we want: participating lends the UN climate process a legitimacy they do not deserve.

Notably, the strong message from groups from the South was that their populations have more immediately at stake and their strategy must take this into account. If small, non-systemic changes through inside pressure and policy can be reached, then the trickle down could tangibly impact the lives of millions of farmers for the better. For these groups, to eschew participation meant to forfeit what leverage they had at home and abroad, and perhaps delegitimize their own aims on the international stage.

There is a clear agreement within the CJA that the UN process is horribly flawed, and at present is actually doing more harm than good (catering to corporate interests, sidelining the voices of the Indigenous and most affected people, implementing destructive market-based mechanisms to address climate change, etc). From the June meeting’s start, a low-level tension was present over the nature of messaging and the platform of the CJA network. With everyone’s views synthesized, how would the CJA express its goals? Would it support an inside strategy? Was no deal better than a deeply flawed deal? Could multiple visions be achieved?

In the end, the group reached an enthusiastic consensus that inside/outside coordination is strategic and desirable, and that above all, movement building, getting people into the streets, and enacting change from below is our best bet for changing the suicidal course we’re currently on. The messaging and action plans that were agreed to for the COP15 reflect this common ground: rather than saying the COP process won’t work, folks agreed to say that it clearly “is not working.” Momentum around this message was palpable, and it was exciting to see a no-compromise attitude being strongly put forth. With the foundation of a common message and strategy, many breakout groups met and returned to “the plenary” (the whole group) to have their proposals and ideas met with ricocheting explosions of consensus ‘twinkles’. Conversations lingered on in enthusiastic pockets after the conclusion of demarcated meeting times: folks were not exhausted from the process, but inspired by the discussions and breakout groups.

What is the CJA’s function?

Interwoven with the above discussions was the question: Is the CJA an information-sharing network or a network that works collectively on achieving goals and carrying out actions? We discussed this question in small groups, and everyone agreed that it’s both! People want to do more than information sharing; they want to collaborate on agenda-setting for climate justice and frame the climate debate in these terms. It is also a priority for the CJA to connect the climate crisis with the other crises going: water, the economy, food production and availability, cultural genocide, housing, species extinction, etc.


The network agreed to push a common message at the COP15. In short order, the website ( will be updated and able to facilitate international posting and dialogue. The gist of the CJA’s messaging was:

• The COP process isn’t helping; it’s hurting. Its continuing failure and profiteering off of climate has worsened disparities which result in colonial violence, ecological debt, and environmentally catastrophic CDMs.

• Something different is needed. (like global justice)

• This overarching message will be followed by 4-6 more specific ones:

1. leave fossil fuels in the ground

2. no false solutions, including carbon trading/carbon colonialism

3. we need food sovereignty, relocalization of everything, and a reduction in consumption

4. global North/rich industrialized countries owe a huge ecological debt to the global South that far outweighs the illegitimate financial debt imposed on the South by the World Bank, IMF and other coercive Northern lending institutions

Some previous agreements of the CJA are:


We are stronger together. We will use our common platform to coordinate our efforts and work together whilst recognizing our diversity. We are an international movement and will practice solidarity.


The network is made up of groups with diverse opinions and tactics. We will respect this diversity. No members of the network will use the network to criticize or disassociate themselves from other members of the network.


The network will only make public statements that have been agreed by the network. Members for the network will not use the actions of other members to further their own aims without previous agreement.

Ecological Debt and Climate Tribunals

Several groups in the network are organizing around the theme of ecological debt and reparations. Socially defined, this is the disparity between industrialized nations, which consume a greater share of the global resource pool, and developing nations, who despite their greater share of the global population, consume less.

Ecological Debt and Climate Tribunals

Several groups in the CJA network are organizing around the theme of ecological debt, which encompasses issues of global finance/predatory lending, climate/emissions debt, adaptation, and justice (see for more info). This way of framing climate issues and North-South relations challenges traditional ideas of aid and puts the responsibility for dealing with climate change squarely on the people and countries who caused it. Civil Society groups in many Southern countries are working with the premise of ecological debt to highlight the justice issues implicit in climate change, and call for reparations from the industrialized countries to the rest of the world.

The Bolivian government is actually holding an official climate “tribunal” in October 2009, to hear testimony and establish specific data and demands to present to the world’s governments in Copenhagen. Bolivian president Evo Morales has already written a letter to the UN calling for an end to the exploitative capitalist relations that have historically fueled both colonization and climate change.

Grassroots organizations from the global South are looking at organizing their own climate tribunal in Copenhagen during the COP15, possibly at the Klimaforum space. December 14th will be an international day of action on the theme of climate justice and ecological debt. This would be an excellent time for solidarity actions, teach-ins, and other awareness-raising activities to happen in the US!

Also on the topic of ecological debt, in August groups in several Asian countries will be holding demonstrations at US embassies – another opportunity for solidarity actions here in the belly of the beast.

N30, the WTO, Copenhagen and Climate

The WTO is meeting in Geneva on November 30, 2009, somehow thinking it is a good idea to attempt to resurrect themselves on the 10 year anniversary of the Seattle protests. While this meeting has been framed by the WTO as a sort of formality and not intended to complete the Doha round, both the Indian government and the Obama administration may be pushing for a conclusion of the Doha round. In any case, there is a clear connection between global trade and climate issues. Parties involved in the Copenhagen negotiations are in agreement that any climate treaty coming out of the UN must also be compatible with the laws of the WTO.

Protests in Geneva will be linking neoliberalism and climate change, financial crisis with climate crisis, corporate colonialism with the commodification of food, water, and the atmosphere. There will be a focus on ecological debt and “change trade not climate”. Groups in the UK and Scotland have already put out calls for action against capitalism and the fossil fuel empire, the root causes of climate change, on N30. There is talk of putting out a joint call from CJA and the Our World Is Not For Sale network. There was a breakout at this meeting to discuss N30 and the WTO, and a committee was created within the CJA to continue working on N30 actions and messaging. The CJA folks mobilizing in Geneva are very interested in coordinating with the MCJ on international actions on N30.

The N30 date is quite significant globally, and has special meaning for the US. Despite the scale and urgency of the climate crisis, a movement around climate has been slow to grow here. For this to change, there must be a recognition of peoples’ differing levels of responsibility in creating the problem, and an understanding of how different groups will be hit differently by climate change as conditions worsen. Climate change affects everything and everyone (some more than others); it cannot be kept in the box of being an “environmental issue,” but must also be understood as the most important social justice issue of our time. Just as Seattle brought together teamsters and turtles, reframed the trade debate and made “WTO” a household word, this year we have the opportunity to construct a movement of movements around climate, and find common ground in struggling for our collective survival.


One function of the CJA will be an overall choreography of actions – sharing information, making sure actions are not competing with each other, planning joint messaging, outreach, etc. Many actions are planned.

There were two main action proposals at the meeting. One pertained to the “new space” or “meeting at the fence” action idea in which it had previously been agreed that sympathetic people inside the conference would come out to the fence to meet people protesting outside the conference to create an ‘other space’ in which the peoples’ demands would be heard. Since the last meeting, a German group put forth a critique of this plan and a counter-proposal. The critique had two main points: one was that the message of the ‘new space’ action could be easily co-opted by politicians and others whose goals we do not share (ie, “Those people are out there because they want a bold climate agreement. I’m with them, I want the same thing!”). The second point was that the Copenhagen negotiations require a serious wake-up call, and actions aimed at the summit need to have a good dose of confrontation and intensity.

This group proposed that, rather than have a civil meeting at the fence, outside the conference center, the CJA would choose one day of the summit to have a “March of the Excluded/March of the Majority” (exact name to be decided later). When the negotiations show their true and predictable colors, the march would have the objective of pushing into the conference center and transforming the UN summit into our platform for the day. The goal would not be to shut down the whole summit, but rather to force the world’s heads of state to listen to the people. “It would be the hour of the movements from below, who would speak for themselves and decide the agenda. In particular, the voices of those affected by climate change from the Global South would have a forum.” If the march gets obstructed before reaching the summit, it could then transform into a sort of “new space.” The action would be coordinated from both inside and outside the conference center, with a broad range of groups.

This counter-proposal was unanimously adopted, to much fanfare! It seemed to reconcile much of the weekend’s debate and discussion into a tangible action framework. The actions working group talked about how to coordinate with all the other actions going on, and did some brainstorming around messaging. With a nod to the literal push from the outside into enter the Bella Center, this action’s message and rallying cry was named “Reclaiming Power – Pushing for Climate Justice.”

While “the big push” will be the CJA’s most highlighted action, there will also be “theme days” to categorically address specific grievances against the UN process. We participated in a discussion to develop a “People’s Tribunal on Ecological Debt” day to mirror similar past popular tribunals in response to economic and resource disparity between the global North and South. Groups from the global South plan to make this a global day of action, with participation from groups in many countries.

There was another proposal made for an action called “Hit the production of climate chaos.” This action would target some carbon-intensive site of production in Copenhagen, calling attention to the root causes of climate chaos and the necessity for regular people to act collectively to shut these places down. The CJA decided to endorse this action as well.

A quick rundown of other planned actions:

– November 30: WTO summit in Geneva, Seattle anniversary; major mobilizations in Geneva and west coast US

– December 11: business summit with BP, Shell, Monsanto, et all on “solutions”

– December 12: global day of protest; march from Parliament to the Bella Center (where the UN is meeting). FOE is also organizing a “human flood” for climate justice in the morning – a carnival-style march through Copenhagen.

– **December 13: Theme day for actions at production/infrastructure sites; energy

– **December 14: Theme day for actions on ecological debt, finance/economy/climate; driven by groups from the global South.

– **December 15: Theme day for actions on agriculture, forests, food, and offsets. Also on the 15th GCCA is doing “project human voices”, setting up a climate refugee camp.

– December 16 or 17: CJA march to fence – “Reclaim Power: Pushing for Climate Justice”. Will also be other street actions; 16-17 is when heads of state arrive and the summit gets ministerial.

– December 18: official end of meetings; will probably continue until the 20th; ending actions…?

Bringing It Home

Departing from the Copenhagen CJA meetings, we felt quite inspired about the possibilities for action and movement-building that exist, despite some trepidation about the current state of the “climate movement” on our home front. The task at hand is daunting: educating, organizing, and mobilizing a broad base of people under the aegis of climate justice in a media-dictated political environment where people look to our “leaders” for answers and false solutions are embraced with open arms.

Yet common ground exists, and the soil is alarmingly fertile for connecting the dots between issues and communities: an energy crisis, a food crisis, a water crisis, a financial crisis, a climate crisis. The international echo of the WTO breakdown still resonates, and we are charged with continuing the broadcast and rebuilding the momentum. For North America and the MCJ, November 30th, 2009 will be both a milestone and an opportunity for a strong intervention in the dominant discourse around climate change. Exposing the failed UN process also means defrocking the corrupted system that gave rise to it, and revealing its true values. We must show how the climate crisis is rooted in a long history of colonization, racism, and capitalism. The movement to end these interlocking oppressions is not new, but has been going on for over 500 years. For a climate justice movement to succeed, we need to situate our current struggle for a livable planet within this long history of resistance, and become more skillful in building alliances across the boundaries of race, class, and culture that have always divided movements for social change.

Effective strategies will begin with supporting and amplifying critical front-line battles; grassroots, locally-based activism must lead the charge (in the cardinal opposite of the corporate top-down model). National networks should be built on a locally-rooted foundation; if national goals exist in their own vacuum, we will only be recreating the same model of the non-profit industrial complex that severs activism from its base and depletes accountability. It seems there are powerful links to be made between climate justice groups from the global South and frontline environmental justice struggles here in the US; these connections should be prioritized in future international collaborations.

We look forward to continuing the conversation about what it means to be building a movement for climate justice with all the groups in the MCJ and beyond. We feel truly privileged to have been able to attend this international meeting and learn from and conspire with folks from other continents. Tons of thanks to Rising Tide and the Mobilization for Climate Justice for sending us (and to the generous folks who made our plane tickets possible)!

Talk to y’all soon,

Abigail and David


Mobilization for Climate Justice (North America) –

Rising Tide North America –

Climate Justice Action –

* Glossary of British terminology:

Faffed: as in “to faff”, to proceed slowly; lollygagging

Knackered: tired, wrecked

Knicked: arrested, picked off, in police custody, “in the knick” [The second night of the meetings, during a street party gone awry outside a mall in downtown Copenhagen, David was unexpectedly swept up by some overzealous police and hauled down to the station. He was released later that night.]

1 find a summary of CJA principles along with an invite to the June meetings here:

2 COP15 – the UN Climate Change Conference 2009

• on Wikipedia:

• Twitter Feed (maintained by the Denmark Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Some other odds & ends:

a. A CJA finances committee was formed, theoretically with representatives from the other working groups

b. the next COP is happening in Mexico!

c. 120-something corporations account for around 90% of all greenhouse pollution

d. The Copenhagen negotiations may be continued at COP 15.5, in Bonn

e. Klimaforum is helping the CJA with logistics and visas for COP15, and will be organizing the next in-person international meeting, October 16-18

f. The media working group is working on a calendar of events

g. The messaging group is working on a press release

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De-mobilisation: Avoiding the post COP doldrums

Posted by KM on June 27, 2009

Anthony Kelly, June 2009

Original version of this article at ‘The Change Agency’

The Australian grassroots climate movement, like its counterparts in other parts of the world, risks a period of serious and substantial de-mobilisation of energy, resources, momentum and strategic direction following the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009.

The full impact and strategic consequences of this period will be determined largely by how the key groups and leadership of the climate movement frame, communicate and act up until and during the Summit itself as well as in the immediate aftermath. This article seeks to raise awareness of the dynamics of de-mobilisation and present some options for climate movement groups to respond in the months leading up to Copenhagen and in the period following.

2009 is undoubtedly a crucial year in the international effort to address climate change, culminating in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, from 7 to 18 December. COP 15 as it is known is the culmination of an international framework of negotiations that began way back n 1990, and saw the signing of the United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) in 1992, which aims to stabilize the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that prevents dangerous man-made climate changes.

Climate groups throughout the world have mobilised huge resources in order to influence their respective government parties in the lead-up to this conference. Most of, if not all climate movement groups and networks in Australia have made a scientifically sound outcome of the COP conference a core if not the primary strategic campaign over 2009. Many plan to send delegations to continue their influence to the door of the conference. Greenpeace International has stated that COP “represents the best chance we have of reversing current emissions trends in time to prevent the climate chaos that we are hurtling towards.” According to Tony Mohr, the ACF’s Climate Change Campaigner, (i>“The Copenhagen meeting is probably our best, but possibly our last, chance to avoid dangerous climate change.”[1]

The Australian Conservation Foundation is optimistic that a global agreement to stabilise CO2 levels at 450 parts per million is a possible outcome from the conference. Greenpeace International is demanding legally binding emission reduction obligations for industrialised countries, as a group, of at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. In St Kilda, thousands of people mobilsed by the Climate Emergency Network formed a huge human sign calling upon the Australian government to negotiate a “meaningful international carbon reduction targets” at Copenhagen. Everywhere and in every way, the focus is on what happens at Copenhagen. Many movement activists report that the framing and communication from key climate groups has been about COP being our “last, best hope”. Much of this communication is internal to the movement in efforts to draw activist attention and energy to work around influencing the COP outcomes. Other communication strategies directed outward at media and politicians also highlight the importance and the desperate need for a substantial target and agreement. These movement communication approaches will be discussed further below.

Three possible outcomes at COP

Three broadly discernible outcomes of the COP event in December could be outlined as follows:

Outcome scenario 1: Strong targets and a binding international commitment to stabilise and reduce CO2. The Obama administration provides strong and visionary leadership, China and India comes on board, a strong international consensus is reached which creates impressive agreements that reach or approach the sought after targets of the majority of climate movement groups. Global media largely hail the agreement as historical shift away from disaster which is echoed by the more mainstream climate NGOs. There is minimal criticism or analysis about the ability or actual willingness of states to actually meet targets and begin the shift away from a high carbon economy. Industry representatives hail the agreement whilst continuing to position themselves for trade based profiteering in the new global carbon markets. Movement activists and engaged citizens are broadly positive about the outcome and perceive a movement success.
Outcome scenario 2: A mediocre but reasonably expected agreement is achieved. The US proposes strong targets and make impressive but non-binding commitments. China and India demonstrate tangible concern and progress but a compromise agreement is reached. The outcome falls short of movement’s hopes but meets many commentators’ expectations. The agreement is hailed by some commentators and mainstream NGO’s and is highly criticized by many others, which leaves most movement activists and concerned citizens confused as to how ‘successful’ the movement has been.
Outcome scenario 3: Obama fails to live up to hopes for strong leadership on the issue. China calls for delays and other countries point to the financial crisis and a reason to delay. A very weak agreement is reached with flexible targets which generates widespread and almost unanimous criticism from commentators and climate NGO’s. Conservative media and industry representatives hail the outcome as sensible and prudent whilst movement activists hold an almost universal view that the outcome represents movement failure.

Whilst the relative potential of these scenarios remains difficult to assess, each of these potential scenarios form serious challenges to the still emerging climate movement in Australia. Each scenario threatens to seriously de-mobilise climate movement activists and those concerned citizens who are considering or starting to become involved in movement activities. Whilst there is a great diversity amongst grassroots groups and large climate NGOs, with so much invested in a positive outcome at Copenhagen, the climate movement across the spectrum risks serious disenchantment and demobilisation.

Perception of Success

Whilst appearing a positive outcome, the first scenario posited above poses unique challenge to the climate movement to prevent history repeating itself. According to peace researcher Johan Gultung,[2] and reiterated by Australian nonviolence researcher and author Brian Martin, the high-profile signing of international arms reduction treaties between the Cold war nuclear powers throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties had a tangible de-mobilising impact upon the global anti-nuclear movement of the time.

Under domestic pressure to reduce nuclear arsenals, governments were able to develop arms reduction, nonproliferation and test ban treaties and agreements which could be painted as genuine political outcomes. In reality, and with the benefit of historical analysis, the majority of Cold War treaties represented acts that could be easily achieved by nuclear states whilst not serious impinging upon their strategic dominance or war fighting capabilities. By the time the first Partial Atmospheric Nuclear Test Ban treaty was signed in 1963, the above ground testing of nuclear weapons was essentially obsolete and could be signed away to meet a key movement demand. In the long running Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties, (SALT I and II and then START) treaty partners agreed over many years to reduce largely superseded, overly expensive or redundant weapon systems, which could be replaced by newer, smaller and more tactically useful nuclear systems. These treaty negotiations attracted intensive media coverage as one US, USSR and European administration after another engaged in the continual negotiation rounds. They captured the peace and anti-nuclear movements’ predominate focus over decades. Throughout this time, treaties served to demobilise movements by giving the appearance that the problem was being dealt with by elites and thereby dampening public concern. Faced with large scale mobilisations, which by today’s standards would equate to millions on the streets, calling for the reduction of the threat of nuclear holocaust, each US and European government in turn were able to point to and eventuality sign with enormous fanfare a particular treaty. Each treaty signed after movement ‘demands’ provided a ‘perception of success’ to movement activists and a quandary for further mobilisation. Strategically very little had changed, most treaties failed to stop the build-up and spread of weapons, the underlying structural threats of nuclear war remained untouched and anti-nuclear networks left with the task of further mobilisation after yet another false ‘victory’. In this way, treaties and high level agreements throughout the decades of the Cold War, whether deliberately or unintentionally, often served to undermine, co-opt and de-mobilise domestic peace movements.

In a similar and related area, the widespread and highly active anti-uranium movement in Australia from the late seventies and early eighties saw large sections of the Australian population, every large environmental and peace NGO, church groups and unions actively oppose the mining and export of uranium. Historically large rallies, national direct action camps at mining sites, union bans and blockades were common movement tactics which succeeded in mobilising thousands at any one time. With a network structure akin to Australia’s growing network of local Climate Action Groups, local suburban and rural anti-uranium groups numbers in their hundreds at the peak of the Movement Against Uranium Mining (MAUM) existence. The elite of the Australian Labor party deliberately and systematically undermined union support for the movement and sought to co-opt the movement’s energy and political demands. The adoption of the ‘Three Mines Policy’ (“no new mines”) provided a perfect political compromise. In one swoop it was able to provide a ‘perception of partial victory’ for the movement which almost instantaneously led to a rapid and disastrous demobilisation effect.

Deliberate movement co-option and demobilisation may not be the intention of the Copenhagen Conference of Parties and the climate negotiations process in itself. But the dynamic is what the movement needs to be aware of and respond to. Elites are practised in providing outwardly impressive policy statements with little substance or which hide covert practises. Elite groups also have the advantage of influence over powerful communication channels. Many, if not all, national delegations at Copenhagen will be seeking the most politically profitable outcome at the conference and the appeasement of their domestic climate movements will be a part of their considerations. Whilst it is likely that experienced climate activists and lobbyists, already well versed in climate negotiation politics will be able to perceive duplicity in the COP outcomes, less engaged activists and the concerned public will be more likely to adopt the predominate messaging received via mainstream media.

This potential ‘perception of success’ poses differing challenges to the current climate movement. In a similar way to the movement’s downturn in the months following the election of the Rudd government and the symbolic signing of the Kyoto Pact, people, lobbyists and NGO leadership groups, can be deceived by an apparent successful political compromise. The belief that politicians hold the strings of capital and can make the structural shifts actually necessary to halt runaway climate change is mainstream and ubiquitous. This feeds directly into the commonly held belief that elites are essentially powerful and popular movements (and their activities) are not.

If COP results in something like Outcome 1 described above, even dedicated climate activists who already regularly attend movement events may find themselves wondering if all the effort is worth it now that the US, alongside the rest of the world have come on board and started to turn things around. Surely the thing now is to sit back and see how the international targets are met? Those people, who are looking for a reason not to come to the next rally, may well find one after COP.

Perception of failure

U.S. activist-educator Bill Moyer’s Movement Action Plan or MAP has provided valuable insights into key trajectories, trigger events, factors and influences impacting upon grassroots social movements. It is based upon the analysis of dozens of contemporary social movements and has been widely utilised as a training and analysis tool by movements throughout the developed world.

If the second or third post COP ‘Outcome’ outlined above come to pass, the Australian climate movement’s may find itself in what could be called a ‘Perception of Failure’ stage. This is often cited as a ‘Stage 5’ following a movement ‘take-off’ period’ and often seen to be preceding a period of mainstream acceptance of movement goals.[4]

According to Moyer, the characteristics inherent in this stage include: the widely held belief amongst movement activists that its goals remain un-achieved and power-holders remain unchallenged. Numbers are down at demonstrations as people feel that repetitive and formulaic actions are ineffective. Despair, hopelessness, burnout, dropout are common, membership, particularity active membership of groups declines. Numbers of ‘negative rebels’, those activists willing to take high risk actions without movement support emerge and garner negative public attention, which further alienates concerned people.

MAP as a whole seeks to alert activists to the common dynamic which Moyer labels a ‘culture of failure’ within social movements. In The Practical Strategist[3], Moyer writes:

Belief in movement failure creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure and produce the following unhealthy movement conditions:

Discouragement, despair and movement dissipation
Movement participants and leaders who believe their movement is failing become increasingly discouraged, hopeless, despairing and burned out. This leads to a high drop out rate and lower levels of energy to carry out projects.

Reduction in recruitment of new members
The depressed state of the movement discourages new people from joining. No one wants to join a group which is negative and in a state of collective depression.

Getting stuck in “protest” mode
When activists believe they cannot achieve change, they can get stuck in the role of the protestor or dissident, without balancing this role with strategies and programs for positive change and alternatives.

Attitudes of anger, hostility and frustration lead to activities that turn the public against the movement
When activists believe that their movement is having no effect, frustration and anger at injustice can spill over into acts of desperation, without realising that such activities hurt the movement by alienating the public.

Inability to acknowledge and take credit for success
Failing to take credit for success deprives activists of a major resource for energy, enthusiasm and hope. It also allows opponents to claim movement-created changes for themselves, furthering the perception that the movement is powerless and that opponents control everything.

It appears likely, if not somewhat inevitable, that the Australian Climate movement will experience aspects of this perception of failure in the months following the Copenhagen conference. Whether these dynamics appear immediately or whether they exist for months or years depends somewhat upon how the movement prepares for and responds to the dynamic.

The Australian grassroots climate movement may be perfectly able to minimise the negative consequences of a post COP demobilisation, however it would be extremely difficult to avoid it altogether. Moyer’s MAP pays scant attention to the pervasive role of the mainstream media in highlighting and shaping public opinion.

How the international and Australian media frame and portray COP and its eventual outcomes will largely determine public perceptions of success or failure of the climate movement in Australia. The intense media interpretation and framing of COP outcomes will also shape and influence the perceptions of new and even experienced movement activists. The role then of movement leadership, communicators and activist educators is to provide alternative, realistic and long-term movement views for engaged activists, new recruits and the interested public.

What can climate groups do to avoid the doldrums?

All the action groups, networks, organisations, and institutions that make up the ‘climate movement’ in Australia are diverse and operate in different contexts. Each of the suggestions below may be more or less relevant depending upon those differences. Groups should be able to analyze their own post-COP situation and develop unique approaches to avoid de-mobilisation. Ideally, maintaining and building upon the past decade of movement building would be a widely shared and mutually reinforcing goal.

Don’t put all our eggs in one basket: Campaigners can be forgiven for trying to get everyone to focus on their action or initiative but in this context placing all our resources and garnering the efforts of so many people on a single event is potentially dangerous. Campaigners need to develop and communicate realistic outcomes of COP and refuse to paint it as the ‘last, best hope’. It’s not, and to get people to think that is self-defeating. Despite the urgency around the climate science, movement leadership has the responsibility to provide clear, realistic and untainted information to its membership and constituents particularly of the long term nature of social change struggles. Whilst providing an opportunity to mobilise people, immediate issues and one-of events such as international conferences can divert and diffuse efforts towards longer term structural change aiming to transform economies and institutions. Making sure other campaign strategies, projects or initiatives are kicking along is vital in the lead-up to December.

Highlight genuine successes: It is vital that we celebrate what we have done, not what political elites have told us we should be celebrating. In the context of the Australian climate movement trajectory over recent years, the mainstreaming of climate science and media coverage of climate science events and news, the emergence of Australia wide grassroots climate activist networks, the first nationally organised direct actions and events, the coal industry’s own admittance that coal is a ‘now a much maligned product’, all point to tangible and strategically relevant ‘successes’ for the movement. These represent real successes but not dependent upon political statements, policy positions or as yet unfulfilled promises by elites.

Clear strategy and planning helps groups to indentify these objectives and recognise them when they are achieved. In this way the movement maintains control of successes and refutes elite attempts to paint successes as theirs and the movement as less or not responsible for it. Each movement success identified can be highlighted in a variety of ways. Although articles, news stories, positive reports and other pro-active communication strategies are important, in particular, large public and participatory celebrations are most effective for challenging negative attitudes of movement failure. Celebrating anniversaries, (“Ten years since the first climate action arrest in Australia”, “12 months since Australia’s first Climate Camp”) are one such way of marking progress and successes.

Locate the movement: Movement leadership and spokespeople need to encourage and assist people to locate themselves along a movement trajectory that is longer than 2009 and goes far beyond Copenhagen in December, At conferences, rallies and within all internal communication systems, movement spokespeople need to highlight the years of struggle behind and in the years ahead. Spokespeople should deliberately highlight the fact that the climate will not be ‘saved’ by an international agreement and it is only a large and viable social movement that wields enormous political power that will. Key movement figures should place more realistic timelines on movement activities.‘10 years to continue the campaign’; ‘This organisation has a 15 year goal’.

Plan and act beyond COP: Already, movement groups should be speaking about, planning and highlighting actions, events and initiatives in 2010, sending a clear message that the movement continues after COP. Although it appears important to mobilise all available resources to target COP delegations and influence the outcome, having people actively planning and preparing for 2010 activities is equally important at this stage. It is strategically vital that planning and resources goes into viable and effective initiatives in 2010 and beyond that will inspire and maintain momentum in the post COP period. Activists who are engaged about future post COP events will provide much needed enthusiasm for other activists.

Develop tactics and strategies that don’t rely on elites: Numerous activists have highlighted how the climate movement in Australia has been heavily dependant upon lobbying strategies aimed at influencing policy and government action. Postcards, online petitions, office occupations or vigils, hunger strikes, marches, rallies, human signs, bike rides and other tactics adopted by the movement have all largely sought to generate public concern in order to influence decision-makers. Even the majority of coal infrastructure direct actions have focused upon influencing government policy. The development of tactics and a strategic framework that does not rely upon elite endorsement of the movements’ policy objectives is a vital process, particularly in the context of a widespread perception of failure in a post COP period. As Brian Martin and others have often pointed out, the limiting impact of relying purely on lobbying tactics can lead to movement entropy by itself.

This does not mean that movement’s actions do not influence government policy. In fact the tactics deployed within a framework of strategic nonviolence should aim to undermine the both the power and will of an opponent in order to make it impossible to actually carry out a negative policy objective and force the adoption of favourable policies and behaviour.[5] Lobbying and associated protest actions are a form of political action that seeks the ‘conversion’ of officials and decision-makers with logical or moral arguments without any tangible threat, beyond those of the ballot box. Strategic nonviolence, however, recognises that opponents often do not change their policies unless ‘coerced’ to do so economically or politically. Nonviolent tactics are designed to provide that coercion.[6]

The historically demonstrated insights of strategic nonviolence can play an increasingly influential role in movement strategy over the coming years. Large scale tactics of non-cooperation and intervention can gradually replace pure protest and lobbying action as movement activists become more experienced and the engaged and concerned citizens become more willing to take higher levels of risk.

History has demonstrated that mass-based movements rise most powerfully when there is a widespread recognition that elites and mainstream institutional processes have failed to bring about the necessary changes . It may be that the widespread perception of the failure of international institutions after COP could generate a renewed urgency and more effective political action. Hopefully we may see the Australian Climate movement develop effective tactics such as boycotts, strikes, mass occupations and interventions that will mobilise and engage the renewed activist energy in the years and decades after COP 15.

1. Quote from interview accessed 1/06/09
2. Gultung, R. Why Do Disarmament Negotiations fail? Gandhi Marg Vol 4 #2-3 (1982)
3. Moyer, Bill. The Practical Strategist: Movement Action Plan (MAP)strategic theories for Evaluating, Planning and Conducting Social Movements. Social Movement Empowerment Project, San Francisco, (1990).
4. MAP stages are as follows: (1) Normal times; (2) Prove the failure of official institutions; (3) Ripening conditions; (4) Take-off; (5) Perception of failure; (6) Majority public opinion; (7) Success; (8) Continuing the struggle
5. Burrowes, R.J. (1996). The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense: A Gandhian Approach. Albany: State University of New York Press.
6. Sharp, G. (1973).The Politics of Nonviolent Action Vols 1-3. Boston: Porter Sargent.

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The Camp for Climate Action and the media – Part 1

Posted by KM on April 22, 2009

by Lewis

Originally posted on UK Indymedia

The first in a series of articles on the Climate Camp’s media strategy. We will be exploring issues of working with the mass media, non-hierarchical communication and the use of independent media. This article is an interview with Isabel and Steven from the Camp’s media team.

“I just looked around and thought, we are really fucking cool. It was a collective thing and you can feel it in the air”

The Camp for Climate Action has attracted masses of media attention in three or so years it’s been around. It was arguably the first direct action movement to engage with the UK mass media in many years. This series of articles looks at how the Climate Camp deals with media. It tries to answer questions on whether the Camp makes compromises as a result of mass media interest, how it deals with media in an non-hierarchical environment and what role independent activist media plays in the Camp’s strategy. These are mainly revised extracts of research I have been conducting well writing a dissertation for my degree, partly in an effort to bridge a gap between student academia and activism. The views by no means represent the diverse ranges of opinion that exist in and drive the movement. However any conclusions, when not personal, aim to represent the movement’s consensus or practical experience.

This article is the first of a few interviews with participants in the Camp’s media team…

Interview with Isabel Michel & Steven Milligan on the 17th of Feb 2009

Steven is 30 and a freelance writer and researcher
Isabel is 35 and a media lecturer.

Lewis: So, how did you get involved?

S: I have a background of studying environmental issues for my degree and post grad and eventually working as in environmental management within the system. I became frustrated with the slow pace of change compared with what was needed. I went to the Climate Camp in 2006 and was completely inspired by it and just got sucked into the process of it and became more involved in that and less involved in everything else in my life.

L: What brought you into the media team?

Interest really. I’m no good with marquees or practical things but I can talk and write. I think there was a point in the Camp when we went ‘ok we need a media team’, so a bunch of us in the networking group did media stuff and I just ended up being one of those people.

L: Isabel?

I: I was politically aware, but not politically active. I fell in love with someone who had been very active in the anti roads movement and was also inspired through books. I got involved with the Anti G8 protest and went to the camp in Sterling and was really inspired by the self running process. After the G8 we were burnt out but a friend of my partner said come to the Climate Camp. At first we didn’t want to go, but we did and loved it. It was amazing. ‘I just looked around and thought, we are really fucking cool’ it was a collective thing and you can feel it in the air.

People at Drax did something that has never been achieved in a radical social movement before in the UK. The movement that the climate camp comes out of was Dissent and the anti roads movement, they were the movements that said the media are part of the problem and not part of the solution and Climate Camp managed to change. The Camp at Drax was the first one and they had five or four front pages. They had already made the Q & A, the 12 page media team bible and they had set in motion a really brilliant process. So when I joined there was nothing to invent, they had already stated everything.

L: How has the Camp learnt things from other social movements before it?

I: Through people who have been very very involved in these movements. The people who came up with the idea for Climate Camp were people who were very involved previously, got burnt out and took time to reflect. Some of the movements that people have been involved in, like for instance reclaim the streets had quite a dire end. I think people also reflected on some of the terrible aspects of Dissent. So people came to the Climate Camp with an open mind.

L: Why does the Camp differ to past social movements like RTS in terms of its more active relationship with the media?

I: RTS still did press releases but their media wasn’t very thought out. I think it came out of the fact that RTS became insanely criminalised in the media. Personally I thought it was because they were winning, on the up and they were held back. But it wasn’t too well managed…

S: It’s about accepting that whatever you do the mainstream media are going to report on it especially if it’s exciting and audacious and radical, which is exactly what we want to be. So it’s just attempting to have at least some input and some measure of control over that rather than just letting them say what the hell they like. Then, well, the next step beyond that is to say let’s make an effort to get some of our messages in, the things that we want to say, the things we want to reach people with and let’s try to use the media as best as we can. We have to accept that they’ll never tell the stories as we want to tell it, they’re never going to represent us as we truly are and they’ll always be those that do horrible hack jobs on us, we can’t control that, but we can do the best to get some stuff out there and its quite powerful from that point of view

L: RTS is different to Climate Camp in that CC has a very clear issue and choice of targets. The issue, climate change, demands mainstream media attention, no?

S: I think RTS had a great story to tell but it wasn’t articulated very well through the media. The front page would focus on some protest nightmare and i t would be quite rare that it would be any more sophisticated than that.

I: But it was a different time as well. RTS came out the free party scene and the anti roads movement. I think the media hated them because they came out of a culture that really disturbed them and I think that we’re not necessarily less radical but we have a cleaner image. We’re a lot nicer and proper than RTS. RTS didn’t want to be that. I don’t think we can compare the two movements.

L: Do you think CC gains a sense of legitimacy because climate change is an issue that is quite well debated and discussed?


L: Does the CC have a long term strategy?

S: Stop climate change?

L: Ha, ok, well are there people in the movement who have quite clear ideas about social movements and social change?

I: Definitely. It’s always difficult to talk about the Climate Camp which is quite internally diverse, as if it was homogenised block but I think that the Climate Camp has political views, it’s not only about climate change. It’s not like some NGOs who look at climate change but will not go beyond that. I think the Camp is very clear that climate change is actually the symptom of a systemic problem and we want to change that system. What we don’t have is a ten point manifesto as to what the new system should look like. But I think we can say the political frame work of the Climate Camp tends to be very much inspired by anarchism. It’s not to say it’s an anarchist movement at all, but it’s very much inspired by the philosophy of anarchism. In the end there is trust in people’s capacity to self managed and that will be the path to addressing climate change. We have in our key messages that we don’t trust governments and corporations to find the solutions. Some of us think that. Unfortunately, they probably will have to be part of some of the solutions because climate change is so urgent. But actually in the pure ideal world of the Climate Camp I think we would like to say they’re not the solution. So it’s dealing with climate change but with a systemic critique.

S: Some people see Climate Camp as the environmental end of the anti-globalisation movement or the anti-globalisation end of the environmental movement. its interpreted in different ways. There are people involved in the climate camp that are very mainstream in there views but are quite radical in the methods that they think are required. Allot of the core people, who gave it a texture, and the process itself made ties with anarchist principals which inform the whole thing and that’s quite exciting really.

L: People can be anxious to call it an anarchist movement but we can say broadly the camp is informed by anarchism due to the processes the camp works by.

I: The only reason I would be anxious to define the camp as that is because quite allot of people do not recognise themselves as that and feel a bit like anarchism is shoved down their throats.

L: Is that the same reason you don’t say that to the media?

S: It’s also an invitation to be misrepresented.

L: Does the media have a systematic or ideological bias?


I: Although structurally, yes, ideologically, definitely. At the same time there are individuals who are defiantly on our side. You always want to be interviewed by X who lays out the questions for you beforehand and asks you things you agree with. There are journalists that are on side like that but generally quite allot of them feel the need to give this balanced thing.

L: So if you don’t oppose bias in the media do you have to translate your messages into a known discourse?

S: It’s a difficult balance to strike. It’s quite obvious that we don’t use the words anti capitalist in the media and anarchism and things like that but more importantly you have a limited amount of time and you want to minimise the opportunity of being misrepresented, and at the same time there’s no actual point talking to the media if you’re not getting across a useful message.

I: It’s difficult though because what we’ve ended up doing is being a bit scared of actually using those words or pushing that radical message in order to be heard, and we have been heard. But what we’ve ended up doing too often in my view is actually ending up almost on a single issue

We’re defiantly a movement, I have no doubts about that. I think people who come to the camp feel it like that, but there is still work to do. I think quite often it’s because were too timid of pushing that message because we’re scared and because it’s hard. Anyone that’s been cornered by an evil bastard [journalist] will know it really takes it out of you, you feel really vulnerable, you feel humiliated. its also because we all care so much for this – we’re not paid PR agents. There is a feeling that your letting people down when you fuck up an interview and I think sometimes we end up playing a bit safe with what we say.

S: Its struggling with language and its learning as we go along. I think we are slowly getting better at it and I think we could have done allot more especially at the last camp to get that message out. We had a clear message that we wanted to say about the system of economic growth and how that’s related to climate change, we had prepared our messages, and to be fair we made some effort to get these things out there and we’d say three things to journalists and they would chop it out because it doesn’t fit their story. But at the same time there was probably allot more we could have done to weave it in and bring it in there. But then we also got caught up in talking allot of rubbish about police…

I: because we are not professionals, we don’t spend all our time rehearsing interviews, which is what we need. In a way with all our shortcomings I feel really smug. With the bunch of ten of us, untrained unprofessional, we keep these big corporations that hire entire teams of professionals on their toes. The ideological bias comes into that, the questions are always framed in such a way that they corner you in not addressing systemic issues and it’s really hard to shove the anti capitalist message. In a way better training would be needed to learn to flip every question into what it is that you wanted to say in the first place. With the camp 2008 the police messaging hijacked the rest of the message.

L: Right, we’ll get onto the police later. How does the mainstream media influence what actions take place?

I: I think there is a real effort from the media team that we do things at the service of the Climate Camp. What we are there to do is talk about the Camp to the media, not serve the Camp to the media. I think that DA nowadays always has some media awareness but I think we are really trying hard not to turn the camp into a media stunt.

S: It does come up in discussions and gatherings, somebody always says ‘you know we have to think about how that would look in the media’ and then someone else says ‘we cant base our whole strategy on the media’

I: and both things are true. At Kingsnorth the GRRR [Great Rebel Raft Regatta] was very much devised, not as a media stunt, but with media in mind. It would be fun, it would be visual, it would be something that the media would like, but then it would not just be a media stunt. I think this is what the camp tries to do generally.

S: I would be really interested to talk to those handful of people that got over the fence and were arrested at Kingsnorth. They leaped over the fence and into the arms of police knowing they wouldn’t be able to shut down anything or do anything and id be really be interested to find out was it the whole ‘we did it we got in’ and being able to put that message out which was really fantastic for the media team that was that going through their minds when they did it?

L: What does the Camp use the mass-media for, regarding that the Camp has its own media?

S: People get into it because they saw it on TV. Its about broadening the movement, its about reaching out to new people, it has to be. And its about trying to influence public debate and public opinion and attempting to get some more radical messages out there. In terms of also opposing specific bad things its very powerful to play the media battle and embarrass the government and the corporations.

I: I don’t see the Climate Camp as a radical lobby group but it also plays that part. I think it would be very naïve to try to pretend that’s not the case. But it is also about being prepared when they come, because they’re going to come.

S: It’s also part of our defense to have images on ITV of people being beaten by police. In terms of how we are trying to portray the story that we want to tell its negative, but in terms of keeping people safe and reducing the amount it happens it’s a strength. That’s another role for the media team.

L: What does the Camp give to the media?

I: During the Camp we send press releases once a day generally. We had a plan of what we would be saying every day but then everyday we had to talk about the cops. We have photographers and videographers on the camp and we try to make that available. The media team is not involved enough with the technical side that makes that work possible though. We work with group of genus heroes who basically make computers work on no energy. The availability of photographs and videos is always a problem [on site] because the availability of power needed to send them. But that’s what we try to do.

L: Do you ever find the mass media picking up on what you have given them or will generally produce their own stuff?

S: Sometimes it’s a case of phoning up jornos that we know and seeing if there interested. Depends what’s going on. This year we were spending allot of time responding to the police with some stupid press release or something like that and getting dragged down a side ally of nonsense. It depends on the publication, you obviously have some media that have the story that they want to tell or some journalists that come with an idea in their head of what the story is going to be and then trying to make us fit into it. We were in quite allot of different media, magazines documentaries etc, where we would give the story and yer ok quite often they wouldn’t’t get it right and we were misrepresented somehow but none the less it was coming from us.

L: Do you ever find media outlets just using everything you have given them virtually unedited?

S: It tends to happen more at the begging when we knew what was going on and no one else did. […] and as soon as events start to happen and once the different jornos get a sense of what’s going on and get different stories from different places it changes.

I: This year was very much a battle of press releases [cops and Campers] and the editor would pick from both sides. I think when they come and they interview a couple of people and get a sense for things themselves. Only the really lazy journalist copy the PRs. They use the quotes though.

L: How do you accommodate journalists on site?

I: I think the media policy says allot about the movement and what we have to balance. It’s a nightmare.

S: We could have had a very simple media policy of no media on site. But it got to the point of media sophistication where it wasn’t what the movement wanted. The feeling was we needed some coverage of what we are doing here and it was only a minority that wanted no coverage at all.

I: There were more people who were into the idea of having media anywhere at any time, which I remain convinced that they just didn’t’t know what they were wishing for. If that was the case I’m almost certain the whole media team would have walked out.

L: At Kingsnorth this year you had passes for Journos to stay on site – did you get many to take them up?

I: Some played the game and found it was a really useful experience. Maybe 6 did that

L: Did you find them more positive when they spent a longer time there?

I: Yes definitely. The longer they spent the more positive they are, that’s almost a rule. We also smooze them like crazy…

S: It’s interesting how we have been increasingly confident of letting journos talk to campers. There’s this image of the media team trying to control the message, to have the confidence to say no you can talk to anyone on sight and we believe most people here will have the ability to articulate why they’re here and actually journos prefer to talk to people who have thought about there answers before hand and who will give them something useful.

I: They always want both. Especially those that come several times, the more they come the more positive they are but only the journos that are vaguely interested and vaguely positive are going to come several times. The Sunday Times guy that has already decided what he’s going to write about you in any case doesn’t want to get involved because he doesn’t want to have his own ideas – his or hers but its generally his – have their own ideas changed, they don’t want to take the risk of being confronted to how wrong they are. So they only come because they have this journalistic integrity because they say ‘well I have to go.’ In any case they write the story they are going to write any way. Most journos will be happy to have someone who is quite articulated but they also want to have some random person to check this isn’t just some slick message because journalist are very use to dealing with spin.

L: Do you prioritise journalists and media and do you block out others?

S: Yer it’s an experience thing. Getting to know different journos, which are worth the time.

L: Evening standard hate the Camp. Do you just block them off or do you give them some sort of standard reply?

I: We try to have the most trained people give them a response. Some people feel disrespected as they feel they could talk to journalist like that but don’t know what it is actually like to be cornered ten times by one and knowing what it feels like and being able to get over it etc. With the Evening Standard we say a bare minimum. You think mostly about what you don’t say.

L: On who can or can’t talk to the media – do you think there is a hierarchy present in the media team?

S: It’s the same as you wouldn’t want me to put up a marquee, its about finding people who have got the skills, the experience and the training to do the jobs. If I want to put up a marquee then brilliant I’ll get together with some experienced people and get involved but I wouldn’t be expected to put up the biggest marquee in the middle of the Camp by myself. In the same way people can join the media team take on a small role to begin with and get experienced but you don’t have someone on the first day and put them on TV. It’s what’s best for the Camp but also for the person

I: The word hierarchy is interesting. What we really try not to have is relationships where people end up being cohearsed into doing things or not doing things, where decisions are made that are really not transparent. At Heathrow there was a tendency to end up in a little bit of a bubble but at Heathrow it just never stopped. We got completely taken over and no one expected that. It was the biggest shock ever, people got upset. It was more manageable at Kingsnorth. It’s not an easy to find a balance and we’re learning, it’s a very young movement.

S: On the one hand its about who speaks to the media and then there’s the question of what we are saying. There has been times when we have to make a decision with only three people in a tent at midnight about a message and not having time or a clear remit to know where the line can be drawn.

I: People want the media team to make a clear remit before the Camp but when we are there and people see how it works and we go to the meetings and say can the media team have an open remit for today people say yes, good luck, deal with it.

S: It is difficult. You go on TV and your seen as reps for the camp. Though we are not trying to set up ourselves as that. We need allot more advanced discussion especially in relation to this year and how we are going to make connections between finance and climate.

I: There is still a reproduction of the social organisation of society. There is a very scary concentration of PHD’s going on. That’s a real shame. There are loads of people who don’t have PHD’s who could do the job and who can also put up marquees, do cooking, etc. The problem is that because there is a skill shortage they are too busy.

L: How do new people approach the media team and become involved?

S: We have bursts of activity when we make an effort. We run training before the Camp and at the Camp.

I: But as soon as there is training organised at the Camp ten journos turn up. We have to make it up as we go along

L: Does the media team ever attempt to seam official or use levels of cultural status, for example titles such as doctor or dress in a particular way?

I: There is no agreed language. This year was the first time there was some form of agreed smart appearance. One person decided to put himself forward as a doctor but would only do and say certain things. Otherwise there is no code beyond the key messages.

L: So if there is someone who might be dead good at handling the media who insists on wearing a mask…

I: It happened. There is nothing you can do. At first I thought it was a disaster but then I thought that’s the Camp and there are masked up kids here. Maybe sometimes we are being too cautious, probably its not the end of the world.

L: How does the camp make itself heard, does the Camp often provoke a story or is it reactionary?

S: Both. We are careful not to make the only reason for taking action is media coverage.

I: We don’t have that much work to do. We’re not in the position of PR people who have to make something out of nothing. There is always something to talk about.

L: So, let’s talk about the Camp’s bessi mates – the Evening Standard…

I: Well at Heathrow they printed an article that said we were preparing hoax bombs and the journalist lied. The story was picked up by other papers. We filed a complaint with the PCC which is a long bureaucratic process and is pretty toothless but eventually the Standard printed an apology and a withdrawal. It was three people that dealt with that and took six or eight months. The Evening Standard has a long history of having a direct line with M15 and that is being used very clearly.

S: The positive result, the retraction, didn’t make much difference in terms of what the public saw but it keeps them on their toes and it shoes that we are prepared and organised enough to fight back.

I: For us it was a very good lesson and we were very well counseled on that by someone with a large amount of experience. We made a shift from this quite typical activist reaction, which is a bit victimised, to actually say there is no reason why we should take this lying down. It made a difference in terms of confidence. For example in terms of the media policy, quite allot of them complained bitterly about that. Journalists are managed all the time by everybody, corporations to political parties etc, but when it’s us they just can’t stand it. Because we are activists with public discourses they feel they should have access and I feel this shows a lack of respect that they show for people positions of authority that they don’t show to us. The PCC episode gave us more confidence.

S: Now we can say the ES lied as proved by the PCC.

I: And we do say it, and use it as a threat.

L: Has the camp built up a profile so that it is sought after for a response on certain topics?

S: Yes. Journos have the Camp phone numbers and they often want a quote from the ‘radical edge’ as they do from the NGO or the resident etc

I: Yer we’re on the map now.

L: What does Indymedia and the media of the movement contribute to the Camp?

S: Communication between activists. But more than that people are more networked online, people go home and disseminated information amongst their networks…

I: Indymedia needs to rethink its role anyway because of all these blogs and other networks. They have a tendency to be frustrated as they can be seen to be a service provider but at the same time they are. Yet there are too many people who use Indymedia [on site] to gain access to their emails. It’s one of those things that will be missed if it’s gone and is moaned about when the quality is down. However Indymedia is a collective responsibility, if you don’t like what it is then write something better on it. I think it shows the lack of training that we have to be well self managed because we’re so use to having services being provided for us.

L: There is a clear distinction between Indymedia team and the mass media team in the Camp, do you think that’s true

I: Yes, and I think it should not be. We do not work enough together and to be honest I think its the media team’s fault. We tend to be really busy and we work too well together. Its when you have done four hours of interviews you just don’t want to do any more.

S: We made a start this year by sharing the space and sitting in on each other meetings.

I: It has ended up them providing services for us though.

S: Yer, there would be an emergency and we would be like ‘find an IM person’, and they would come and save us.

I: Like when there has been no sun for two days and somehow they would still have power.

L: Do you think there is a problem in the capabilities and potential of Indymedia, for example compared to the Camp’s own website, is there really not that much use for it?

I: I think there is a use. For example there is very few reports from all the brilliant workshops in the Camp. If that was written up that would be picked up by the media and make our lives easier. At the Camp everyone has experiences of magic, there are moments like that everywhere, if they were recorded on Indymedia it would give the Camp a different texture.

L: So, on the Police and their slander campaign. I’m interested in how you handled it and reacted to it?

I: With great frustration. It was so frustrating because first of all they would keep coming at us with the most ludicrous inventions that we knew had the capabilities to bite in the media, like the cash or the weapons being found apparently hidden next to a road which they said we were going to use to hurt horses. Then you realise that some journalists believe that rubbish and you end up in the nightmare situation when you talk about anything but the issue. Attacking animals on a vegan camp! There is no logic.

[At this, Dan leaves and we have some amazing dinner!]

L: …Ok back to the po po

I: For us it was frustrating. It felt we were fire fighting in terms of messaging all the time. We kept on having filters coming through that prevented us from being able to talk about what we needed to talk about. The camp’s media team aren’t just employers that are paid to do what we do, we are activists and we care about what we do, we really are fighting for social justice. To be criminalised is hard. We want to do good and we are being treated like criminals when we know that the criminals are the people we are trying to stop and we don’t try to criminalise them. We really have to avoid that the story doesn’t become the police and we end up with the usual connotations associated with the Camp, ‘there out of control’, ‘they are slightly anarchist’, etc. They want to pile all these connotations on us and we have to get rid of them. It narrows even more the space to have the systemic critique.

L: Where is your frustration and anger placed, of course on the police but what about the journos who picked up on that rubbish?

Yes it is frustrating. That’s where hegemony comes in, there is this hierarchy of credibility, if the police say something then they will give more credibility than what we say. Its frustrating to see allot of journalists play into it.

L: And it puts you on a defensive consistently

Yes it does. But it makes you realise that our society is structured like that. We have everything to prove, that strictly the journalist will come with an attitude that they need to be wary of us, that we have hidden agendas, that we are the ones who have something to hide, not the police, not the corporations, not the government spokespeople. Even educated people like journalists don’t question that.

L: Can you use the police situation to our advantage, such as their own statement showing they stole our crayons?

We managed to flip it a little bit but we were not talking about climate change or the capitalist system. We managed to fire fight ok but we couldn’t turn it round to talk about what we wanted to talk about. I don’t think it’s our lack of experience I think that the space isn’t there.

L: Does the Climate Camp media peeps attempt to gain a sense of legitimacy attained by corporations, police etc, if they do how do they do that? Do you seek to associated yourselves with the world’s poor for example?e

We don’t want to claim more than we can. There is a whole reflection about the politics of representation. We don’t claim to represent x or y. We don’t claim to represent anything other than us as people there and then and we don’t even do that. We try to use the legitimacy of the discourse rather than that of the people and I think more and more events are proving us right. Its quite rare that we have an opportunity to do something like News Night but what we go for is not who will be the most credible or have the most status it is who can hack it, who can take facing Paxman, we need someone who wont collapse etc…

L: On the messaging, if you could say anything what would you say?

It would be an anti capitalist message. The root of climate change is not coal or aviation, it is the capitalist system and that being an anti capitalist is not being a backward weirdo. Its possible to be an anti-capitalist and be happy and normal. For me that’s the message the Camp is trying to get to. Anti capitalism doesn’t not have to be this impossibility, its not only just possible but more joyful and healthy.

L: What is the strongest message you push, stopping climate change or starting social change or are they completely interlinked?

I think it’s totally interlinked. That’s the message of the Camp, you can’t have one without the other.


More articles to follow – interviews, examples of other movements media use and analysis. Watch out…

See for almost all of Climate Camp’s broadcast news coverage from 2008.

– e-mail: geekoffthestreet at

Editor note: this article (like many others on this site) was originally lifted from Indymedia. I thought the comment below was interesting, so decided to include it, but should make clear it isn’t part of the article.


Interesting article – thanks for that.

Just a few points…

The Camp for Climate Action came out of a number of movements, but as with all these things, it’s individuals and their experience that get things moving. It was a mix of people – not all burnt out – from Reclaim the Streets, Earth First! and more newly involved people. Many of these people had experienced the (painful) Dissent process or just the Stirling camp, and had learned a lot whether that be how to have good meetings or how to create a decentralised ‘eco-village’ for a week. It was these lessons, combined with the reflection Isabel mentions, that contributed greatly to the Drax camp being so amazing, and the vibrancy that still exists there. People had also been involved with lots of other kinds of campaigning, and experiences through other parts of their lives that were invaluable. Come the first open organising meeting in January 2006 there was of course a greater diversity of people from many walks of life, bringing their own invaluable perspectives.

There’ll be a continuing difference of opinion – I wouldn’t say that universally people involved in the camps think that the media is necessarily part of the solution, but that they are a medium, a tool, that we can’t ignore. It’s not that different from during the height of the anti-roads movement – one big difference however, is that far fewer people involved in the camps have so far been burnt badly by the media turning on them or the ideas they represent. We have been lucky that climate change continues to be the flavour of the month in the media, but things can change… And yes, if their agenda doesn’t fit ours, they just don’t cover our key messages, and instead focus on clashes with police, or on our message without the deeper politics; this happened with anti-genetics campaigning too.

It’s a big danger and a fallacy that somehow we are nicer and more proper than RTS or the anti-roads movement – that is of course the media and state strategy, and has always been, to co-opt parts of radical movements, and to crush with an iron fist other parts, to create good and bad protester, and we must be vigilant not to support this agenda, even if we might be coming at it from a different angle.

I disagree, and many involved with the Camp would too, that the media strategy should be about broadening the movement, so much as making the movement accessible to a broad range of people. It’s not just semantics, it’s been a point of fundamental disagreement. The first camp was very careful to make sure we stayed radical in our politics as well as militant in our tactics. That what we were about was taking the small radical space at the end of debates about climate change and about the society we live in, and enlarging that space, not broadening it to include liberal lobbying or famous pundits and MPs being given platforms. We can vastly increase the numbers of people involved, and make our ideas and strategies accessible, without watering it down in a wooly movement-building mantra. The two don’t have to be confused, and neither limits the numbers who think “this is the exciting place I want to be and learn in”. People should be able to come along just feeling comfortable enough to take part in workshops, cook or go on a demo, but with respect to the people taking direct action..and vice versa. Then people will feel confident to step outside of their comfort zone, and become radicalised.

Two examples of how things can go wrong. At Heathrow, the media team refused to press release for certain actions that people were organising at the camp, because they wanted the focus to stay on the main action at the time. That does not tally with the ‘serving the camp’ idea – in the end, people wrestled control from some and got them press released. Another is a decision that happened at a gathering before Kingsnorth, that all press releases should talk about coal and about agrofuels. Now whilst I personally think that was a bad decision, the media team should have dissented at the time, or brought it back to a gathering to change. Instead, after doing it for a few press releases, they just came back and said they wouldn’t do it. I’m sure with any aspect of the camps and the process that goes into them you can find fault, especially with so much going on and the conflicting demands and pressures, but these two examples can be useful to show some of the pitfalls and problems that the media team, and others, face.

An interesting interview and enlightening, so thanks to all involved again.


Editor note: comments closed for this article since it would probably make more sense to add comments to the original Indymedia post, thus keeping the whole conversation in one place.

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Governments can’t solve climate change: only movements can

Posted by KM on February 3, 2009

An open letter to Climate Summit participants

By Tim Briedis and Holly Creenaune

We are deeply concerned with, and critical of, the direction of the politics of the campaign proposals submitted to the Climate Summit so far. They advocate top-down, government-led solutions to climate change. Ideas range from calls for ‘government leadership’ and a ‘green economy’ to the very scary concept of a ‘wartime mobilisation’ and ‘declaration of climate emergency’. We feel support for top-down, government-controlled climate ‘solutions’ sits in contradiction with the aim to help build a democratic climate justice movement in Australia.

Given, for instance, the failure of repeated international negotiations between states, most recently at Bali and Poznan; the target of 5% reductions set in Australia by the Labor Party in December; and the power of international capital in influencing government policies; it seems to us these approaches have little to no chance of success.

If the proposals are adopted, there’s a good chance they will help lend support to a wide array of state and capitalist strategies. Under the public face of ‘responding to climate change’, these will reduce control over our own lives and significantly increase already massive social divisions. They will give greater power to the rich and attack the working class and the poor. Such approaches include a more authoritarian state, price rises of food, fuel and other essential goods, the implementation of carbon taxes and trading, and the land appropriation of Indigenous people.

We are wary of building ‘unity’ in the climate justice movement by agreeing to emissions reductions targets and however-many parts per million. For us, this is a false unity, when the strategies and solutions that are being put forward could dramatically curtail the dignities and civil rights of people across this continent, and the rights of peoples across the globe.

Instead, we believe that our best chance lies in supporting the struggles of oppressed people, workers and participatory movements from below. Movements have the ability to be infectious. They have changed the world before – and can do so again.

There’s potential for a climate justice movement to follow in this tradition. But this will only happen if we trust people, not governments that have a long history of oppression and violence.

Across Canberra, at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, people are currently meeting in a convergence against the Northern Territory Intervention and for justice for Aboriginal people. For Labor and Liberal politicians alike, the NT intervention, which is stripping away control of lives and land, is what an ‘Emergency Response’ is. It’s hardly legislation that can drastically reduce emissions and save the planet.

Emergency powers on climate change are not powers that can increase ‘co-operation’ on the issue; they are powers that will increase state control of polluting infrastructure and of our lives.

2008 saw, in over 30 countries, massive protests and direct actions around increasing food and fuel prices all over the world. In China, the State reports around 50,000 protests annually on pollution related issues, which have forced industrial factories to close. In South America, indigenous communities are mobilising strongly around environmental attacks on their land. It could be these kind of actions, sometimes leading to the closure of important greenhouse-related infrastructure, that makes the difference in preventing temperature rises that lead to runaway climate change.

People around the world are not sitting back quietly, politely asking the state for results and putting up with environmental and economic injustice. We should try and work with them: their struggles are ours too.

By Tim Briedis and Holly Creenaune. We’d love to talk more about these ideas: tbriedis (@) and hollycreenaune (@)

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Resistance in Rossport : Is it relevant to climate activists?

Posted by KM on February 2, 2009

Below is an extract taken from a pamphlet recently produced discussing resistance in Rossport, Ireland. With Shell currently resuming work on the offshore pipeline, it is a pertinent time to look at the relevance of this campaign to climate activists and to consider whether we should act in solidarity with this community in struggle:

“Criticisms are sometimes levelled at the campaign in Mayo for not being ‘radical’ or ‘ecological’ enough. The limited campaign aims are cited as evidence of this and, of course, a lot of people who go to Mayo find it a compromise to work with these goals – but not impossible. For many who come to support the struggle, it is clear that it is possible to act in solidarity with the community, while having alternate goals and placing the conflict in the wider context of capitalism and its pending ecological disaster.

If the gas development goes ahead it paves the way for further fossil fuel developments in the region. The refinery site is 400 acres; only 60 are being used for the current project. Large oil reserves also lie off the west coast of Ireland, and once the gas refinery is operational further developments will follow. In Erris, the politics are mixed; not everyone shares the same end goals, but the result of the collective effort (whether intentionally or not) has been the halting of a major fossil fuel development for nearly a decade. This is a dream of many climate activists; in Mayo it’s actually happening.

We make compromises all the time, in our lives and in our politics. There are always shades of grey; it’s just a question of which you choose. Supporting the struggle in Rossport involves working with people with a range of political ideas. It is a community led campaign, so unsurprisingly, for the most part, they are not ‘anarchists’, ‘anti capitalists’ or even coming from a strong ecological perspective. They are an ordinary rural community who have been forced to take extra-ordinary action to protect their land, health and way of life.

The primary campaign aims are that the gas is refined at sea and a greater proportion of the profits go to the Irish state. If you come from an eco-anarcho perspective these aims are clearly pretty limited. But really, what aims do you expect to be agreed upon by a random rural community? Demands that the gas stay in the ground, a transition to a low carbon society and an end to capitalism?

Although these are the set campaign aims, to a large extent the ‘politics’ of people in the community are fluid. Because of the events of the past eight years many have had to significantly rethink their ideas about the role of the state, the church, corporations, the Gardai, and the relationship between them. Think of how many people you know who have been radicalised at the end of a police baton; to greater and lesser degrees, this is the story of many people in the Rossport community. Perspectives have changed in response to state repression and people have become more open to alternative ideas about ways of living and organising.

In some ways, the structure of resistance parallels ways of organising used in the UK direct action scene. Shell to Sea works largely through consensus and direct action moved to the heart of the campaign as soon as it became a relevant tactic. The community use it when they consider it to be appropriate (which can be different to when outsiders might think it’s relevant), and these ideas of appropriateness have evolved over the course of the conflict. Sometimes it works to transfer tactics we’ve used in the UK, sometimes it doesn’t. Often tactics developed by the community, specific to their needs and abilities, work best. All of us are engaged in a learning process. While there are certainly things that the community can learn from people with years of experience of political activism, there is also much that we can learn from the sustained and successful resistance of this community that has cohesion, generations of shared history and a very real sense of place – things that most of us have little experience of. This long term connection to each other and to the land are almost certainly significantly responsible for sustaining the passion and determination that drives the resistance in Erris.

If there is any hope of (positive) radical social change it is dependent on people with different life experiences, and perspectives, being able to come together to share ideas, find common ground and collectively work out solutions of new ways to live; it will not happen in an activist ghetto. If ‘activists’ dismiss community-led campaigns purely because they are not ‘radical’ enough, valuable opportunities are lost; especially when the situation is as extreme as it is in Mayo. It is during periods of upheaval, times when life can no longer continue as usual, that long established world views are turned upside down and people become more receptive to different ideas. The realisation that government and religious institutions cannot be depended upon for support is often paralleled by an increased reliance on one another, and the benefits of concepts such as mutual aid, co-operation and solidarity are discovered experientially. These are moments to engage with disparate communities, to find the common ground and support struggles for self-determination. Ideas for real alternatives to our political and economic system are not broadcast by the corporate media; most people have little access to this information and often, until times like these, little impetus to search for it. The presence of outside supporters with ‘radical’ politics provides an easily accessible source of some alternative ideas, at a time when people are more willing to explore them. If ‘activists’ can also remain open to learning from the communities they engage with, the potential for navigating the difficult paths to real and radical social change increases. As diverse groups, and individuals, find ways to work together in struggle, it becomes more possible to imagine, and to create, a truly revolutionary social movement.”

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Mass action concept during COP15 in Copenhagen

Posted by KM on January 31, 2009

by Klimax/Copenhagen

Read this article at Shift Magazine

The answer to the question of whether we should attempt to shut down the COP15 summit and the entire process or block in the delegates until they have signed a protocol we can agree to is YES!

Starting from the beginning we do not believe for a second that large populist-orientated demonstrations will be enough to counter the dominant agenda of green capitalism, support progressive voices on the inside or to neither help solve climate change nor delegitimize global authority all together.

Parades, even endless, numerically vast ones, with more vague and defeatist demands are too easily absorbed by global authority and boomeranged back in the same direction they came from, carrying the momentum of the legitimate concerns throughout the public and smashing dissent by adopting a few points and camouflaging it as a good and reasonable compromise. Gleneagles became the Bermuda Triangle of antagonisms for the alterglobalisation movement. Global authority was revitalised due to the lack of an oppositional force. The lessons learned were expressed in the planning of resistance to the G8 in Rostock and still apply to this day. We need to portray our antagonism to the dominant agenda and kill the idea that climate change is a problem that puts us all in the same boat. This must be done through mass action to open up the political space to express another point of view and show that we are many and diverse.

Legitimacy versus concerns

At the first meeting in The International Climate Network held in Copenhagen in September 2008 the facilitators, having foreseen tension in the discussion about the legitimacy of the COP15 as an institution, an inevitable parameter when discussing civil disobedience and mass action to disrupt or affect the processes and power exchanging within, a game of sorts was played out to soothe ideological and political differences. The deal was that all the participants should walk around the room and debate the legitimacy of the COP15, whenever one met a person who thought it had less legitimacy than you did, one should move towards one end of the room and vice versa. At the end everyone had settled at a specific point in the room and collective discussions began from there. After a while though it was obvious that nobody was really talking that much about the legitimacy of the COP15, actually it seemed like no one really believed that in their perfect world such an institution would exist in its current form, but they seemed not to really care either. Instead, what roughly came to surface were two sets of concerns. In the more-legitimacy end concerns such as; the summit being the only chance for indigenous people and other progressive voices to be heard and it’s the only chance for an international and binding agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While in the less-legitimacy end concerns about the rise of green capitalism, green austerity and the fear of trying to heal the symptoms without attributing any blame to the disease – the fear of lack of antagonism and co-option. Unsurprisingly the activists in the more-legitimacy end, roughly speaking, correlated with the ones entering the climate struggle from an environmental perspective and in the less-legitimacy end activists who had entered from a social perspective.

This action concept is an attempt to tie a knot between these concerns and make sure that we, at all times, action in a way where our concerns are meet as much as possible in the given situation.

Objectives and aims

The only thing more gruesome than yet another round of capitalist accumulation and the further expansion of government and corporate control into our lives, are the disastrous case scenarios of climate change unfolding. Thus our primary objective must be to combat the dominant market based agenda on the inside and function as leverage for progressive voices pushing for a protocol which could actually save this planet.

The logical syntax: A good deal is better than no deal – but no deal is way better than a bad one.

A truly social and serious agreement to a cut in greenhouse gas emissions which is fair globally as well as locally, not destroying the local ecosystems, not stealing away indigenous farmers lands and using up starving peoples’ food supplies to keep the motors running in the SUVs of the western middle-class, is not only a restraint to global capital, but the happiest possible ending (within reason). On the other hand if the deal is just a new chapter in the Kyoto protocol with an insignificant cap in emissions as a global figure in the distant future, combined with poor local solution only benefitting the TNC’s and the rich, it must be fought on all levels. Even though there will be no global convention after the year 2012. Global authority would have shown itself incapable of producing any results on the number one issue and the whole process would have been delegitimized; opening up for other possible solutions.

The strategy

It is not possible for us to shut the summit down before it gets started! It’s not possible to shut down the process from the get-go without completely alienating ourselves from the general public and their concerns. In spite of their dissatisfaction with the way politicians are handling global warming the general public’s reaction is to appeal for their given authorities to ‘do something’ – the fact that they now actually meet has all the legitimacy in the world.

To meet our concerns in the best way possible in the current situation we block the delegates in. We encircle the entire meeting and declare that not a single soul gets to leave until a socially just and binding contract has been signed. In all likelihood the contract won’t be near good enough, both in terms of scientific numbers and measures but also in terms of how these new benchmarks are going to be reached. In the logic of keeping them inside until they sign a proper convention we are not going to let them out. ‘We do not believe that this convention is good enough. Go back in there until you have changed it’. This will show that we strongly disagree to the convention which has been signed and portray antagonism in the unavoidable, but not necessarily violent, clashes between police and our blockades. True to the mantras: ‘a good (which we hate to call it; but would be categorised by a protocol with a probable chance of saving the planet…) deal is better then a no deal’ and ‘the only thing worse than another round of capitalist accumulation (a hard one to swallow for the bloodthirsty anticapitalists of KlimaX Copenhagen indeed) is the worst case scenarios of climate change’. We are not going to attempt to shut the process down, but portray our strong disagreement to how it’s done and show our dissent and concerns with the new convention. However the encirclement is not a fixed position at all. It depends on what we stand to gain from an eventual outcome. During the summit the eyes of the world will be resting upon the Bella Center in Copenhagen, just like – and presumably even more – all the other summit/counter summit events. But this time we got reality working for us a lot more than usual (‘If climate change didn’t exist we would have to invent it’, someone said) and this meeting could easily delegitimize itself. The pressure we exert on the outside will also donate power to the voices on the inside actually concerned about saving the planet.

If the new protocol is not a planet-saving one, we will be far from alone in our dissent. Powerful voices across parts of the political spectrum along with scientists, indigenous communities, all kinds of organisations and movements from across the world and even the more moderate NGOs would have to speak up against it. If the COP15 summit loses not only its legitimacy – understood not as some prefixed legitimacy defined in accordance with leftwing radical ideology, but as a much more frank and uncomplicated one in the eyes of the general public, but also its ability to carry out solutions to every single concern highlighted by the more-legitimacy group. If the indigenous people are not heard, if no progressive input gets to affect the work process and if there is no real, serious and binding contract aiming at cutting Co2 emissions, the process’ value to us begins to wane. In fact, it can only be seen as an instrument for fathering corporatism and opening up new markets for exploitation. As the legitimacy begins to crumble we are in fact the ones affirming the summit as a possible and legit mechanism for solutions by just standing idle by and demanding – we think its time to go Seattle on their asses. We should attempt to shut down this illegitimate process for good! This not being a detail orientated writing, but a theoretical basis for mass actions, elaborations about methodology and exactly how are intentionally left out.

Even though, as you may have already realised, this concept suggestion is an attempt to work around the legitimacy issue, but here is our two cents on those regards anyway. The core of activists in KlimaX Copenhagen surely would like to see a much more participatory society. There is no doubt that an institution like the COP or even the elected representatives is not within our ideal for decision making. But to us legitimacy is about more than ideals, otherwise we would have to postpone all problem solving to a post-revolutionary calendar. Legitimacy also has to be about solving the problems of this planet and meeting the concerns of the people that live on it. As long as the COP15 holds a possible solution to the biggest problem we have, it also has legitimacy. Maybe our understanding of the word is rudimentary, but if aforementioned has nothing to do with legitimacy, maybe it isn’t that interesting at all and we should find another word and get on with it. Certainly we believe that neither ideals such as anarchism or democracy and the ‘the end of history’ paradigm of the elite, neither of which a farmer in Brazil or a fisherman in Bangladesh, as they are the most, give a damn about, should stand in the way of plausible action aimed at saving the planet.

The parallel summit

Following the storyboard of the countersummits’r’us movement is having an alternative summit and to try and shut the actual summit down before it starts. This time around many things are different and we see a lot of advantages in that. This counter summit will more have a character of a parallel summit. In stead of ‘just’ discussing the newest theories about what the capitalists are now up to, we will mirror the discussions going on inside the Bella Center and bring our conclusions into the streets, whilst fighting the dominant agenda heavily in the media and ‘on the inside’. We imagine a much more homogeneous protest than BlockG8 with a mass action clause signed beforehand. This is not speaking against a clause in itself, which might still be a good idea, but without having any prefixed interpretation of exactly how things are going to be and how we will act. Since whatever goes on inside the meeting will also have a reaction on the streets, it will deliver an immense amount of pressure. Maybe we could even set up perimeters and move in closer and closer to the Bella Center whenever the process takes unsatisfying and greedy turns.

We should not work against the legitimacy of the COP15. We should have its legitimacy working for us. The besieging strategy is a multiple option position from which we will be able to act, in order to meet our concerns best possible in any given situation. If the summit ‘turns ugly’ to an extent beyond repair and beyond any viable solutions for saving the planet, it will have lost its legitimacy in accordance with any reasonable definition of the word and we can attempt to shut the process down. If we manage to accumulate and assert pressure enough to seal a convention with planet saving potential, but still far from an incompatible with that ‘other world’ we think is possible, we will have a chance to say no by keeping them in there. If the deal is a perfect display of solidarity and unselfishness we can all go home and wonder what the hell happened and still be happy, but we are not going to elaborate too much on that possibility… One could argue that this will create a tense atmosphere between trigger-happy activists wanting to shut the summit down and the ones who want to keep the summit going and by what principles and measures we are going to figure out when it goes from one scenario to another. But aren’t we evidently going to have those discussions anyway, no matter what we do?

The block in strategy is the concept, if any, we can agree on. It’s a strategically, tactically and logistically plausible concept.

We hope to facilitate a dialectical process around this concept to make it as strong as possible.


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Class, coal and climate change conference.

Posted by KM on January 30, 2009

Sat 1st November , Bridge Hotel, Newcastle upon Tyne.

This conference was organised by the N.U.M and the I.W.W in conjunction with the R.M.T in response to the camp for climate action.
Speakers included: Arthur Scargill (Hon President N.U.M)
Dave Douglass ( I.W.W activist )
Paul Chatterton ( Leeds Uni )
David Guy ( N.U.M regional official)
Environmental/Climate change activists
This speech was given by a climate camper NOT a spokesperson for the camp for climate action.

Before I start I would like to make a quick point although I am here to say why we should not use coal to produce electricity. I and the majority of people within the green movement have total respect and admiration for what the miners and the communities have fought for and achieved in particular the courage and dignity shown during the great strikes of the 1970/80’s.


There is now is general acceptance among the scientific community that the phenomena called ‘climate change’ is real and happening. It is also accepted that the process is being accelerated by human activity. The debate has moved away from climate denial. Of course the Earth does have natural cycles of heating and cooling but the burning of fossil fuels, livestock production, waste disposal and deforestation have compounded the heating process; many scientists have concluded that that this will lead to unpredictable and severe weather patterns that will cause disastrous social conditions for Humanity. (I think the phase global warming is misleading and unhelpful)

It’s a complex picture and the uses of fossil fuels aren’t entirely to blame. The exploitation of other species for livestock production and industrial agriculture produce’s vast amounts of methane a so called greenhouse gas which is a major contributory to the climate change process.
However the main contribution to the greenhouse gases comes from the combustion of Oil, Gas and coal. Assuming the scientists are correct the need to tackle climate change can not be underestimated. Time is not on our side, but marching against us. As a species we must take urgent and collective action to avert the disastrous consequences of the climate changing for the worse.

No other generation has the weight of the future rested so heavily on the present.

Coal has had a big part to play in the situation that we find ourselves in, the burning of coal has in part led to the current climate crises and continues to do so.

As per usual the current labour government has set targets and made grand pledges but is guilty of complete inaction as is big business, both consistently put profit before people and planet. In terms of moving toward a low carbon society the government has so far failed. We continue to burn coal unabated to produce electricity and so we contribute to our own demise.

Coal + C.C.S + Opencast mining.

The bogeyman of the climate change movement is E-on and the kingsnorth power station in Kent where the recent camp for climate action was held. A new kingsnorth would emit the same amount of CO2 as the thirty least polluting countries combined and would destroy any chance that we have of persuading India and China to stop building coal fired power stations. If Kingsnorth is rebuilt it will pave the way for a new generation of coal fired power stations this simply can’t happen considering the accepted science.

E-on are proposing to utilise carbon, capture and storage( C.C.S ) technology at Kingnorth. Despite the claims of the energy giants Carbon, capture and storage is an unproven technology that is yet to be used on a global industrial scale, three or four test plants globally is not scientifically conclusive and proves nothing , to base the next forty years energy production policy on a yet unproven technology is surely folly.

Because C.C.S is in the early stages of it’s development the efficiency levels are very low only removing 20-35% of the greenhouse gases produced whilst lowering the total efficiency of the power station. This efficiency level is simply not high enough this would still leave coal as one of the dirtiest methods of producing electricity.

Timeline estimates vary as to when C.C.S will become available, the best guesses so far are 2015-2030. E-on wants to begin constructing the new kingsnorth around 2014 and has admitted that the C.C.S will have to be retrofitted, Again in light of the scientific advice this would not be quick enough to halt climate change.

We must not allow a new generation of coal fired power stations to be built because we’ve put our faith in a technology that may not mature or arrive to late stop climatic feedback systems.

One of my personal concerns regarding C.C.S is the cost of development which will inevitably be passed on to the consumer at a time when fuel bills are already riding high, those on a low income, pensioners and people that are already in fuel poverty will feel the pinch in their fuel bill. The finance used to develop C.C.S would be much better invested in mature and sustainable renewable technologies. Renewable technologies leave behind very little waste unlike nuclear or carbon sequestration techniques which need the waste to be into long term storage, experience has taught us that most dump and disposal systems have a tendency to leak.

To some extent carbon sequestration technology should be welcomed and when it has been proven on a global industrial scale it could help many dirty carbon based industries clean up their act during the transition to a low carbon society.

There is currently thirty applications to extract coal in the U:K fourteen of these are in Northumbria and Co. Durham alone, all the applications are to surface mine or opencast.

I think it would be useful for progression of the debate for the N.U.M to clarify it’s position on opencasting, during my preparation for this conference I looked extensively on the N.U.M website and rang several national and area officials but couldn’t get a clear answer on the N.U.M position. As there are so few deep mines left and no plans to revive deep mining practice I Think the N.U.M should put a clear statement on it’s webpage regarding it’s position on opencast mining. *see end notes*

For me and many other folk opencast mining is vandalism the scale of destruction of a modern opencast operation is obscene. How U:k coal, miller argent and the banks group can use phases such as sustainable and environmentally sensitive when referring to opencast is beyond me. A look over an opencast site leaves no doubt as to the environmental destruction of such an operation. The local communities that live next to such sites are forced to face damage to their local environment, heavy plant moving though their villages bringing noise and dust. House prices are lowered and any tourism in the area is diminished. At the end of the operation the so-called developers build a Mickey Mouse nature reserve and add a few extra footpaths. You can re-plant the tree’s but you can’t replace the forest it’s just not that simple.

Some of our climate camp group has been spending time with the residents of Consett, Leadgate and Dipton in Co. Durham a traditionally working class area abandoned by the Tories and capitalists during the 1980’s. Recently the residents took us on a guided walk over a site that U:K coal plan to opencast, the guide that lead the walk a local historian was amazingly well informed and the son of a mining family. He showed us the old bell mining sites, the entrances to drift mines, the honeycombing left after making coke and the old wagon ways used to transport the coal. In addition he explained the political and social aspects of mining over the last few hundred years, this site at Bradley/Billingside woods is part of the fabric of mining heritage in the North east.

We then went on to look at the flora and fauna in the area, nesting sites of red kites, the pond where crested newts have made their home, the badger sets in among ancient holly copse and the woodland that provides habitat for the nearly extinct red squirrels.

U:K coal has stated that the mining history and the unique wildlife is of no significance! The building blocks of a proud industrial heritage and the loss of habitat to three species that are on the brink of extinction and the damage to the wider ecology is of No Significance!

The disturbance to the local residents is of no significance to U:K coal.

It would seem to me that the only thing of significance to U:K coal, Banks group and Millar argent is profits for the fat cats on the board and it’s shareholders, they certainly don’t care about miners, local communities, wildlife or the fact that their profit driven actions will contribute to climate change. Personally I hope that the people which profit from these opencasting schemes choke on the money!

The supposedly democratic planning process is also being undermined. In the recent planning application for a new Banks group site close to Cramlington, Northumberland county council ( N.C.C) correctly rejected refused the application as the proposed site is located within an opencast constraint area, the ironically named communities minister at the time Hazel Blears stepped in and overruled N.C.C. I believe that the planning application for the Smalley site was also rejected by Derbyshire county council, again it was overruled by central government. What is the point of a planning process at all if the government is consistently overruling county councils.

I don’t know why the government and industry has such an obsession for opencasting, personally I think it’s a mixture of economics and political vengeance for the miners insurrection the 1990’s. Whatever the reason opencast mining is an unacceptable practice.


In the build up to the recent(2008) climate camp a small but very vocal group accused the climate camp of attacking the working class by criticising coal.
The truth is that it is the ruling capitalist class in their pursuit of the neo-liberal policies of the state that have consistently and continually attacked the working class. Not the climate camp.

At a time of crises for the planets ecology and human inhabitants the ruling capitalist class seeks to make a profit from climate change, the use of unsustainable bio-fuels, nuclear energy, offsetting schemes and sending troops to fight for fossil fuels, these are assaults on the human species and our ecology that only the ruling class will profit from whilst the working class of the world( the majority of which don’t live in England) will suffer because of the irresponsible actions of the capitalists.

Ecology is a class issue as our ecology fundamentally underpins our existence. Our ecology is under sustained assault from rapacious and dominating social systems these systems are maintained and fostered by human elites, general ignorance, apathy and fear. We rapidly need a new social system and we need to protect the old systems which balance with our wider ecology.

Another voice of concern at the climate camp was the effect that the no new coal stance taken by the camp would have on the freight rail industry and the perceived loss of jobs within that industry, this analysis is clearly incorrect. It is more than fair comment to say that the environmental movement has championed rail as a form of freight and personal transport consistently for a number of years. The use of rail for personal transport is currently at an all time high this is due to a number of factors, one of the major contributory factors has been the green lobby for public transport, indeed the use of rail is a very real and immediate solution to the crises of climate change. The green movement will continue to lobby for a better publicly owned sustainable transport system.

Having attended all three climate camps I think that Dave Douglass class analysis isn’t to far short of the mark, yes there are a good few middle class uni kids and plenty of weekend hippies that want to dip into alternative culture, worst still is the political vampires and journalists that have jumped on the green bandwagon to enhance their careers, But the majority of the people that attend the camps are just normal day to day folk that are genuinely concerned about the future. It is certainly not the lions den which Dave described in his report to the N.U.M.

The climate camp is a movement that is still in its infancy it was birth in the 1990s reclaim the streets/anti-road protests movement (which incidentally re invigorated the anti-capitalist movement). Admittedly the camp has been slow to recognise the worker class position however, the unions have been involved in all three camps, during the second camp people went and supported striking workers from Heathrow, but by the time the third camp was organised a proposal for a just transition had been published, there was a lot more union activity at the camp and the workers climate action group attempted to engage the workers at the power station (though the police didn’t allow this). Hopefully this will start to bring the workers and the environmentalists closer to agreement on the many complicated issues that affect our future lives.

To be honest (with the exception of the royals) I’m not that concerned which class you’re from, I’m interested in what your doing and the changes your making. After all shouldn’t all social movements be welcoming regardless of your background.

The climate camp is getting out there confronting the institutions of power, resisting capitalism and saying no to authoritarian control. It is a movement built on participary democracy and consensus decision making whilst working, eating and playing communally.

I hope that we can agree that this side of the climate change movement is healthy, alive and to be welcomed.

I want to thank the NUM, the IWW and in particular Dave Douglass for organising this debate and I hope we can move away from the childish and provocative statements that have been posted on forums and websites like Indymedia or magazines such as Shift. Some of the vicious and sectarian comments I have read recently have truly saddened me.

Today’s honest, open and intelligent adult debate should move us toward common ground and I feel there are points of agreement already.

  • That there is no place for Nuclear power, civil or military.
  • That carbon sequestration technology is to be welcomed when proved on a global industrial scale.
  • That workers, environmentalists, community activists and academics need to find common ground and get organised to build a sustainable future.
  • That the UK must lead the way in clean and sustainable energy production that would create tens of thousands of green jobs.
  • That the way the state deals with mass protest movements, strikes or insurrection is not acceptable.
  • And most importantly of all to bring about new social system, which brings an end to the domination of capitalism that exploits people and planet.

*end note*

During the debate the N.U.M stated that they are against opencast mining. A clear statement is still needed on their website.

Please feel free to reproduce any part of this document. It’s @nti copyright.
Thanks to the anonymous author of the pamphlet insurrectionary ecology. I have clearly used a couple of paragraphs from your amazing booklet.
I also gleaned some of the facts/stats from the Greenpeace website.

E-mail: nodirtycoal (at)

PLEASE help stop the needless destruction of Bradley/billingside woods. Check out and sign the petition.

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The Camp is Dead! Long Live the Camp!

Posted by KM on January 29, 2009

by Archibald

Climate Camp has been momentous – the creativity and ingenuity of its participants has led to a sum much greater than it’s parts. Theory has been manifest in our action; not as individuals or bureaucracies, but as collectives, we have played a significant role in elevating the level of public consciousness and forcing the governments hand on the climate bill. Movements are building – residents in Sipson have shifted from a cautious optimism, at best, to a full-fledged support of our shared goals. Audacious actions across the country are serving as a clarion call to people of all ages – runways are occupied, offices are blockaded and trains are brought to a halt. The results of our collective actions are tangible.

Yet there will be no dissenting voices to the proclamation that it has not gone far enough, that we have not achieved enough, that we have not even come close to achieving our goals. If we are to progress, we must not succumb to an inertia that leaves us stunted, unable to shout because we find ourselves gagged, unable to act because we are backed into a corner. Let this serve as a warning – the flight we take from here is less important than escaping the impending inertia, any flight will do, as long as we escape inertia.

The first and second camps were uncontainable – we weren’t actors in a play that had already been written, we were storming the theatre. As unknown quantities with unknown qualities, it wasn’t an image of us that was being portrayed; we were moving too fast to be traced. This is when the Camp was at its peak, when no one could speak for us, when no image would suffice to replace what we were or why we were here – it was when messages resonated as we hoped and the words to our songs were heard clearly.

Yet our methods are perilously close to being captured and turned against us; we should fear our energy and creativity being channelled into the role of the Other, we should fear being Orientalised. The third was the first clear warning shot, the stench of inertia was first sniffed when the story began to be told on our behalf – no one noticed us storm the theatre, by the third night the playwright was expecting us and had folded us into the script. Having come to terms with the initial fracas, we were found to improve the story; like ‘nature’ to modern man, we have been cast in the role of the irrational plebeian, the perfect counterweight to the rational aristocrat.

The story has been written and our role has been cast – we must move quickly!

To avoid being snared we need to disappear like the Tute Bianchi, we need to take heed from the warning shot and metamorphose with speed. The Climate Camp – but only as we have known it – has had its curtain call, yet there will be no tears in this theatre (the actors are going on to better things). If we are creative in our flight, then the warning shot will sound like a starting gun. We ought not be scared of doing new things, in fact we have no choice – the change itself will be the inauguration of a more intensive movement.

This warning does not serve to tell us what the future should be; it is it to tell us what the future is. It is up to us to change this future. We must make tactical decisions, not ideological ones. We must consider our targets, then work out how to achieve them.

G20. G8. Decennial. Copenhagen.

(And for the record: mass action is too slow, we needed masses of action!)

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The Environment is an Industrial Challenge

Posted by KM on January 9, 2009

taken from ‘The Coming Insurrection’ by the invisible committee

Ecology is the new big discovery of the year. It’s been for the last thirty years that we’ve just been leaving that stuff to the Greens, laughing about it on Sunday and acting concerned about it on Monday. And now it’s caught up to us, and is invading the airwaves like a hit song in summertime, since it’s 68 degrees in December now.

A quarter of the fish species have disappeared from the ocean and the rest don’t have much time left either.
Bird flu alert: hundreds of thousands of migrating birds are to be shot in flight. The mercury levels in human breast milk are ten times higher than the rates allowable for cows. Lips swell up on biting an apple; it came from the market… The simplest gestures have become toxic. We die at the age of 35 from “a long illness” that’s managed like everything else is managed… We should’ve drawn the right conclusions before things got this bad, where we’re all patients at pavilion B in the palliative care center at the hospital.

It must be said that this whole “catastrophe” we’re so noisily kept up on, doesn’t really effect us. At least not before it hits us with one of its perfectly normal and expected consequences. Maybe It doesn’t concern us because it doesn’t touch us. And that’s the catastrophe right there.

There’s no “environmental catastrophe.” The environment itself is the catastrophe. The environment is what’s left to man after he’s lost everything. Those who live in a neighborhood, a street, a valley, a war zone, a workshop – they don’t have an “environment;” they’re living in a world, peopled by presences, dangers, friends, enemies, living and dying areas, all kinds of beings. This world has its own substance, which varies according to the intensity and quality of the connections that attach us to all these beings, all these places. There’s no one but us, we children of the final dispossession, the exiles of the end times – who come into the world in concrete cubes, harvest our fruits at the supermarket, and catch the echo of the world through television – only we get to have an environment. And there’s no one but us watching our own annihilation as if it were just a simple change of atmosphere. Getting indignant about the latest advancements of the disaster, and patiently putting together encyclopedia entries about them.

What is frozen in an environment is a relationship with the world based on management, that is, on foreignness. A relationship with the world where we’re not made as well as the rustling of trees, the smell of frying oil in the building, the bubbling of water, the uproar of school classrooms, the mugginess of summer evenings, a relationship with the world where there is me and then there is my environment, surrounding me but never really constituting me. We have become neighbors in a planetary co-owners’ meeting. It’s hard to imagine a more complete hell.

No material surroundings have ever deserved the name “environment,” except perhaps for today’s metropolis. Digital voices making announcements, tramways with such a 21st century whistle, bluish streetlamps looking like giant matchsticks, pedestrians made up like failed fashion models, the silent rotation of a video surveillance camera, the lucid crackling of the metro electricity terminals, supermarket checkout counters, office time-clocks, electronic ambiances at the cybercafé, the profusion of plasma screens, fast lanes and latex. Never has a decor been so able to do without the souls traversing it. Never have surroundings been more automatic. Never has a context been so indifferent, and demanded in return such equal indifference in order to survive in it. The environment is in the end merely that: the relationship with the world that is proper to the metropolis, which projects itself onto everything that escapes it.

Here’s the situation: our parents were employed to destroy this world, and now they’d like to make us all work to rebuild it so that, adding insult to injury, it becomes profitable. The morbid excitation that drives the journalists and ad-men these days in reporting each new piece of evidence for global warming unveils the steely smile of the new green capitalism, in the making since the 70s, which we waited for at the turn of the century but never came. Well, here it is! Ecology, that’s green capitalism for you! Alternative solutions, that’s it too! The health of the planet demands it! No doubt about it anymore, it’s a green scene; the environment is to be the pivot point for the political economy of the 21st century. A volley of “industrial solutions” are introduced for each new catastrophic possibility.

The inventor of the H bomb, Edward Teller, suggests spraying millions of tons of metallic dust into the atmosphere to stop global warming. NASA, frustrated at having had to put its grand idea of an anti-missile shield away in the museum of cold war horrors, suggests putting a gigantic mirror beyond the moon to protect us from the sun’s now-fatal rays. Another vision of the future: a motorized humanity, driving along fueled by bio-ethanol from Sao Paulo to Stockholm; the dream of a cereal grower from the Beauce , which after all only implies the conversion of all the arable land in the planet for soy beans and sugar beets. Ecological cars, clean energy, environmental consulting co-existing smoothly with the latest Chanel ad, throughout the glossy pages of the opinion magazines.

We are told that the environmental issue has the incomparable merit of being the first truly global problem that humanity has had to deal with. A global problem, that is, a problem that only those who are organized on a global level will be able to solve. And we know who that is: the very same groups that for almost the past century have been the vanguard of disaster, and certainly intend to remain as such, but with a minor logo change; cheap! That the EDF has the impudence to serve us up its nuclear program again as the new solution to the global energy crisis says plenty about how much the new solutions seem to perfectly resemble the old problems.

Secretaries of State in the back rooms of alternative cafés, their concerns are always expressed in the same words, which are after all the same words as ever. People have to get mobilized. Not for to rebuild the country, like in the post-war era; not for the Ethiopians like in the 1980s, not for employment like in the 1990s. No, this time it’s about the environment. It will thank you for it. Al Gore, Hulot style ecology, and de-growth stand side by side with the eternal great souls of the Republic to play their role in re-exciting the little left wing people and the well known idealism of youth. Voluntary austerity writ large on their flag, they work benevolently to make us compliant with the “ecological state of emergency to come.” The sticky round mass of their guilt lands on our tired shoulders, intending to push us on to cultivate our garden, sort out our garbage, and compost the rest of the macabre feast in which and for which we are patronized condescendingly.

Manage the phasing out of nuclear power, the excess CO2 in the atmosphere, the melting glaciers, the hurricanes, the epidemics, global over-population, the erosion of the soil, the mass disappearance of living species… such is our burden. “It’s everyone’s duty to change their behaviors,” they say, if we want to save our fine civilization-model. We must consume little, in order to be able to go on consuming. We must produce organically in order to be able to go on producing. We must control ourselves in order to still have control. Such is the logic of a world trying to survive while giving itself an air of historical rupture. Thus they would like to convince us to participate in the great industrial challenges of the present century. And stupid as we are, we’re ready to leap into the arms of the very same people that presided over causing the devastation, expecting them to get us out of it.

Ecology isn’t just the logic of total economy, it’s also the new morality of Capital. The system’s state of internal crisis and the rigorous selection going on are such that we will need a new criteria to operate such sorting with. From one era to the next, the idea of virtue was never more than an invention of vice. Without ecology, how could we have today the existence of two different food channels, one “healthy and organic” for the rich and their children, and the other notoriously toxic for the plebes and their offspring, damned to obesity. The planetary hyper-bourgeoisie couldn’t make their ordinary lifestyle look respectable if its latest caprices weren’t so scrupulously “respectful of the environment.” Without ecology, no one would have enough authority anymore to shut up any and all objections to the exorbitant progress of control.

Tracking, transparency, certification, eco-taxes, environmental excellence, water police, all give us an idea of the coming state of ecological emergency. Everything is permitted to a power structure that authorizes itself to act as the representative of Nature, health, and well-being.

“Once the new economic and behavioral culture has passed into common morality, coercive measures will doubtless fall into disuse of their own accord.” You’d have to have all the ridiculous aplomb of a television adventure show host to have such a frozen perspective and at the same time to call upon us to feel “sorry for the planet” enough to get mobilized about it and yet remain sufficiently anesthetized to watch the whole thing with restraint and civility. The new eco-asceticism is precisely that self-control that is required of us all to negotiate the rescue operation for what the system itself has taken hostage. In the name of ecology, we must all now tighten our belts, as yesterday we did so in the name of the economy. The roads could certainly be transformed into bicycle paths, we ourselves could perhaps within a certain scope be one day gratified with a guaranteed income, but only at the price of an entirely therapeutic existence. Those who claim that generalized self-control will spare us from an environmental dictatorship are lying: the one will make the other’s bed, and we’ll have both.

As long as there is Man and Environment, there between them will be the police.

Everything about the ecologists’ discourse has to be turned upside down. Wherever they call the blunders of the present management system for beings and things “catastrophes,” we should really only see the catastrophe of its oh-so perfect operation. The greatest wave of famine known in the tropical belt to this day (1876-1879) coincided with a global drought, but above all it coincided with the apogee of colonization. The destruction of the provincial world and of its food-production practices had made the means of dealing with scarcity disappear. Beyond a mere lack of water, it was the effect of the colonial economy in full swing of expansion that covered the whole tropical strip with thin corpses. What presents itself everywhere as an ecological catastrophe has always been above all the manifestation of our disastrous relationship with the world. The way we don’t really inhabit it at all makes us vulnerable to the slightest jolt in the system, to the slightest climactic risk. As the latest tsunami approaches, and the tourists continue to frolic in the waves, the islands’ hunter-gatherers make haste to flee the coasts, following the birds. The present paradox of ecology is that on the pretext of saving the Earth, it is merely saving the foundations of what’s desolated it.

The regular functioning of the world normally serves to hide our state of truly catastrophic dispossession. What is called “catastrophe” is no more than the forced suspension of this state, one of those rare moments when we regain some sort of presence in the world. Let the petroleum reserves run out earlier than expected; let the international flows that maintain the metropolis’ tempo get interrupted, let us suffer some great social disruption and some great “return to savagery of the population,” a “planetary menace,” or the “end of civilization!” Either way, any loss of control would be preferable to all the crisis management scenarios they envision. The specialists in sustainable development aren’t the ones with the best advice. The logical elements for a response to this problem, which could easily cease to be one, come out in times of malfunction, when the system short-circuits. Among the signatory nations to the Kyoto Protocol, the only countries that have fulfilled their commitments, indeed in spite of themselves, are the Ukraine and Romania. Guess why. The most advanced experimentation with “organic” agriculture on a global level has taken place since 1989 on the island of Cuba. Guess why. And it’s along the African highways, and not elsewhere, that automobile mechanics work has come to be a form of popular art. Guess how.

What makes the crisis desirable is that in the crisis the environment ceases to be the environment. We are forced to reestablish contact, albeit a fatal one, with what’s there, to rediscover the rhythms of reality. What surrounds us is no longer a landscape, a panorama, a theater, but rather it is what we have to inhabit, something we should be made of, something we can learn from. We won’t let ourselves be robbed by those who’ve caused the possible content of the “catastrophe.” Where the managers platonically discuss among themselves how they might reverse emissions “without breaking the bank,” the only realistic option we can see is to “break the bank” as soon as possible, and make good use of the each collapse of the system until then to increase our strength.

New Orleans, a few days after hurricane Katrina. In this apocalyptic atmosphere, life is reorganizing itself. In the face of the inaction of the public authorities, who were too busy cleaning up the “French quarter” tourist area and protecting the shops to come to the aid of the poorer city dwellers, forgotten forms are reborn. In spite of the sometimes forcible attempts to evacuate the area, in spite of the “negro hunting” parties that the supremacist militias went out on, a lot of people refused to leave the terrain. For the latter, who refused to be deported like “environmental refugees” to the four corners of the country, and for those who from nearly everywhere decided to join them in solidarity, responding to a call from a former Black Panther, self-organization came back to the fore. In a few weeks time, the Common Ground Clinic was set up. This true country hospital provided, from the very first days, free and ever more effective care to those who needed it thanks to the constant influx of volunteers. Years later, the clinic is still the base for an everyday resistance to the clean-sweep operation of the government’s bulldozers, which are trying to turn that part of the city into a pasture for property developers. Popular kitchens, supplies, street medicine, illegal takeovers, the construction of emergency housing: a whole practical knowledge accumulated by people here and there over the course of their lives has a place to be put to use in there. Far from the uniforms and sirens.

Whoever knew the penniless joy of these New Orleans neighborhoods before the catastrophe, the defiance of the State that already characterized them and the mass “coping” that was already happening there, wouldn’t be surprised that all that has come to pass was possible. On the other hand, someone who’s trapped in the anemic and atomized everyday routine of our residential deserts might doubt that any such determination could be found anywhere anymore. Yet to reconnect with such gestures, buried under years of normalized life, is the only practicable means of not sinking to the bottom along with this world. May there come a time when we again become impassioned by those gestures.


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What did the UK Climate Movement do in 2008?

Posted by KM on January 5, 2009

[This was written for the climate camp newsletter, but please spread far and wide]

Without a doubt, 2008 was an incredible year for the UK climate movement. There’s been a diverse display of incredible actions from Scotland to Plymouth throughout the year, as more people than ever before are realising its up to us to prevent climate catastrophe as no one’s going to do it for us!

In January, the actions got off to a creative start when 30 Penguins from Plane Stupid invaded the BA sponsored ice rink at the National History Museum. A few days later, up in Scotland, 20 activists blockaded the entrance to Greer Aviation, a private jet company at Edinburgh Airport.

Then at the start of February biofuels took centre stage as protests and actions took place at Tescos across the country in protest at their promotion of grossly unsustainable biofuel use. It was back to aviation at the end of the month when 3,000 people attended at rally against Heathrow Expansion, organised by HACAN ClearSkies and NoTRAG and supported by 14 councils in the Heathrow area. It was on this same day that 4 Greenpeace protesters managed to climb on top of a short haul flight parked up in Terminal 1, revealing a banner across the plane’s tailfin. To top it off, two days later 5 activists from Plane Stupid unfurled large banners from the roof of the Houses of Parliament, achieving angry remarks from the Prime Minister down in the chamber! Up north flood victims from Yorkshire and Humberside blockaded council offices in protest at their continued support for aviation expansion.

In March, activists from the UK travelled to Brussels to blockade almost all the entrances to the World Biofuels Market. It was all excitement a week later when the Press Complaints Commissions upheld a complaint from the Camp for Climate Action that the Evening Standard’s coverage of the Heathrow protest was inaccurate because it was fabricated. It related to accusations that activists planned to leave hoax bomb packages lying around airport terminals. Keeping with aviation, the shambles that was the opening of T5 at Heathrow was greeted by a not so shambolic flash mob of activists all revealing bright red T-Shirts with the words “Stop Airport Expansion”.

The 1st of April was indeed Fossil Fools Day, seeing actions against those foolishly meddling with fossil fuels take place across the country. E.ON’s offices were blockaded in Nottingham, the Ffos-y-Fran open cast coal mine was shut down in Wales; the UK’s largest off shore gas terminal was blockaded in Norfolk; there were protests against RBS in Cambridge; petrol stations shut down in Southampton and Plymouth; jesters surrounding the Department for Business, Evil and Regulatory Reform (DBERR); People and Planet at Westminster; 34 SUVs and sports cars sabotaged in Edinburgh; plus many more exciting actions and events too numerous to mention.

Yet, after all that energy dispensed, the movement failed to show any signs of weariness. Two days later Aberthaw Power Station had its multiple entrances blockaded by activists from Bath, Cardiff and Oxford. Then came the news that a spy, working for C2i International, had been attempting to infiltrate Plane Stupid. Plane Stupid activists weren’t having any of it, however, and exposed him to the world. Then with one Parliament clearly not enough, on the 14th April activists scaled the Scottish Parliament roof, dropping a banner reading: “Choose a Future: Say no to airport expansion”. The following month, over 50 people took part in a mass trespass in Derbyshire. They were trespassing on land set aside for an open cast coal mine, owned by UK Coal and backing onto a country park.

June saw another national day of action, this time on Food and Climate Change. The day saw actions and events across the land, such as free vegan food give aways and the occupation of a GM lab. Then the spotlight shifted back to coal on the 13th June in a spectacular action that saw 29 activists halt a train carrying coal to Drax Power Station. The activists occupied the train for 16 hours while shovelling coal from the train onto the track. On the 17th June Plane Stupid Scotland unveiled a five metre high ‘aviation elephant’ at a transport and climate change conference in Edinburgh. Then activists showed they weren’t going to let the land in Derbyshire be destroyed for new coal without a fight. They occupied what became known as Bodge House for several weeks, due for demolition to enable the open cast mining to proceed. Also during this time two tunnellers spent a week under the ground on the Derbyshire site.

July brought with it a second ‘Stop Heathrow Expansion’ flash mob, this time outside the Department for Transport where flash mobbers gathered to hurl paper planes at the then Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. On the 16th July the ‘Greenwash Guerrillas’ targeted the Guardian’s Climate Change Summit in Islington, protesting against E.ON’s sponsorship of the event. Meanwhile, across the other side of London activists simultaneously occupied Edelman PR, the world’s biggest PR Company, hired by E.ON earlier in the year (after the Camp for Climate Action’s announcement to go to Kingsnorth “coincidentally”). The month also saw the disabling of 32 SUVs in Oxford, and a Plane Stupid Activist superglued himself to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street!

The end of July saw the Camp for Climate Action drawing near. To kick things off a conference was held near Heathrow Airport, the location of last year’s camp, which brought together groups opposed to the airport’s expansion. The following day the Climate Caravan set off on its 60 mile journey from Heathrow to Kingsnorth. The course of this journey saw many events take place, such as the Putney Climate Change Debate that took place in the same church as the historic Putney Debates of 1647. There were also a variety of workshops, talks, tours, and displays along the way, with the caravan joining the Campaign Against Climate Change for a march to the camp for the final hurdle.

After months of planning, 100s of activists took the site for the Camp for Climate Action on the 30th July in broad daylight. The camp saw a gigantic and repressive police presence, far worse than any camps gone previously. Yet despite draconian use of stop and search powers and violent police incursions onto the site with large amounts of equipment seized, it was the campers who triumphed with brilliant displays of resistance throughout the week. This meant the camp proved to be yet another hugely successful week of education, sustainable living, and direct action attended by a record number of participants.

The camp’s Day of Mass Action saw marchers, climbers, and rafters head from all directions towards the power station. Some of the marchers chose to blockade the front entrance, while the Green Bloc scaled perimeter fences. At the same time many participants joined the Great Rebel Raft Regatta, which sailed its way down the River Medway. One raft reportedly caused the power station’s water supply to be cut off.

But the Mass Action was only one of many actions taking place during the week. There were banner drops at Gatwick, students targeting RBS headquarters, a blockade of Vopak Biofuel Depot in Thurrock, a naked glue-on at DBERR, an office occupation of mining company BHP Billiton, and finally a group of tiny activists climbed on top of the Lego Kingsnorth Power Station at the E.ON sponsored Legoland.

The 10th September saw a historic verdict when 6 Greenpeace Protesters, who had scaled the tower at Kingsnorth and painted it with slogans causing an estimated £30,000 damage, were found Not Guilty after arguing the defence of ‘lawful excuse’, having acted to protect property around the world in immediate need of protection from the impacts of climate change.

October saw The Climate Rush, with a thousand demonstrators gathering in Parliament Square to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Suffragette Rush. After congregating in full suffragette costume the demonstrators made a rush for parliament.

E.ON, BP, Shell, and RBS were among the climate criminals who had their chances of recruiting graduates wrecked at universities across the country throughout the career fair season. Student activists mercilessly disrupted stalls and events across the UK by a variety of creative means. Things got so bad for E.ON that they just stopped turning up halfway through their campus tour.

The end of November saw 48 hours of action against E.ON, bringing about immensely visual actions in many towns and cities. One such action featured two minibus loads of santas occupying and superglueing themselves to E.ON’s headquarters in Coventry. The santas’ only presents for E.ON were lumps of filthy coal. Then, as an early Christmas present, came the news (via The Times) that an intruder had broken into Kingsnorth power station and turned off one of the generators. This meant that 500 megawatts of coal-produced power was lost from the grid, enough the power a city the size of Bristol. Nice one!

Despite the cold, December saw the actions keep on rocking. There was the annual climate march in London, attended by thousands and taking place simultaneously with marches in 70 other countries. Then, in the early morning of the 8th December came the wonderful news that Plane Stupid had succeeded in shutting down Stansted airport. 57 activists breached security at the airport and managed to prevent over 50 flights from taking off. On the 15th December 30 activists from Coal Action Scotland blockaded Ravenstruther coal terminal, operated by Scottish Coal, for 9 hours.

So what a year it was, but with time running out to tackle runaway climate change, we can only afford to make 2009 even better. Hopefully these reminders will give us all some inspiration and ideas for what we might get up to in the coming months.

Come to the Camp for Climate Action New Year Gathering to get involved: 31stJan-1stFeb in Oxford. Everyone is welcome! Everyone is needed!

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2008 overview of Shell to Sea campaign

Posted by KM on January 4, 2009

An in depth account of significant events in 2008 from someone involved in the community led campaign in County Mayo, Ireland to prevent Shell building a gas refinery and high pressure pipeline in the region. (Originally posted on UK Indymedia)

2008 has been a year of ups and downs for the Shell to Sea campaign, however generally the last months of the year have been very positive. This is a brief review of the year and a call-out for people to get involved next year when we expect a big push from Shell and the Government to again try to force this project through. At the moment, we are planning on the assumption that a pipe-laying ship (Solitaire or otherwise) will be back anytime from spring next year, to try to finally lay the offshore pipeline.

This year the area saw the switch of emphasis away from the refinery at Bellanaboy to Glengad where Shell wants to bring in the pipeline. While for about the first 6 months of the year people still turned up at the Shell to Sea trailer to show their opposition to the refinery, there wasn’t very much physical direct action trying to stop the progress there. I think that after all the peat was removed from the refinery, people generally resigned themselves to the fact that the refinery would be built. Also some people had drifted away from the campaign, some thinking that the outcome was inevitable, and others kept away because they were sick of being harried by Gardaí at Bellanaboy. Since I have come to area, a lot of people involved in the campaign immediately around the pipeline area have always said that it would come down to the land and when Shell tries to come on the land. I always thought this was a risky strategy as if the refinery gets built; there would be even greater pressure on the government to have it used, and not to allow a giant corporation waste its money. However, this is the situation that we find ourselves in, but it has to be said that it is also a risky situation for Shell and the Government. They obviously thought that if they got the project this far, then the local community would see the futility of their fight and give up. This has not happened and will not happen for this next stage of the struggle at least.

Glinsk Proposal

Around late April of this year, a proposal to move the refinery to a more remote onland location – such as Glinsk – was backed by a number of local Shell to Sea people. The proposal had been made the previous November by the 3 priests of the parish to Minister Eamon Ryan but he had made no response. This move was seen by many Shell to Sea members as incompatible with what they had been campaigning for and it created significant difficulties at the time. Pobail Cill Comain was formed by the local people who supported the Glinsk proposal and they have worked closely with Pobail Le Ceile which is a local business group working against the current project.

While this development created some tension at the time, I feel that a lot of people in the area now think that overall it has benefited the campaign against the Corrib Gas Project. The fact that there are 3 groups now working locally against Shell might at times seem like overkill, but it has added new directions and dynamic to the campaign too. It is interesting to see how the mainstream papers have taken to the new groups and now normally add Shell to Sea comments at the end of articles in the “also said” section of the article.


The big action of the year all occurred in the vicinity of Glengad where Shell & Statoil were planning to lay the offshore section of their pipeline. It is worth noting that this is the third attempt – and failure – to lay the offshore section. At the first attempt Enterprise Oil pulled out because of pressure locally, then in 2005 Shell & Allseas pulled the plug under pressure of a High Court case in the pipeline. This year, just before the pipe-laying was supposedly about to commence, a large section of the stinger broke off and the Solitaire eventually limped home for repair. How the stinger was damaged exactly remains a mystery.

What we do know is about the great resistance that took place around Glengad.

Maura Harrington went on a hunger strike from when the Solitaire entered Broadhaven Bay until it left Irish waters. This was a tough time for everyone involved in the campaign with a 24 hour vigil held for the 11 days outside the gates in Glengad where Maura stayed in her car while on hunger strike. Thankfully this ended with a happy outcome and Maura returned gradually to full health. One aspect that remained with me since this was the line from Maura letter to Allseas in which she stated the “people come and go in nano seconds; Place endures”. I feel that this statement represents a lot of why Shell and the Government have not got their way so far with this project.

Other great heroes of this episode were undoubtedly Pat and Jonathan O’Donnell and Kevin McAndrew who in their small fishing boats defied the world’s largest pipe laying ship and support vessels in-order to defend their livelihoods, property and area. Pat sought the assistance of Gardaí to prevent their lobster pots being damaged by the Solitaire, but instead the fishermen were arrested twice in 24 hours from his traditional fishing territory, and then released without charge. Pat and his son Jonathan lost approximately 150 pots to damage from the Shell fleet. It is worth noting that the fishermen had a legal right to fish in Broadhaven Bay, but in this instance the Gardai hypocritically abandoned the principle of “people’s right to go to work” so often used to break up peaceful protest at Bellanaboy.

Instead the Navy were drafted in along with the Garda Emergency Response Unit, Garda Water Unit and Kent Police (yes that’s English police) to stop the rowdy fishermen, locals, national and international supporters.

One interesting point was how some of the media seemed willing to accept that when it was fishermen fighting for their livlihood then the protest was in some ways acceptable but (implicitly) other members of the local community have less of a right to protest unless they are as directly affected.

In the meantime, members of Rossport Solidarity Camp and international supporters took to the seas and began harassing the Solitaire while it was up in Killybegs and disrupting Shell’s operations around Glengad. Again on at least two occasions we were extremely lucky that someone didn’t get seriously injured or killed when a digger operator continued working and ended up dropping tonnes of debris within feet of 2 protestors. Lots of other resistance around the time included lock-ons and reclaiming access to the beach (albeit temporarily) which was illegally being blocked by Shell fencing. Also a load of solidarity actions happened all around the world at Shell stations and Irish embassies, in places such as Galway, Dublin, Belfast, England, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Australia. In the US, I heard of a lady who went on a 3 day fast in solidarity with Maura Harrington’s hunger strike.

On the 22th of July, 13 people challenged the work that Shell were carrying out on the land just over the cliff-face to the beach on a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). They asked to see the legal permission for the work being carried out. Instead of showing any permission however Supt. John Gilligan had the 13 arrested and brought to Belmullet Garda Station where they were subsequently released without charge. However while in the Garda Station, one of the 13, Naoise O’Mongain was injured and subsequently mis-handled by Gardaí and is still on crutches to this day from the incident. These 13 arrests were the among the first of about 50 arrests that happened in course of the next 2 months in Glengad, every single one of whom were subsequently released without charge. In some cases the people involved weren’t even told they were arrested or what they were being arrested for.

Regarding the permissions for the land work that took place in Glengad, it turned out that on the 27th of June, Minster for Energy (& former Shell to Sea supporter) Eamon Ryan had given permission for the work in Glengad and exempted the first 100 metres or so (up to the valve station) of the on-shore pipeline from the planning process. However this permission had not been made available to the public, an omission Minister Ryan called an “oversight”.

A few days later, local people were pushed off a section of the Glengad beach by about 50 Gardaí and about 70 of Shell’s newly employed security force IRMS. Shell then proceeded to fence off about a 100m wide of the section of the beach and so the beach remained split in two for about 4 months. Inspite of Shell claiming in their work method statement that they would allow pedestrian access across this zone, no member of the public was permitted through the fences for about a 4 month period.

At first the security force IRMS (Integrated Risk Management Services) initially took to filming everyone who went down on the beach including young children and swimmers, however the bad publicity that this caused resulted in them being a bit more subtle afterwards.

The works on the site have now all been removed although significant damage has obviously been done to the SAC (water pollution, gravel & silt remain on the beach and churned up soil on land, but this has been totally ignored by National Parks & Wildlife (NPWS) and the Dept of Environment. Hundreds of tonnes of placed material fill were washed away, and the pollution could be seen, the fishermen say, for miles out to sea at times.

One moment I remember down on the beach was when I tried to point out to one of the Gardaí there, how both he and all the Shell workers were basically getting paid from the same purse. He seem to think that I was suggesting that Shell was paying him too. What I meant was that the taxpayer is paying both him (directly) and the Shell employees (indirectly). Because of changes made by Ray Burke in 1987, oil & gas companies can write off all their exploration & development cost against tax. So the tiny percentage of the Corrib Gas field’s worth that is to come back to the Irish Exchequer is being lessened by the amount that Shell are spending on security and community bribery funds.

Policing and the Courts

The decision not to prosecute anyone in connection with the resistance in Glengad this year presumably has to do with the shaky legal ground that Shell are on with some of their operations down there. Obviously for the fishermen, their arrest was totally unlawful as they were defending their property and if anyone should have been arrested it should have been the personnel on the Shell vessels. Also it was never made clear to the kayakers or swimmers who were arrested and in some cases illegally detained on the water what exact laws they were breaking other than not obeying a police officer. Also there was the case where people used sledges, car jacks and pipes to take down a number of sections of the fence along the beach in full view of the Gardaí and security. No prosecution has ever come out of this, also presumably because of Shell breaching their exempted permission regulations.

In the courts, it has been a torturously slow progress of the cases dating back to 06 & 07. When you see other cases in the District Court being dealt with fairly rapidly, it seems likely that part of the punishment for being arrested for a Shell to Sea protest is that the case will be dragged out significantly. However it should be noted that this is not always to do with the Judge and sometimes equally to do with delays sought from the defence side. Among some the cases heard this year, John Monaghan who had been found guilty of assault before Judge Mary Devins was found not guilty of assault on appeal. Ed Collins was found not guilty of an assault on a Garda from an incident from which he still has significant injuries. Pat and Jonathan O’Donnell and Enda Carey were found guilty on appeal of a Section 2 assault with sentencing being carried out in the New Year. Michael Healy was recently found guilty of obstruction, while he and 3 others who received significant injuries on the day in question were found not guilty of assault.

Also this year, Maura Harrington took a Judicial Review of Judge Devins’ decision not to allow Ms Harrington to have her own stenographer present to record her court case. The High Court found that Ms Harrington had a right to have a stenographer present at her own expense to record proceedings. Another Judicial Review was taken against Judge Devins’ by a Shell to Sea member which secured the right to get a copy of a court transcript from the hitherto unprecedented provision of stenograpy services at District Court by the Court Services (just for Shell to Sea cases).

Overall I think it’s fairly obvious that the judiciary are not acting independently and that Shell to Sea protestors are getting totally different treatment in front of the courts than if they had been arrested as individuals.

Road to Glengad

One success that Shell seem to have had of late is that the road to Glengad seems to be coming together for them. Mayo County Council (MCC) has really exposed themselves in the manner in which they have pushed this through though. They have resorted to bribing, threatening and bullying people and will now have a reasonably good road for Shell come the spring. They have been working on this 8km section of road for over 6 months now and bit by bit they have taken inches here and there. Recently they (both Shell & MCC) have also succeeded in turning one of the local landowners who had been against the road, with both threats and a significant amount of money. On the road the Road Safety Authority, EPA, Fisheries Board, NPWS, NRA, Ministers for the Environment and MCC themselves, were all made aware of breaches that occurred both in planning and laying of the road but each turned their back on these breaches.

Onshore Planning Application

The manner in which the onshore pipeline planning application has been handled by both Shell and RPS (pipeline planning consultants) to me illustrates both arrogance and incompetence in equal measure.Recently RPS withdrew Shell’s planning application under the Strategic Infrastructure Act for the onshore section of the pipeline saying that they will need to seek minor realignments to the pipeline route. RPS and Shell have been working on this planning application for well over a year now and the fact that they had to withdraw it at the final hour must have been some kick in the nuts for them. Basically my reading of the situation is that Shell still hasn’t managed to survey the approximately 3km section of the proposed pipeline route which lies on Rossport commonage. I believe that An Bord Pleanala were trying desperately to accept Shell’s planning application (illustrated by the fact that they were willing to receive further information from Shell on the 18th of November), but simply couldn’t because of the huge holes that existed in the application. These holes would no doubt have been exposed in an oral hearing by the mountains of knowledge that now exist in this area regarding pipeline siting.

In recent weeks Shell employees and AGEC (Applied Ground Engineering Consultants Ltd) geologists have been trying to get access to the Rossport commonage to do survey work but they have been prevented from doing so by vigilant Rossport residents. The fact that it is presently illegal for Shell to do survey work on the commonage doesn’t seem to deter Shell from trying – they have been caught red-handed on at least one occasion. In November 07, Shell sought permission to carry out the survey work on the commonage in Belmullet District court; however Judge Mary Devins found that the notice given by Shell was inadequate and so dismissed Shell’s application. The fact that Shell still went ahead with trying to carry out the survey work is surely contempt of court; a similar reason saw the Rossport 5 spent 94 days in jail.


Towards the end of the year Ministers Ryan & O’Cuiv organised a Forum for Development in North West Mayo, which wanted to link the Corrib Gas Project with the local development of North West Mayo. Shell to Sea chose not to part-take in the Ministers’ Forum for one because the Forum refused to discuss the siting of the refinery, the forcing of a raw gas pipeline on the local community and the great gas giveaway. Also the Minister’s Forum is only open to selected groups; therefore any individual who has questions about the Corrib Gas Project cannot attend just to represent their concerns. A separate Peoples Forum, (which was open to all and fully recorded) was held alongside the Minister’s Forum and was a significant success, with local people voicing their concerns.


The main reason for this article is to try to encourage people to get involved. Even though Shell has made progress on the refinery in Bellanaboy, they still face various significant problems in even getting the legal permissions from the more than compliant authorities to finish the project.

However I believe that the only way that this project will be stopped is if people get involved and make it unworkable for both the Government and Shell. This is still possible and the current recession gives us more opportunities to highlight the daylight robbery of our natural resources. When you hear local Fine Gael TD, Michael Ring starting to rail against the giveaway gas deal, I sense he’s guessing which way the wind is blowing.

Indications at the moment are that there will be another fourth push by Shell to lay the off-shore section of the pipeline next spring. At that time we really will need people to come and help us here in Erris but also to put as much pressure on the Government and Shell wherever they are.

Last August & September, even amid all the tension and worry regarding the Solitaire and Maura’s hunger strike, there was a really good pro-active atmosphere in Glengad and in particular at the Rossport Solidarity Camp, whose marquees appeared once more and attracted many people back to Glengad. The Rossport Solidarity Camp organises from a permanent house and office at Glengad where people are always welcome to come and stay and lend their support. We intend to set up camp again in spring as a solid base for action against Shell and any new attempt of theirs to progress their doomed pipeline laying efforts.

I feel it’s always good to end an article with a quote from a wise person. So in this case the wise person is Trevor Sargent (current Minister for Food & Horticulture) and the quote is from when he addressed the crowd assembled on the day that the Rossport 5 got out of jail.

“At this point I’d like to pay tribute to my parliamentary colleagues in the other smaller parties and independents who have kept pressure on this FF/PD/Shell – like – Government and who continue to stand firm with the people of Rossport. We’re united in fighting the good fight. And it feels good. Because we’re going to win.”

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Summit hopping and movement building: some questions

Posted by KM on December 23, 2008

by Andy

Hey folks, as it’s christmas, I’ll be scrooge! I have some doubts on the copenhagen stuff, but I’m open to persuasion on why it might be a good idea, and will probably end up coming anyway…

I think re. copenhagen we should be asking ourselves some questions, and will certainly have to have come up with goood answers to them if a mobilisation is to be successful:

* In what way are summit mobilisations (especially ones that months in advance divert significant amounts of energy and attention from actions and mobilisations in the lived, everyday world of our communties) effective in ‘increasing the overall bargaining power of working people’ (to use the terminology of [’20 Theses Against Green Capitalism’ by Tadzio Mueller and Alexis Passadakis]) and pushing alternatives to capitalism? Is capitalism and capitalist solutions to climate change effectively opposed in this manner?

* Summit mobilisations, both watching them from afar and participating in them, are good ways to inspire and radicalise some people (hell, it worked for me!), but are they good ways to grow mass movements? Does the
innacessibility to people with little disposable income, little time for travel, heavy family or work commmitments etc etc make them attended mainly by a very narrow demographic?

* Were the G8 and other IFI mobilisations really effective? I’ve heard some involved argue that summit mobilisations pushed the anti-globalisation movement into a dead end cos the spectacle of resistance created at the big demos and riots wasn’t matched by any comparable concrete, material resistance to capitalist social relations in the places people lived and worked. Are we in danger of doing this with 3 climate camps (which now seem in many way similar to summit mobilisations, though originally intended to pull us away from them) followed by a trip to copenhagen? Aren’t we spending a lot of time on ‘one off’ big events where the same people keep turning up?

* What’s our message? The difference between copenhagen and the past summit mobilisations is that in the latter the objective is clearly to deligitimize the whole thing, to shut them down, to say they don’t have the right to make these choices on our behalf. What with the former? Do we want the conference to take place and run smoothly? Presumably yes, cos if it doesn’t it really will be ‘business as usual’. If so would we be better off supporting the lobbying efforts of more progressive nations (new zealand, sweden etc) and the global south?


I’m generally very confused about the question, ‘what is effective opposition to capitalism?’, or indeed how to build a mass movement against climate change!

I appreciate the need for a diversity of tactics, but am apprehensive about mis-alocation of scarce resources, if that makes any sense…

love andy

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20 Theses against green capitalism

Posted by KM on December 5, 2008

No to false solutions! Climate Justice Now!

by Tadzio Mueller and Alexis Passadakis

1. The current world economic crisis marks the end of the neoliberalphase of capitalism.‘Business as usual’ (financialisation, deregulation, privatisation…) is thus no longer an option: new spaces of accumulation and types of political regulation will need to be found by governments and corporations to keep capitalism going.

2. Alongside the economic and political as well as energy crises, there is another crisis rocking the world: the biocrisis, the result of a suicidal mismatch between the ecological life support system that guarantees our collective human survival and capital’s need for constant growth.

3. This biocrisis is an immense danger to our collective survival, but like all crises it also presents us, social movements, with a historic opportunity: to really go for capitalism’s exposed jugular, its need for unceasing, destructive, insane growth.

4. Of the proposals that have emerged from global elites, the only one that promises to address all these crises is the ‘Green New Deal’. This is not the cuddly green capitalism 1.0 of organic agriculture and D.I.Y. windmills, but a proposal for a new ’green’ phase of capitalism that seeks to generate profits from the piecemeal ecological modernisation of certain key areas of production (cars, energy, etc.)

5. Green capitalism 2.0 cannot solve the biocrisis (climate change and other ecological problems such as the dangerous reduction of biodiversity), but rather tries to profit from it. It therefore does not fundamentally alter the collision course on which any market-driven economy sets humanity with the biosphere.

6. This isn’t the 1930s. Then, under the pressure of powerful social movements, the old ‘New Deal’ redistributed power and wealth downwards. The ‘New New’ and ‘Green New Deal’ discussed by Obama, green parties all around the world, and even some multinationals is more about welfare for corporations than for people.

7. Green Capitalism won’t challenge the power of those who actually produce most greenhouse gases: the energy companies, airlines and carmakers, industrial agriculture, but will simply shower them with more money to help maintain their profit rates by making small ecological changes that will be too little, too late.

8. Because globally, working people have lost their power to bargain and demand rights and decent wages, in a green capitalist setup, wages will probably stagnate or even decline to offset the rising costs of ‘ecological modernisation’.

9. The ‘green capitalist state’ will be an authoritarian one. Justified by the threat of ecological crisis it will ‘manage’ the social unrest that will necessarily grow from the impoverishment that lies in the wake of rising cost of living (food, energy, etc.) and falling wages.

10. In green capitalism, the poor will have to be excluded from consumption, pushed to the margins, while the wealthy will get to ‘offset’ their continued environmentally destructive behaviour, shopping and saving the planet at the same time.

11. An authoritarian state, massive class inequalities, welfare given to corporations: from the point of view of social and ecological emancipation, green capitalism will be a disaster that we can never recover from. Today, we have a chance to get beyond the suicidal madness of constant growth. Tomorrow, by the time we’ve all gotten used to the new green regime, that chance may be gone.

12. In green capitalism, there is a danger that established, mainstream environmental groups will come to play the role that trade unions played in the Fordist era: acting as safety valves to make sure that demands for social change, that our collective rage remain within the boundaries set by the needs of capital and governments.

13. Albert Einstein defined ‘insanity’ as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In the past decade, in spite of Kyoto, not only has the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increased – so, too, has the rate of increase. Do we simply want more of the same? Wouldn’t that be insane?

14. International climate agreements promote false solutions that are often more about energy security than climate change. Far from solving the crisis, emissions trading, CMD, joint implementation, offsets and soon, all provide a political shield for the continued production of greenhouse gases with impunity.

15. For many communities in the global South, these false solutions (agrofuels, ‘green deserts’, CDM-projects) are by now often a greater threat than climate change itself.

16. Real solutions to the climate crisis won’t be dreamt up by governments or corporations. They can only emerge from below, from globally networked social movements for climate justice.

17. Such solutions include: no to free trade, no to privatisation, no to flexible mechanisms. Yes to food sovereignty, yes to degrowth, yes to radical democracy and to leaving the resources in the ground.

18. As an emerging global climate justice movement, we must fight two enemies: on one hand climate change and the fossilistic capitalism that causes it, and on the other, an emergent green capitalism that won’t stop it, but will limit our ability to do so.

19. Of course, climate change and free trade aren’t the same thing, but: the Copenhagen-protocol will be a central regulatory instance of green capitalism just as the WTO was central to neoliberal capitalism. So how to relate to it? The Danish group KlimaX argues: A good deal is better than no deal – but no deal is way better than a bad one.

20. The chance that governments will come up with a ‘good deal’ in Copenhagen is slim to none. Our aim must therefore be to demand agreement on real solutions. Failing that: to forget Kyoto, and shut down Copenhagen! (whatever the tactic)

By Tadzio Mueller and Alexis Passadakis (12/2008). Alexis is a member of attac Germany’s coordinating council, Tadzio a part of the Turbulence editorial collective ( They are both active in the emerging climate justice movement, and can be reached at againstgreencapitalism (at)

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Towards radical critique and action on climate change politics and Copenhagen 2009

Posted by KM on October 28, 2008

Another world is possible only without a global resource management shaped by structures of domination

by Ulrich Brand

September 2008

In the last twenty years, climate change and its potential and real impacts have become more and more obvious. This is due to the results of scientific research but also to environmental movements, media, critical intellectuals, progressive state officials and alternative energy producers who have focussed social and political attention on the implications of the problem. With the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol, an in- ternational political mechanism was developed in the 1990s.

More recently, i.e. in the last two years, the issue of climate change has climbed to the top of the political agenda: This has to do with the publications of the Fourth Report of the Intergov- ernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Stern Report – the latter with its simple and economistic message -, with sky-rocking energy prices and the argument that ‘peak-oil’ has been reached, which refers to the fact that from now on less new oil resources are found than are consumed. The IPCC and Al Gore won the Peace Nobel Price, the G8 summits in 2007 in Germany and 2008 in Japan had energy and climate change questions high on the agenda. The Conferences of the Parties of the FCCC in Bali in December 2007 became a gathering with global mass media coverage.

Nonetheless, we can observe that not much has changed in the last twenty years. Oil and gas consumption have increased enormously, production and consumption patterns are still the same and, moreover, these processes have rapidly been globalised through transnational capi- tal, state policies and the way of life of a global middle-class. This has one major reason: Environmental policies in general and climate change policies in particular are formulated in line with dominant politics and related interests. Today, the domi- nant politics are neoliberal and neoimperial, orientated towards competitiveness and maintaining and enhancing the power of Northern governments, corporations and societies. Policies are in the interest of the owners of assets and of the global middle-classes – including the middle-classes of economically emerging countries such as China, India or Brazil. The Western life-style still promotes its attractiveness worldwide. Human well-being and social security are still equated with economic growth and this means resource-intensive growth of car production, of airports, of industrialised farming etc.

The role of the FCCC

It is important to recognise that the issue of climate change was politicised through scientific knowledge, especially through the IPCC. However, the danger is to frame the problem of climate change exclusively or predominantly as a global problem which has to be dealt with globally, i.e. from above, with Western knowledge and through management techniques. The many local conflicts around scarce resources and land-use are thus overshadowed. The many alternatives that exist are downplayed against a “global problem”. Moreover, many local forms of producing and living have actually been put under pressure because of globalised capitalism and also because of a type of climate politics that is shaped by structures of domination. The development within the agricultural sector to produce crops for agrofuels for the world market is merely the most visible trend.

What has emerged in the last twenty years is a type of global resource management wherein government officials, business, scientists, some NGOs and media act together to control the destruction of the environment. Sometimes, the content of policies is criticised as insufficient. A critique of the form of politics, however, is not formulated. This form of intergovernmental politics, i.e. diplomacy under the pressure of lobby groups searching for consensus, which systematically leads to weak compromises, is not criticised. Furthermore, there is a downplaying of the necessity to challenge corporate power and the forms of living of the global upper and middle-classes if climate change is to be addressed seriously.

The instruments of global environmental politics are mostly market-based because “the market” is considered by powerful actors as the superior means to deal with far-reaching problems like climate change. Not by chance, the main instrument of the FCCC is emission trading. Moreover, this justifies weak policies “at home” because profound transformations cannot be promoted if other countries do not participate. It is a question of competitiveness.

The current division of labour (along the lines of class, gender, race, age, and international stratification), which is determined by structures of domination, is hardly problematised in the debates about socio-ecological transformations. Therefore, environmental policies have become a moral and efficiency-based strategy aimed at the middle-classes.

The generalisation of the Western way of life is cynical because billions of people are poor and lack access even to basic means of subsistence. However, capitalist dynamics promote these kinds of production and consumption patterns yet also have attractive dimensions, such as individuality and certain forms of freedom.

To counter the developments of a global resource management shaped by structures of domination, we need a broad public debate as well as practical steps for the necessary transformation of production and consumption patterns, changes in orientations towards nature, and the power of states and capital.

The FCCC is not the responsible institution for the growth of CO2 emissions and the fossilistic mode of development, i.e. for further climate change. This is a much broader process involving many more powerful economic and political actors as well as being linked to theforms of living of the global upper and middle-classes. At the institutional level, the WTO, IMF and the World Bank who promote trade liberalisation and structural adjustment policies are the central driving forces currently damaging relationships between societies and nature.

Crucially and problematically, the FCCC holds out that it is the most central and most adequate mechanism to stop climate change. But in the last 15 years it has became evident that through technocratic approaches very little changes with respect to the problem – on the contrary, the current ways of life and the dominant policy orientations are being re-legitimised. The FCCC embodies the fact that there has been a politicised awareness of climate change. This awareness is framed in specific ways and in line with dominant interests and social forces. It is not independent from neoliberal and neoimperial developments. Not by chance, the modified domination of nature through ecological modernisation strategies, Western knowledge, the prominent role of experts and hopefully “enlightened leaders”, along with market-based instruments determine environmental policies. This is a disaster for billions of people on a daily basis.

The political mode of crisis-management that exists on this terrain is diplomacy and behind this is the pursuit of “national interests” under the conditions of globalised capitalism and competitiveness. When governments return from major conferences at which yet again, the notion of “being at a crossroads” was evoked, they continue to obey powerful actors such as the automobile industry, seed companies, industrial farming, meat producers etc. Additionally, we can see that the environment ministries of the respective governments are relatively weak as energy issues are usually dealt with by other, stronger apparatuses.

This is an observable fact in the field of agrofuels: When it comes to energy security and profits, critical questions and disastrous experiences are put aside. The agrofuel issue is presented by Southern governments like Brazil or Indonesia as a “growth & development opportunity”. Agricultural restructurings are determined by the huge demand in the EU where specific norms are implemented to mix gasoline and ethanol. But for whom and at what price? The global middle-class consumers support these policy developments because they fear high energy prices. Alternatives are left aside or are reduced to a minor field in the “energy mix”.

Finally, what we experience in the field of environmental politics is the attempt to re-stabilise the crisis-driven neoliberal-imperial globalisation project through the portrayal of a progressive image in environmental policy-making. “World leaders have understood the problem,” this is what we hear around G8 or FCCC summits. But in reality the current forms of environmental and resource politics remain shaped by power and do not question existing relationships of domination. Irresponsible policies like the development of nuclear power plants are formulated in other forums like the G8 and will penetrate the FCCC discussion and policies.

Beyond global resource management

In order to reorientate political and societal actions towards real alternatives to the dominant forms and contents of climate, environmental and resource policies, these need to be criticised and changed.

From an emancipatory perspective, it is of utmost importance to stop climate change, which means stopping fossilistic productions and consumption patterns. They affect mostly vulnerable social groups who are not able to defend themselves against water scarcity or drought, against string rainfalls or flood waters. Such occurrences have increased because profit is sought in this way and because such approaches are considered part of “progress” and a comfortable life-style for many people. These became dominant because of a “modern” and patriarchal understanding of the domination of nature, which makes its exploitation, commodification and destruction possible.

Radical social movements and critical NGOs as well as critical intellectuals and media increasingly recognise that the FCCC is not an adequate mechanism to deal with one of the most severe crisis we are facing. Like other international political institutions – in the environmental field or in others -, the FCCC is part of a capitalist, Western, white and masculine global resource management. It should no longer be legitimised through the participation of critical NGOs, social movements and other critical actors. We do not need “sustainable globalisation”, which basically means neoliberalism and imperialism.

After 15 years of the coming into force of the FCCC in 1994 we can clearly see that we need more fundamentally different political and societal action. States are still important but they and their officials are not the driving forces. On the contrary, they are mainly an obstacle for serious policies. Changing production and consumption patterns, life-styles and meanings of a “good life”, corporate power and the politics of resource management is a broad process. Several elements need to be considered.

One major element is to put at the forefront a practically rooted critique of the dogma of competitiveness, linked to technological developments. There are few governments and socialactors who have understood the dangers of existing trends. What is needed is a repoliticisation of the “market”. It is not just the assumed effective mechanism to allocate resources but a highly effective instrument to produce a more or less opaque domination of some people over others. The market means power and exploitation along the lines of class, gender, race and North-South divisions. Therefore, to restrict the power of industrial and financial corporations is a crucial effort to be undertaken. But, if massively successful, this might mean less economic growth with all its implications for profits, the power of private capital, the tax basis for the state and employment in the traditional sectors.

An emancipatory politics has to be careful not to be moralistic about environmental politics. Of course we need less consumption of meat, cars / auto-mobility and electronic apparatuses etc. But this cannot be a simple moral claim leaving aside social structures rooted in power relations.

Alternative and attractive forms of living and producing, of exchange and of social divisions of labour and alternative identities are necessary – and they are possible: The protection of the natural commons (water, biodiversity, air etc.) against their commodification is in many cases a very concrete struggle. Collective consumption, the accompanying infrastructures, more energy efficiency and sustainable goods are not only linked to learning processes but might also question the power of certain producers and of the speed of “waste-off-things” globalisation. We need the conversion of many existing industries, taking advantage of the enormous knowledge of the producers that exists therein.

Environmental issues are profoundly linked to the social. Decent work versus over- exploitation, especially of illegalised migrants and many workers in the global South obey the same logic of profit and accumulation which precipitates the destruction of nature. It is necessary to politicise the immediate interests of workers in cheap food, energy and other goods which are produced under unsustainable and unsocial conditions. However, here is also a problem which needs to be solved. This is because the short-term interests of many people are linked to unsustainable production and consumption patterns. Emancipatory socio-ecological orientations and practices need to be linked to other aspects of life and to a redistribution of social wealth.

Radical-emancipatory demands and conflicts

Many alternatives are thinkable, possible and already exist. We should ask if the highly politicised topic of climate change opens a way for more transformative thinking and action. Possibly through socio-ecological conflicts it can be made clear that much more is at stake thansymbolic policies against climate change through global resource management: questions of democracy and decision-making, power over social knowledge and the means of production, the necessary reduction of working-hours, the valorising of reproductive activities concerning caring, health, food, etc.

Therefore, we propose an international campaign to radically transform climate change politics. For that, we need to develop radical demands and proposals through debates and the exchange of views and experiences. These should be articulated within actual debates and problems and alter the interpretation of them, thus offering possibilities for action.

With our critique of dominant climate change and environmental policies we are not cynical about climate change and we do not intend to strengthen the lobby which defends the fossilistic path of development. However, we do not see the solution to the problem in Western scientific knowledge, in intergovernmental processes and in ecological modernisation for the Western middle-classes at the expense of many others, especially the poor and the material living conditions on earth.

Politics in times of deep socio-ecological crises has to be designed differently, i.e. as a democratic and informed transformative process, taking into consideration the many ambiguities but with a view to a more just world based on solidarity – beyond the dogma of competitiveness and profitability. We want to reorientate debates and policies towards fundamental socio-ecological and emancipatory transformations in conjunction with an acknowledgement ofalternative practices.

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The Climate Camp at Kingsnorth was great!

Posted by KM on September 30, 2008

by Shift Magazine editors

Original version of this article at Shift Magazine

The Climate Camp at Kingsnorth was great! These were our initial thoughts on arrival at the first German climate camp in Hamburg, which took place just one week after the British one in Kent. The Hamburg camp seemed less organised, there were far fewer people and the lack of a clear neighbourhood structure meant that we aimlessly walked around the site for a good half hour before finally pitching the tent in the ‘anti-barrio’ barrio.

In Hamburg the climate campers weren’t camping alone but were doubled up with the anti-racist movement. There were thus two main action targets (coal and deportation flights), two press groups and two websites for example. The inherent complexities that have been noted between the austerity politics typical of the green movement and the calls for freedom of movement from many anti-racists (see the article by No Borders) didn’t seem to be a problem for the Hamburg campers, however.

But Hamburg was an attempt at a broad church movement that was built upon a compromise solution tied to the concept of ‘Global Social Rights’. For the climate campers this meant re-evaluating the notion that climate change is a purely ecological problem and situating the threat, and our response to it, in a social context (a banner hung from a crane during the climate camp’s mass action read “expropriate energy production”). On the other hand the anti-racists had to accept a quasi-fearsome language of new migration pressures caused by climate change: ‘climate change will lead to more ‘climate refugees’, that’s why we must do something about it!’

There is something else inherent in the ‘Global Social Rights’ slogan that doesn’t seem fitting with radical grass-roots politics. Demanding rights is not only a passive and liberal notion (Which rights? And who is going to warrant them? The state?), but also undermines any attempts to de-legitimise the authoritarian and economic structures that shape our everyday lives and experiences, including our experiences of climate change and border controls.

This was also a major topic at the Kingsnorth Climate Camp. With climate change understood as a mainly ecological problem scientific facts were thrashed around that encouraged the projection of non-emancipatory, authoritarian solutions. This culminated in George Monbiot calling for a state response to climate change in one of the camp’s major plenary sessions as well as in a later Guardian article, and a backlash of interventions from an anti-authoritarian minority (see Adam Ford’s article). Such interventions demanded a social, anti-capitalist, bottom up response to climate change, the importance of which was evident in the outraged response from the National Union of Mineworkers at the Climate Camp’s demand to ‘leave it [coal] in the ground’ (see our interview with Dave Douglass).

Despite the problems inherent at Kingsnorth, anti-state and anti-capitalist positions were being reaffirmed and discussed again. One camper in Kent felt that he had experienced the “maturing of the green movement”. The fact that the coal workers were invited (and the resulting discussions around class, work and climate change) was testimony to a mature movement that can foster such debates. However, in its ‘old age’, is the Climate Camp now losing sight of its roots in the direct action movements of the 90s or the anti-G8 Dissent network?

A clear dividing line through the movement was drawn by journalist-turned-climate ‘expert’ Monbiot who after the camp criticised the “anarchist” Climate Campers for “diverting from the urgent task” of stopping climate change. In a remarkable return of Hobbes’ 17th century Leviathan into the contemporary direct action movement, he could do no better than to imagine a life without government as the freedom for Daily Mail readers to pick up a gun and kill the nearest hippy. As we remember it, the Drax camp had set out to claim that corporations and governments were the problem not the solution to the climate crisis. We would hope thus that the Climate Camp would ‘find the time’ for a political rejection of all eco-authoritarian claims that “stopping runaway climate change must take precedence over every other aim” (Monbiot).

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What next for the Climate Camp?

Posted by KM on September 10, 2008

by Emilia

On one of my first mornings at this year’s climate camp, along with most of the other campers, I found myself sitting with my back to the legs of a police officer, defending the gate at 5.30 in the morning. In what was, for me, the most moving moment of the camp, on someone’s suggestion people started standing up and speaking about why they had come to the camp, what motivated them to be there. I did not speak at that time, but listened, and watched as police officers faces were softened, and they too were moved by the personal and passionate stories people told. I didn’t have anything to add to the discussion then, but now I want to tell you why I was at the camp, why I was proud to be there, and why I care about what happens next.

I came because of what unites us all – I care about climate change. I’m scared of what the future might bring if we don’t change things radically, and fast. I’m scared that it might already be too late. I want my future, my children’s future, the future of people on the other side of the world, to be one of peace and compassion, not a world of war and competition for too scarce resources. That’s what I care about, that’s why I was there, in front of the police, where I’d never been before. That’s why I want the rest of the people in this country, the 60,973,500 who were not at this camp but in whose name we struggle, to care with me, to have the will to act together, in solidarity, to face our frightening future with strength and courage.

For me, the genius and power of the camp is in its strength to unite us – we who understand what the future might bring and care enough to do all we can to stop the disaster, who care enough to use our bodies to take illegal direct action and to face the consequences with pride. Some people at the camp want to restrict its political position to explicitly anarchist, anti-capitalist, anti-globalisation doctrines. Not to consider ‘statist’ or ‘market’ solutions. We can spend years arguing about the meanings of those terms, about what they mean to the majority of people, about whether the end of capitalism would automatically lead to sustainable use of resources. But the urgency and scale of climate change is too big, too universal for political factionalism to bring us down. We can’t spend our 100 months telling people that anarchism is better than state socialism, that we must first bring down the vast edifice of global capitalism before we can do anything about greenhouse gasses. If we don’t all act together, in solidarity, to take fast and radical action on climate change, those debates will become meaningless.

I agree with George Marshall that success for the next camp would be 10,000 campers, living together sustainably and non-hierarchically, and descending on our next target by land sea and air – no one would be able to stop us then. And those people should want to be part of the camp whether or not they think confronting the police lines is fun and exciting, whether or not they want to bring down the state, simply because they want to do everything they humanly can do to stop our race to climate catastrophe, and because they want to be able to tell their grandchildren they were there.

Reference to George Marshall and Uri Gordon interview clip

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An Open Letter to the Climate Camp Neighbourhoods

Posted by KM on September 10, 2008

People who were at the UK 2008 Camp for Climate Action may remember this letter – it was written at the camp, as a response to some of the workshops and discussions that were happening, and it was read out at neighbourhood meetings.

We are a large group of anti-authoritarian participants in the climate camp. Many of us have put a great deal of time and energy into preparing and setting up the camp this year.

We are writing to express our deep concern with the direction that the debates at the camp have taken in the past days. In more than one workshop we have heard calls from the podium for command-and-control and market orientated measures to address climate change. The responses to these proposals have been far too polite.

While we recognise the importance of creating a welcoming and non-sectarian space, we feel that the camp risks loosing contact with its anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian roots and appearing as a gathering that lends its support to top-down, state-centred responses to the crisis that climate change and energy depletion pose for capitalism. As a result, even the mass action is now likely to be interpreted as a gesture of support for tightened social control and austerity measures visited upon the population, rather than expressing resistance to the exploitative obsession with economic growth that has precipitated the present crisis.

In order to re-establish the crucial place of a radical perspective married to action at the core of the climate process, we therefore propose that the camp adopt the following principles as a statement of unity that will guide current discussions and future convergences:

1. A very clear rejection of capitalism, imperialism and feudalism; all trade agreements, institutions and governments that promote destructive globalization.

2. We reject all forms and systems of domination and discrimination including, but not limited to, patriarchy, racism and religious fundamentalism of all creeds. We embrace the full dignity of all human beings.

3. A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that lobbying can have a major impact in such biased and undemocratic organisations, in which transnational capital is the only real policy-maker.

4. A call to direct action and civil disobedience, support for social movements’ struggles, advocating forms of resistance which maximize respect for life and oppressed peoples’ rights, as well as the construction of local alternatives to global capitalism.

5. An organisational philosophy based on decentralisation and autonomy.

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Climate Camp and Class

Posted by KM on September 7, 2008

By Adam Ford

Original version of this article at Mute Magazine

Picture the scene. The setting sun is glinting off the visors of the police lined up in front of me. It’s the second or third day of the weeklong Camp for Climate Action – already I’ve lost count – and for the second or third time since I last slept it looks as if the cops are about to invade. I’ve just bolted from the opposite end of the site, where I’ve helped dig a defensive trench at another gate. To my left, atop a red van, a woman who sounds scouser than scouse exhaustedly screeches words of encouragement into a megaphone and somehow dances to Radiohead. To my right, a posher than posh couple casually talk up Cornish nationalism and agree that political correctness means white people suffer more oppression than anyone else on the planet. All the campers care about the environment, but that seems to be the only thing we have in common. That and – by now – a dislike of police.

The first Climate Camp was set up in 2006, by activists who had been heavily involved in organising protests against the G8 summit in Gleneagles the year before. Their immediate target was the Drax coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire, but they sought to demonstrate two things. Firstly, that direct action was an effective way of making changes within society – like shutting down power stations – and secondly, that people could live non-hierarchically, in an environmentally sustainable way. Many of the initial organisers self-identified as anarchists, and they wanted climate camps to be anarchy in action.

At least that was the theory. Now in Climate Camp’s third year, the results are highly questionable. In terms of building a movement for environmental sustainability, the camp experience and how it is perceived by the wider population both need to be considered.

Certainly, to be a climate camper is to participate in anarchy in its original and best sense – running things without bosses. The camp is clustered into regional neighbourhoods, which hold meetings every morning. These assemblies discuss organisation within the neighbourhoods and camp policy as a whole, such as whether to accept the police’s latest ultimatum. Decisions are eventually reached via consensus, and ‘spokes’ are delegated to express the collective’s views to the ‘spokes council’, before reporting back. This can be seem like a long-winded process if you’re used to taking orders, but it works to ensure that everyone feels ownership over decisions, and are therefore usually happy to implement them.

Anarchy can work fast too, and not just when riot police arrive on site at 5.30 in the morning. Perhaps my favourite illustration of this took place on the final Sunday evening, when a trail of wooden boards that snaked through the camp needed to stacked. Someone took the initiative to do this, then someone else joined in next to them. Within a couple of minutes, the idea of stacking had gone along the trail, and about quarter of an hour later it was all done. Quite a strenuous task had quickly been completed, without a single order being given.

However, halfway through the week ‘An open letter to the neighbourhoods’ was circulated, authored by ‘…a large group of anti-authoritarian participants in the climate camp’, and expressing ‘deep concern about the direction that the debates have taken over the past days’. It went on to claim that ‘In more than one workshop we have heard calls from the podium for command-and-control and market-orientated measures to address climate change’, and ‘The responses to these proposals have been far too polite’. Calling for ‘A very clear rejection of capitalism, imperialism and feudalism’, as well as ‘all forms and systems of domination and discrimination’, it emphasised ‘A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that lobbying can have a major impact in such biased and undemocratic organisations’.

The letter hit on one of the central problems facing the camp: how to make it ‘a welcoming and non-sectarian space’ for people new to anarchist ideas, whilst ensuring that career environmentalists like George Monbiot and Mark Lynas (who outraged many by backing the government’s nuclear power plans, the former on BBC’s Newsnight) don’t get an easy ride. This issue is compounded by the inevitable tendency of more militant campaigners being drawn to the barricades and defending camp against police.

Saturday was the climax of the week, and had been declared the day when we would “…go beyond talk and culminate in a spectacular mass action to shut down Kingsnorth. Permanently!”. The camp separated into blue, green, silver and orange blocs, with the plan being that we would take different routes over land, sea and air to get to Kingsnorth, arriving en masse, and E.ON bosses would order a shutdown. The end result was that one person climbed over the second security fence onto company property, and was immediately arrested. One boat made it onto a jetty, and a police charge sheet reveals that one of the four water inlet systems was shut down, but E.ON claimed it was “business as usual”. Fifty arrests were made, about half the total for the week.

So much for what actually happened. How much of the intended message survived the mainstream media’s filters and made it into public consciousness?

At the start of the week, coverage focused on the police attacks. Monday, 4th August saw BBC exposure of the police’s brutal dawn raid, giving details of casualties, showing police in riot gear attacking campers, and quoting camp media team members at length. On Tuesday, they ran with local Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews’ claim that the police had been “provocative and heavy-handed”. On the other hand, none of the other almost daily attacks got any press. This may be partly due to the pressure of the police’s announcement that they’d discovered a stash of knives and other weapons in woodland near the site. Campers immediately denied any connection with the stash, and none has since been found. But it seems likely that for many, this discovery provided retrospective cover for the police’s use of force, potentially dissuading waverers from paying a visit.

For the mainstream media, the camp wasn’t so much an experiment in sustainable living as a collection of oddities. When they discussed on-site conditions at all, they seemed more intrigued that there were people in the 21st century who voluntarily used compost toilets and grey water systems, than by the green implications. That this was part of an ‘eco village’ seems largely to have passed them by, a fact illustrated by a Google News search. Bizarrely, the Custer County Chief in Nebraska, USA picked up on it, as did a New Statesman article (not very encouragingly titled ‘Woolly minded hippies?’). This contrasts with 109 results for “climate camp” “compost toilet”. For their part, The Guardian even produced a tourist-style survival guide, entitled ‘How to go to Climate Camp – and enjoy it’.

As in previous years, the camp got the mainstream media talking about the role that carbon emissions play in manmade climate change. However, outlets overwhelmingly portrayed this as a protest against emissions at Kingsnorth in isolation, rather than the structural need of capital to expand, degrading the environment in the process. One deviation from this was when the Kent News quoted camper Anya Patterson as saying “If we are serious about fighting climate change, we have to tackle the root causes, and those are greed and a commitment to relentless economic growth.” Similarly, the non-hierarchical decision-making process was largely ignored, with the BBC merely describing it as ‘exhaustive’ and ‘somewhat baffling’.

One facet of the week that all mainstream media went big on was the idea of direct action. Unfortunately, it was only covered in the most superficial way, focusing on the supposed dangers that campers would be letting themselves in for. Of course, police attack was not listed amongst these hazards, but electrocution and drowning were. The implicit message in all of this was that once people stepped outside the law, their safety was at risk, and that therefore the state and – by extension – police really are there to serve and protect everyone – batons, riding crops, pepper spray and all.

Though the Climate Camp website is declaring the week a resounding success, it can surely be judged a valiant failure in terms of its stated objectives. E.ON were inconvenienced for a few hours, but Kingsnorth was not shut down. Some campers learned about non-hierarchical organising and strategies for sustainable living, but this made little impact on the wider public. ‘Direct action’ became a media buzzword, but only as something irresponsible and to be feared. Carbon emissions became a hot topic, but in the context of the above, only as ‘footprints’ to feel guilty about.

Indeed, some campers were hoping for this. On the Thursday morning, I had a discussion with an activist about his ambitions for what is being dubbed the ‘climate movement’. “To make a lot of people very guilty”, he replied.

This emphasis on guilt as a precursor for individualistic lifestyle change is perhaps the very opposite of what many original organisers hoped for. However, I believe it is fundamental to what is sometimes called ‘green and black’ anarchism. The idea of a class-based transformation of society is rejected – in some cases because of righteous disillusionment with traditional forms of class struggle, in many cases because the individual is from a relatively wealthy background. When such people see impending environmental catastrophe as the number one threat to their lives, their philosophy often becomes more anti-technological than anti-capitalist. Taking this perspective to its logical conclusion, capitalism and the state wouldn’t be much of a problem if they could somehow leave people alone in ecological peace, but since they can’t, both must be overcome. However, with international class-based solidarity apparently ruled out, the result is that “setting an example” (as one woman put it) becomes the main method of ideological recruitment.

This sets green and black anarchism up for its own failure. Due to the built-in ideological structures of mainstream media and the state, the example set is of using those compost toilets, getting attacked by police, and putting yourself in mortal danger on your week off. Understandably, this is not an example that many are willing to follow.

The boast that Climate Camp would “shut down Kingsnorth” was always about bravado and bluster, a tendency which people from all strands of activism are vulnerable to in times of unrelenting defeat. But how could Kingsnorth really be shut down?

Medway Council have approved E.ON’s plans, and the final decision rests with the government, who have already indicated they will grant permission. Demolition of the current site and the construction of the new one is scheduled for February next year. On camp, there was a lot of talk about trying to build on current “momentum” and systematically blockading work from then onwards. Clearly, because of the long term commitment to direct action necessary, this would attract a smaller and ever dwindling number of people, unless substantial local support is forthcoming. Even if it is, there are plans for seven more coal-fired stations in the pipeline, plus all the other myriad ways capital is destroying the environment. There simply aren’t enough of us to wage such a struggle.

Any campaign against environmental destruction has to be rooted in a movement against the profit motive and the capitalist system, or it is doomed to symbolic gestures and failure. Industry doesn’t create carbon emissions, working people do, because they are paid to do so and see no viable alternative. While capitalist ideas prevail amongst the working class, invasions of power stations are less direct action and more dramatic lobbying; ultimately impotent appeals to the government to see further than the bottom line, something it is organically incapable of doing.

Ironically, this plays into the hands of people like George Monbiot. ‘Climate change is not anarchy’s football’, he patronisingly declared in a post-camp online reply to an article by radical journalist Ewa Jasiewicz, before going on to declare that ‘I don’t know how to solve the problem of capitalism without resorting to totalitarianism’. And every dictatorship needs paid advisors.

No George, climate change is not ‘anarchy’s football’; it’s a matter of life and death. That’s why we need working class revolution, so we can sort it out.

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No Borders, No Nations

Posted by KM on September 7, 2008

by anonymous

This article originally appeared in the newspaper “Unless You Are Free”, which was put together by anarchists in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, and was distributed at the recent Newcastle Climate Camp

With defining symbols like the high‑tech, militarised camps at Woomera, Baxter & Villawood and notorious moments such as the government‑ordered military seizure of 400 people on the Tampa, the debate and conflict over refugees has been a heated political issue in Australia over the last 10 years. Frequent protests, both inside the camps and out have been held. Slogans such as “Free the Refugees” have been widely heard in general political discourse. Although Kevin Rudd has propagated a ‘softly, softly’ approach to the refugee issue, recently reversing some Howard‑era policies, substantial elements of the key infrastructure remains. It has also been a pivotal component of radical political struggles. Andrea Maksimovic’s piece on the Woomera 2002 protest ‘With Our Bodies Against the Camps’ – where the fences of the detention centre were torn down and over 50 refugees freed – wonderfully articulates this:

The best thing of all was that we didn’t demand anything of the state – we demanded things of ourselves, of the movement, of the temporary community which existed for those five days. We (including those on the inside) demanded that a view which sees our protests stop at the fence be dispensed with, and a new practice of protest arise. And that call was answered by everyone in their own way. And whilst it would be wrong to call Woomera 2002 purely an anti‑capitalist action, undoubtedly it served to question the logic of a system which aims to divide us from our brothers and sisters throughout the world.

On a global scale similar struggles have eventuated. Around May Day 2006, millions of undocumented workers in the US mobilized around the demand for a repeal of a congressional bill that would criminalize them for being in the U.S. without proper papers, and criminalize U.S. citizens who provide them with assistance. Although only partially victorious, this has led to large demos and showings of dissent in the subsequent years.

Anthropologist Ettiene Balibar has noted cogently that “globalisation tends to knock down frontiers with respect to goods and capital while at the same time erecting a whole system of barriers against the influx of a workforce and the ‘right to flight’ that migrants exercise in the face of misery, war, and dictatorial regimes in their countries of origin…At the same time as they are supposed to enjoy ‘liberation’ with respect to traditional forms of authority and dependence,… movements are strictly controlled through a system of differential citizenship. At the bottom of this ladder we see the migrants who suffer the most discrimination: the ‘illegals’, or ‘undocumented’”.

In this context, the issues of migration surrounding climate refugees has emerged as a key new terrain of struggle, encompassing both climate change politics and those rejecting borders and acting in solidarity with refugees. The Red Cross already estimates that the numbers of environmental refugees outnumbers every other category of refugee. This is set to radically increase – it is feared that pressures due to climate change will lead to as many as 200 million forced migrants by the end of the century.

As with all refugees, the burden of environmental migration is borne predominantly by individuals and communities from the Global South‑mainly Sub‑Saharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent, China and Central America. Our response to this scenario must not just be to push for reforms to improve the lot of individual migrants, but, given the scale of the impending crisis, to push for an end to borders and for freedom of movement for all.

The Pacific Region

Throughout the Pacific region, climate change has already had significant impact. The islands of Tuvalu, Fiji and Kiribati have experienced major geographical changes. In Tuvalu sandbanks and shorelines have been lost since the 1960 ’s. ‘The Guardian’ newspaper describes the Cataret Islands as a “Pacific Atlantis”, and it is frequently described as the site of the world’s first climate refugees. Seawalls and other devices no longer deter tides from flooding arable land and destroying key agricultural infrastructure. In all these areas, coastal roads, bridges and plantations are suffering increasing erosion. Intense storms and floods are impacting on housing and community infrastructure, and are occurring more and more frequently. The Red Cross claims that there has been an increase of 65 times in weather‑related disasters over the last 30 years. This will all force large‑scale migration.

Food security and water security are generally under threat, with fisheries becoming depleted as a consequence of coral bleaching. Rainwater is becoming inaccessible, particularly in Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Cook Islands as a consequence of oceanic and climatic variations. Warmer temperatures can lead easily to increased rates of disease. Research indicates that Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are now vulnerable to outbreaks of malaria. Micronesia and the Marshall Islands have experienced cholera recently.

The Australian government’s response to this situation appears to be far from benign. Angus Houston, chief of the defence force, has decreed that climate change is one of the new “security challenges” for the ADF to face. Mick Keelty, chief commissioner of the Australian Federal Police has called climate change the “greatest security threat” of the 21 st century, even surpassing terrorism. He explicitly mentions “border security”, which at least partially refers to the ‘threat’ posed by climate refugees. An ASPI (Australian Strategic Policy Institute) report on climate change, entitled ‘A Change in Climate for the Australian Defence Force’ highlights this.2 Some suggestions outlined by the report include:

– Defence being excluded from carbon‑offset responsibility, other than to make profit by selling off land.

– A general expansion in the capacity of the military, especially as with regards to short‑term surges, ‘border protection’ and logistical capability.

– A continuation of the trend towards private contractors and NGO’s in the place of a formal military presence.

It concludes that climate change is “…making the world more dangerous. The ADF will feel the effects… The biggest challenge will be changing Defence behaviour and systems without reducing ADF operational capacity”.

There is already a large Australian police and military presence in the Pacific of over 20,000. This has been a deeply unpopular presence and has culminated in large‑scale rioting in Honiara in 2006, and protests against neoliberal reforms in Vanuatu in 2002, PNG in 1995 and Tonga in 1995.

Kevin Rudd is firmly behind this, arguing that “there are better places to have combat troops than Iraq” and has described the Pacific as an “arc of instability” that needs to be a focal point for Australian militarism. Given this context, rhetoric of humanitarian assistance, as spelled out in the Labor party’s Our Drowning Neighbours
report – adopted as federal policy at the last election (a marked improvement over previous policy) – does little to assuage fears of environmental disaster.3

1 Friends of the Earth Australia, A Citizens Guide to Climate Refugees,‑justice/activities‑and‑projects/climate‑refugees
2 Australian Strategic Policy Institute, A Change in Climate for the Australian Defence Force,
3 Anthoony Albanese, Our Drowning Neighbours,
4 Rising Tide London, Environmental Refugees,
5 National Security and the Threat of Climate Change

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Approaches to Climate Change

Posted by KM on September 7, 2008

Government Hypocrisy, Private Industry Negligence, “Consumer Solutions” and Direct Action.

By Liz Turner

This article originally appeared in the newspaper “Unless You Are Free”, which was put together by anarchists in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, and was distributed at the recent Newcastle Climate Camp

It is estimated that the changes we make to reduce greenhouse emissions on a personal level in our everyday lives could only account for a maximum of 20% reduction in overall emissions. A minimum emissions reduction of 80% is required to prevent dangerous levels of climatic change. According to the Earth Policy Institute, residential and commercial uses only produce 14% of overall greenhouse emissions. Electricity generation is responsible for the largest share – 42% Transportation generates 24% of global emissions. Industrial processes account for 20%1

Three quarters of the carbon emissions from human activities are due to the combustion of fossil fuels; the rest is caused by changes in land use, principally deforestation.2

Governments contradict themselves by insisting that we “do our bit” at home, while they continue to support the heavily emitting industries of coal and forestry. Communities are now taking matters into their own hands by engaging in direct action that directly targets these industries. Activists have recently shut down supplies of coal in Christchurch, NZ; West Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, USA; Boxburg, Germany; Kent, Nottingham and South Wales in the UK; and Newcastle, Wyong, Kooragang Island and La Trobe Valley in Australia.3

By targeting big emitters at their industrial base, we get the results that “doing our little bit” at home simply can’t achieve. And right now, we need results! These initiatives demonstrate that we can in fact achieve the necessary transformation of these industries through direct action and community empowerment.

Government Hypocrisy

The government gives subsidies to householders who install solar hot water systems or water tanks or convert their cars to LPG. At the same time, fossil fuels receive 28 times more public funding than renewable energy.4

Australia is the world’s biggest coal exporter, so we can’t expect governments or industry to voluntarily give up coal. Of course governments talk about increasing the production of “clean coal”, but that’s kind of like talking about clean cigarettes or polished effluent.

The technology behind so‑called clean coal lies in the potential success of the as‑yet proven Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. Based on the idea of “carbon sinks”, proponents of CCS assert that we can simply bury emissions. Even if scientific testsprove successful, clean coal wouldn’t be commercially available until 2020 at the earliest. The National Generators Forum (NGF) has essentially taken CCS off the table as a viable option. Despite theNGF’s refusal to support clean coal, a powerful coalition including the Australian Coal Association, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia and the Climate Institute all have their hopes up that CCS can be up and running by 2020.5 It makes little sense to put faith in a scientific theory that is not yet proven to be viable when the associated risks of failure are so high. The science of carbon sinks, based on a similar fantasy that technology will save us, has already been discredited.6

Industry Negligence

Industry negligence is perhaps best illustrated by BHP Billiton, which produces 50 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution annually, equivalent to about 10% of Australia’s entire emissions! This multinational giant to this day has failed to set any targets for gross reductions to its greenhouse emissions. Instead BHP Billiton has set a target to reduce “energy intensity” by 13% by 2010. This would allow the company’s emissions to continue to increase, so long as the company also continues to grow.

The logging industry and “doing our bit” for water

While forest activists have been talking about the links between logging and climate change for years, the science behind these links is now becoming more widely known. Old growth forests store, lock and increasingly soak up carbon over time. Carbon is released upon logging, burning or destruction of forests. In a study published in Science Magazine 7, scientists measured carbon in the soil of southern China’s forests collected between 1979 and 2003. They found that organic carbon concentrations in the top 20 centimeters of the soil were much higher than expected and increased in that period from about 1.4% to 2.35%. 8

Logging, aside from releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and thereby contributing to climate change, also threatens water supplies. Five water catchments in Victoria’s Central Highlands, which supply 28% of Melbourne’s drinking water, are open to clearfell logging. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) have revealed that 81% of native forest logged in the Central Highlands is ending up as woodchips.9 Established research has demonstrated that logging reduces flows into the Central Highland’s Thomson catchment by the equivalent consumption of 250,000 households. The cumulative negative effect of logging the Central Highlands water catchments is between 40,000 and 60,000 megalitres of water per year.10

The same governments who sign contracts and provide corporate subsidies to woodchip our native forests, 11 have been particularly keen to pass the buck of responsibility to consumers for reducing Melbourne’s overall water consumption. The State Government funds giant digital signs in the city telling us that our water catchments are well below 50% When this information is drummed into our heads, we accept the burden of responsibility. We take three‑minute long showers and fight with our neighbours if they water their gardens on the wrong day. But short showers and arguments with our own neighbours will not stop the logging that threatens the water supply of 250,000 households. If logging in the Thompson Catchment were to stop, this would provide a much more efficient solution to Melbourne’s water problems.

This is not an argument for wasteful water use at home! “Doing our bit” is better than not “doing our bit”. We would be hypocrites to say that we are concerned for the environment and yet fail to walk the talk and potentially forego emissions reductions. But we must consider how we channel our environmental concerns: will we reduce more greenhouse emissions if we convince individuals to reduce their own emissions at home? Or will the real results come from our engagement in direct action that threatens the industrial base of coal? The maths speaks for itself. Changes to overall household consumption could only ever amount to a maximum 20% reduction. BHP Billiton is responsible for 10% of Australia’s entire emissions. I propose that a workers’ take over of BHP Billiton to transform the system of energy production to a de‑centralised, solar‑based system, would get better results than asking our neighbours nicely to reduce their carbon footprint.

The links between the coal industry and personal use of energy must be acknowledged. Of course personal consumption and carbon emissions are intrinsically linked to industry because industry produces precisely for our consumption. While we can reduce our energy use, we can’t do away with our need for energy. But right now people all over the world are calling for a stop to wasteful industries that fail to acknowledge responsibility for reducing emissions. So the solution lies in the transformation of these industries.

Direct Action Gets Results!

On September 3 2007, environmental activists halted operations at the Loy Yang Power Station, Victoria’s main power plant in the LaTrobe Valley, Gippsland. This forced the shutdown of the 600 megawatt generator, halving production from Victoria’s biggest coal fired power station that supplies 30% of the state’s power, the dirtiest power supply in the developed world.12 This action demonstrated how easy it is for people to stop the industrial production of brown coal. These activists simply walked into the power plant and locked on to a conveyer belt.

So far, the scale of community opposition to coal exports in Newcastle has led the Newcastle Council to pass a motion to cap coal exports and introduce a ban on new coal mines in the Hunter Valley. While this clearly does not go far enough to solve the problem, it indicates that the council and industry are vulnerable to the kind of direct action that has taken place. It is obvious that more direct action is the right track for getting results.

Governments try to pull the wool over our eyes when they tell us to reduce our household emissions and water consumption. The fossil fuel industry tries to pull the wool over our eyes when they create dubious emissions targets. Activists have had huge successes in blockading and shutting down coal production and export all over the world. The people demonstrating at the Newcastle Climate Camp in July 2008 deserve support and recognition that their methods of addressing climate change are as effective as such methods get! However, workers in the industry must be brought onside to realise the power in their potential role in transforming the industry.

1 Bernie Fischlowitz‑Roberts, Carbon Emissions Climbing, earth‑
2 Ibid.
3 Sourcewatch, Non-violent Direct Actions Against Coal,
4 The clean coal myth gets a helping hand,
5 Ibid.
6 Earthlab, Ocean Fertilization ‘Fix’ For Global Warming Discredited By Research,
7 1 December 2006, Vol. 314. no. 5804, p. 1417,
8 Hawk Jia, Old Growth Forests are ‘Key carbon Sinks’, SciDiv Net, 1 December 2006,‑forests‑are‑key‑carbon‑sinks.html
9 The Wilderness Society, Logging Melbourne’s Water Catchment: The Central Highlands,
10 ABC Online, Water Flows Into Thomspon catchment Increasing: Logging Report, 14 March 2008,
11 Eg, For information on Government subsidies to Gunns Limited, see:‑gunns‑destruction.html
12 Takver, APEC Climate Change protest shuts down Victorian Coal Power Station, 3rd September 2007,‑climate‑change‑protest‑shuts‑down‑victorian‑coal‑power‑station

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Don’t talk about the war!

Posted by KM on August 26, 2008

The nonsensical relationship between the labour and environment movements in the face of climate change.

by Liz Turner

This article originally appeared in the newspaper “Unless You Are Free”, which was put together by anarchists in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, and was distributed at the recent Newcastle Climate Camp

Over the past twenty years in Australia, the relationship between environmental activists and some aspects of the labour movement has been plagued by nonsensical paradoxes and conflict, to the detriment of the environment. Big industrial giants and governments are clearly not going to be the ones to prevent dangerous climate change because their interests lie in fossil fuels. This leaves environmentalists and workers to create solutions that will transform the energy industry to be sustainable, localised and grassroots, while providing people with jobs.

We can’t rely on the leaders of the mainstream labour unions to transform the logging industry because the Forestry division of the powerful Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has been embroiled in conflicts with the environment movement for years. New approaches are needed in order to begin resolving these conflicts. Strategies based on the principles of mutual aid and direct action, are the most likely ones to get good results.

Many environmental activists have anti‑capitalist ideas that are not fostered by a strong workers’ movement. This is a ridiculous situation. However, Union Solidarity is an organisation based in Melbourne that aims to build sustainable housing co‑operatives for low‑income earners. This very practical project could go leaps and bounds towards healing strained relations, while at the same time, demonstrating that workers control can transform industries to be sustainable.

The Forestry Division of the CFMEU

Claims that the Forestry division of the CFMEU have been bought off by the forest industry, are well‑founded. Michael O’Connor from the Forestry branch of the CFMEU supported John Howard’s 2004 election campaign after Opposition Leader Mark Latham promised to protect more of Tasmania’s Old Growth forests.

The CFMEU will not dissolve its forestry division due to the Forestry division’s historical threat that they will dismantle the doors of Victoria’s Trades Hall. I have a proposition: Perhaps Trades Hall does not need the doors as much as the CFMEU needs to be liberated from the conservative and damaging leaders of the Forestry union.

The Builders Labourers Federation

From 1971 and 1974 the New South Wales Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) helped foster a powerful relationship between strong elements of the labour movement and the environment movement. Under the leadership of Jack Mundey, Bob Pringle and Joe Owens, the New South Wales BLF ran 42 Green Bans, holding up well over $5 billion worth of inappropriate development in areas of environmental significance and low‑income residential areas at the Rocks, Kelly’s Bush, Centennial Park, the Botanic Gardens, and Woolloomooloo.1

In 1983, Bob Hawke’s Labor government introduced the Prices and Incomes Accord, an agreement between governments, bosses and unions. The Accord was promoted as apparently “heralding the end of industrial disputes”. The BLF signed on, but broke the accord when industrial disputes were needed. The ALP government then deregistered the union. Police were called to sites in Victoria, NSW and Canberra, where BLF members were ordered to join rival unions. If they refused, they were sacked on the spot and escorted off site. BLF officials were banned from sites and if they entered anyway were charged with trespass. The courts would then issue an order banning them from the site. If the official ignored the court order, they were jailed for 28 days.2 Howard can partly thank Hawke for laying the foundations for workplace organising laws under Workchoices.

The sustained attacks by the state, an economic recession and the constant blacklisting of BLF militants presented the final nails in the coffin of the BLF. Make no mistake: the government were engaged in a deliberate project to ensure that workers and concerned members of the community could not interfere with unsustainable development.

Stories of violence perpetrated by loggers against environmental protestors are not uncommon. On the ground, these fights are sometimes articulated as some kind of “class” war, where forest workers defend their right to their job and are happy to fight to apparently “bourgeois” greenies (who are often students earning a meager income of Austudy or underemployed people). The restructuring of the forest industry has led more and more forest workers to become independent contractors. So if they miss a day’s work because someone has chained themselves to their tractor, they can’t claim wages. Stripping workers of guaranteed wages and conditions is a very good strategic move for industry and government because it is harder for these workers to sympathise with the concerns of environmentalists. Instead, forest workers effectively perform the role of enforcer against environmentalists, while industry and the state can sit back and watch.

Violence in the forest is often a case of family against family, workers against people concerned for their children’s futures. But the interests of forest workers and environmental protesters are the same.

This violence came to a head in the courts in the early 2000’s when activists from the Wilderness Society claimed they were beaten up, trapped in a log cabin and terrorized to the point of suffering post‑traumatic stress disorder by loggers who are members of the CFMEU’s Forestry division during a forest blockade. The unsuccessful response of the activists was to try and sue the CFMEU for all they had, which would have effectively decimated the most militant union in the country.

The extent of this damage cannot easily be undone. It presents barriers whenever workers and environmentalists try to find new solutions, to the point where it seems easier to simply not talk about the war. For young environmentalists exploring all possible solutions to environmental crises, it can be tempting to find relief by looking to the corporate sector. But there is simply no sufficient solution to be found within the capitalist system. BHP Billiton,
for instance, is responsible for ten per cent of Australia’s overall greenhouse emissions and they have refused to set a targ t to reduce emissions. (Instead they have set a target to reduce energy intensity by 13% by 2010).

This means there is a lot of hard work to do to build the relationship between workers and environmentalists. This is where we need to start.

Union Solidarity’s sustainable housing workers co‑operatives should be applauded. We can only hope it will provide a positive example and lead to a groundswell for other construction workers to join.


1 Verity Burgmann, Power, Profit and Protest: Australian Social Movements and Globalisation, 2003, Allen & Unwin, pp169 – 171

2 Michael Bull, ‘John Cummins, 1948 – 2006’, Green Left Weekly, 17 November 1993,

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Climate Camp 2008: What did we achieve?

Posted by KM on August 23, 2008

Original version of this article at ‘A Minnow on a Mission’ Blog

by OrangeJon

The “Day of Action” against the Kingsnorth power station was surprisingly successful, with a handful of protesters (including my friend and Lib Dem councillor Neale Upstone) managing to scale the perimeter fence and several rafts and kayaks managing to reach the nearby jetty. Meanwhile, hundreds of peaceful protesters hung banners on the front gates of the site.

The prospect of EON building the first coal-fired power station in the UK in 24 years here has evidently made a lot of people angry, and they responded in the way that comes mostly naturally – by shouting, breaking the law and hoping somebody will listen to what they are trying to say. But of course, it’s up to the media to carry this message to a wider audience and sadly they were too busy on focussing on the few protesters who decided to clash with the police after they were asked to leave.

That’s not to say that the police didn’t deserve some media attention. The nearby camp, which had been host to a week-long programme of talks and workshops on sustainable living, had been the constant target of police aggression. The tone was set on Monday when riot police unsuccessfully attempted to storm the site, and although the vast majority of campers tried hard to treat the officers with respect, they unavoidably found it difficult to trust the police not to attempt another unprovoked attack on the camp, and so officers were held back at the perimeter for the rest of the event.

Have we persuaded the public at large that climate change is a serious issue and that they should oppose the construction of new fossil-fuel power stations? I doubt it. Thanks to the unjustifiable and presumably politically-motivated actions of the the police, I now have a lot less respect for the law. But seeing how the protest was covered in the media has re-affirmed my belief that protests and direct action don’t speak to the concerns of the majority, and instead associates the issue with extremists. Although such actions hopefully convey the level of emotion that the protesters feel, the extreme nature of their actions only serves to distance them from the viewer and diminish the persuasive power of the message.

For me, the main outcome of Climate Camp 2008 was the lasting friendships it has initiated. Nowhere else have I felt so part of a community of like-minded people that are so warm, positive and pro-active. I feel that there’s now a real opportunity for our community to move forward and, mindful of the differences between ourselves and our target audiences, make a real impact in the fight against climate change.

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An Open Letter to the Camp for Climate Action

Posted by KM on August 23, 2008

Original version on UK Indymedia

by David Douglass

Dear Camp for Climate Action,

Firstly thank you for contacting me. I’m hopping mad about what I’ve
heard, but I may not have been told the whole story. I can tell you too
the mining community whats left of us feel utterly betrayed by rumours
about you swinging all your efforts to close down what remains of the coal
industry. There are debates about counter-demonstrations etc and press
statements from the power workers and miners. So its vital we do not take
up cudgels over this unless and until and at least that we know where each
other stand. I was a matter of interest with the National General
secretary of the NUM and the Yorkshire Area Leadership last weekend and
they are spitting feathers about the Drax demonstration. The slogans on
the demonstration and the statements made to the press by the protestsrs
demonstrated no concern for the miners, railway workers or power workers.
There was no consultation with us, no debate with us, no seeing what we
wanted or how we see the world or how we can see if there is anything is
common. ‘Leave It In The Ground’ was the banner which was unfurled at
Drax, ‘it’ being the coal, and the miners ? where do we leave them ? that
bit wasn’t answered. We know where John Major and Maggie Thatcher and
Harold Wilson left us, on the dung heap, and most of us are still there.

Our own demands would be two fold, firstly we want to see the opening of
‘clean coal technology stations’. Yes the technology exists and had done
since the 50s but nobody was interested in applying it. There are at least
two methods, but the latest one is carbon capture, thats not the end of
the story but here isn’t the place to elaborate. Enough to say its not a
con, it does produce massive savings in CO2 emissions, plus the bi product
of the Hatfield Main system is hydrogen and energy conservation. Which are
added bonuses on the carbon capture.

Secondly we want to see international (‘fair trade’ if you like )
standards applied to all imported coal and a level playing field in terms
of health and safety, conditions, hours and union recognition . Countries
with mass slaughter in the collieries should not be allowed to dump coal
here at the expense of workers in their countries and unemployment for
miners here.

65 million Tonnes of coal is burned in Britain each year only about 18
million of it is mined here, despite the fact that British coal is the
cheapest deep mined coal in the world. It is brought here in part because
rather than fit wipers and efficient filters to all power stations, they
import coal which produces less sulphur and ash and carbon when burned.
Instead they burn the miners at source.

There is about 500 years of coal in Britain, it can provide a breathing
space, to develop renewable sources, certainly solar, yes tidal, though
not destructive wind estates which are laying siege to the bits of free
land and crags and moorland we have left.

The governments main plan is and always been to make Britain Nuclear
dependant. That is why they closed down the mines in the first place.
Climate Camp must be very careful not to cross on the wrong side of the
barricade on this issue. Not to be used to promote Nuclear energy by
making the biggest focus coal .

The spokesperson at Drax this month said there was NO PLACE for coal in
Britain’s energy supply ! Thats fairly final. The impact of that
statement, coming as it does with a middle class voice and total
indifference to the situation in the coal communities, is unlikely to
strike any cords this side of the tracks.

I understand you intend to shut down Kingsnorth Power Station in August. I
don’t know this station in particular but I was informed this was a
station which was using clean coal technology ? Is that not right ?
whether it is or not we have to ask why coal ?.

Coal is not the biggest producer of CO2 its about the fourth and thats
with unfettered uncontrolled emissions from the third world in particular.
It could be massively reduced by demanding all coal which comes here meets
minimum standards of health and safety and union rights. That the
exporting countries themselves adopt clean coal technologies. Such a
tighter focus would be entirely more credible and principled than simply
saying ‘close down all coal power stations, don’t build new ones, and
exterminate the last of the miners and their communities’.

I cant say I’m keen on entering the lions den of the Climate Camp as a
former miners leader and life long coal miner. I’m tempted to say I think
we speak differant languages. However I shall pencil this is my calender
and see if I can attend along with any of the NUM leadership in order that
we can put our point view across and hopefully get you to adopt a more
balanced approach to the question of power generation and working class
expectations and demands.

You have my permission to put this letter on the website.

The World For The Workers

David Douglass

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Open statement and invitation to the trade union movement

Posted by KM on August 23, 2008

Original version of this message on the UK Camp for Climate Action website

by Networking group – Camp for Climate Action 2008

As you may be aware the Camp for Climate Action will be happening near Kingsnorth in Kent, august 3 -11th 2008.

The camp is an open event to which all are welcome to attend and debate issues about how we can stop climate change. We will also explore practical examples of how we can live, work and take decisions together, in truly democratic and sustainable ways.

We aim to shut down Kingsnorth power station on the 9th of August for one day. We want to clarify that this action is not against the workers at Kingsnorth, nor does it mean we think the UK coal industry should be shut down overnight. It means we want to show the seriousness of the threat both to humans and our environment, now and into the future. This crisis affects the world’s poorest people first and hardest and is a social justice issue. We feel that we must take collective, political direct action to address it.

We recognise the history of political attacks on the miners and the union movement and we firmly resist that. We recognise the need for jobs, viable communities and a strong trade union movement, and we want a decent, fair and long term deal for all, including miners, energy workers and their communities. We believe we face a common enemy of short-termism, capitalism and the exploitation of people and nature that capitalism inevitably brings.

Coal is currently the dirtiest of the fossil fuels and it is an industry that is going to have to respond to the climate crisis. We are against any proposal that would increase our carbon emissions, as a new power station at Kingsnorth would. Extremely rapid reductions in emissions are necessary if we are not to watch millions suffer and die in the most preventable disaster the world has ever known.

We know much hope surrounds ‘clean coal technology’, but we see a lot of ‘greenwash’ there too. ‘Clean coal’ means many different things and is an idea not a single technology. We know many within the coal industry are pushing carbon capture and storage – CCS – and this is proposed for one part of the new Kingsnorth plant. It may offer solutions but on the scale required it is still only theoretical and will no doubt have many costs. Like many technical proposals its impact will depend on the political context it is used in. We are concerned that it does not marginalise solutions that could have a real impact today, like energy efficiency, renewables, local production, public transport etc. All of these could provide thousands of new jobs immediately, and help make our society healthier.

We don’t have a blueprint for the future but we do have a clear sense of the values which will guide it – environmental sustainability and social justice for all. We locate the roots of climate change within the ideas and practice of capitalism. Consequently we know that we cannot ‘solve’ climate change without addressing the way our world is run for private profit rather than social gain and for endless growth rather than satisfying needs.

We have adopted the model of ‘Just Transition’, in which the needs of workers are paramount within the transition to a new economy: their views are central, there should be adequate retraining where required, there should be no loss incurred. An increasing number of trade unions are adopting this model internationally. There will be ways we can make this transition protect, and benefit, workers and communities worldwide.

Climate change poses a question about our economic and social system. It is in fact an opportunity. The theft of resources, the inequality, the destruction of nature, the abandonment of communities unwanted by big business, the injustice, the poverty, the lack of a real say in our lives – all these can be addressed when we address climate change. As prices rise and people question the reasons for the instability, we will have welcome space to talk about capitalism, social justice and real democracy. It will be an opportunity for groups who were previously unaligned to work together. It will be an opportunity for us to realise the importance and excitement of collective action. It could and should offer the opportunity for the trade union movement to re invigorate itself.

We know we should have made greater efforts to communicate with workers and unions at an earlier stage, and we apologise for that. We hope this opportunity is now here and we warmly welcome a dialogue with all sectors over how we can move forward both fairly and sustainably.

We know there is a proposal for a counter demonstration against the camp. We are concerned that this proposal could give the impression that we are on different sides and be seized upon by government and media to avoid talking about the real political issues we could be addressing. Such a division, real or not, could damage us both, whereas mutual respect and aid could help. We need to engage in a constructive dialogue about the way forward.

To that effect we warmly offer to come to your branch or group to discuss these issues, and invite you to the Camp to do the same.

In solidarity,

Networking group – Camp for Climate Action 2008

Contact us via

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Power Generation! The Climate Camp at Kingsnorth

Posted by KM on August 20, 2008

Original version of this article at Shift Magazine

by Paul M

The climate camp this year will be at Kingsnorth Power Station in Kent. On the obscure Kentish peninsular of Hoo, a profoundly important struggle over the future of how we respond to the twin problems of climate change and the evolving energy crisis will start unfolding this summer…

Despite the growing evidence of how serious a problem climate change is, E.O.N. wants to build the UK’s first coal fired power station in thirty years to replace the current power station at Kingsnorth when it retires in 2015. If built this power station will emit 6 to 8 million tons of CO2 every year . That’s a hell of a lot of CO2 to add to the atmosphere when usually cautious scientists are saying there is a climate crisis and that there is an increasing risk that our growing emissions of CO2 will trigger catastrophic climate change. It’s a lot of CO2 to add to the atmosphere at the very time we need to be radically reducing CO2 levels. Not only that but another six atmosphere crushing coal fired power stations are in the pipeline. What happens at Kingsnorth is vitally important. If we’re serious about tackling climate change we have to get serious about stopping Kingsnorth being built.

So on one side are E.O.N and the government. Their solution to climate change is (well they don’t really care but) in word at least a commitment to carbon trading, nuclear energy and, at the outer edge of possibility, carbon capture and storage. Their solution to problems of energy supply insecurity is to build into the grid a range of different generators, all large-scale based around coal, gas, nuclear and some wind. On the other side are NGOs like Greenpeace and WDM and a potentially crucial grassroots mobilisation in the form of the climate camp. The NGOs are calling for no new coal without carbon capture and storage and as an alternative to coal fired electricity generation investment in renewables and efficiency. The climate camp is attempting to catalyse a grassroots challenge to the growth economy and if it sticks to previous trends will call for a reduction in demand and relocalisation within the context of a global struggle against the fossil fuel industry and the continuing capitalist enclosure of remaining hydro carbons and forests.

The camp should be somewhere else?

The decision to go to Kingsnorth wasn’t without controversy. In terms of other options many felt that this year’s camp should focus on biofuels. In addition, since the decision to go to Kingsnorth has been made some worry that this shows a tendency towards the camp becoming some kind of lobbying group. So it’s worth answering that question and looking into (at least from this scribbler’s point of view) why the choice to go to Kingsnorth was a good one from a long-term strategic point of view. The related question of whether this choice allows for anti-capitalist critique is dealt with later.

Why not biofuels?

It’s hard to argue that in the broad context either biofuels or coal is the more important issue. Climate change is caused by both the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forest ecosystems. Whilst at first the debate about where the camp should go seemed to be about the relative political importance of either issue it became clear that the camp wasn’t about any particular issue and was essentially a base for movement building. So then the question became which location offers us the best place for geographically located resistance to the problem of climate change. This in a sense is the root of the camp. It recognised that the problem of climate change was too big and abstract for people to deal with so it creates an iconic space for people to gather. The place is as crucial, if not more crucial than the issue. Overall, while no one would really say coal was more important, it was felt that Kingsnorth offered a more iconic place than any of the biofuels options. That said, a critique of biofuels and the importance of ecosystems destruction has become part of the climate camp’s political critique and there is a commitment to actions on biofuels during the camp.

Has the camp become some kind of lobbying organisation?

This question has been raised because both last year at Heathrow and this year at Kingsnorth the camp is intervening in a process in which a decision from government on expansion is pending. In the circumstances if enough pressure is applied the government could be forced to change its mind. Secondly, on both these occasions NGOs with a less explicitly ‘radical’ message are also involved. At Kingsnorth Greenpeace and WDM both have strong campaigns against the power station.

What’s lobbying? Conventionally it’s the idea that people using various means – from directly talking to sending letters to organising public meetings – attempt to persuade government officials to change government policy on an issue. More broadly it could be stretched to mean political activity whose aim is to change government policy. The idea of lobbying is to use whatever channels there are to put pressure on government to change. Clearly we’re not engaged in conventional lobbying, we’re not trying to persuade the government to change its mind through rational argument or through using the normal democratic channels provided by the democratic process. We recognise that government and E.O.N will build the power station unless they are forced not to. There has been no communication between the climate camp and the government or E.O.N. We’re not politely asking them to not build the power station. We’re saying: you want to build but we have different ideas.

The anti-roads movement was not a lobbying organisation but its big success was changing government policy on transport. Likewise the radical campaign to stop GM wasn’t a lobbying campaign but it changed government policy. We have to make what we do count. As a location for the camp Drax was inspiring and symbolically powerful, but did it make any real difference? The camp at Heathrow had a real impact on the campaign to stop the third runway. The challenge is to remain true to our radical vision whilst acting in strategic ways that make change possible.

The difference between us and the NGOs campaigning on Kingsnorth is that we also want other things. Victories over Kingsnorth and Heathrow are necessary but far from sufficient.

However aren’t there other decisions that are more important to affect? And how about, rather than getting the corporations and government to not make a decision they want to make, force them into making a diction that wasn’t even on the horizon?

This was why the first camp at Drax had so much potential. However much it is important that we stop Kingsnorth being built, how much more powerful would it be if we could close down a power station that was already running? It’s still the same process but a much more powerful one.

Tactically however it would be magnitudes harder. If a hundred thousand miners failed to do it then it seems that for us for the time being camping outside Drax has powerful symbolic value but will actually change very little. That’s why in a sense Kingsnorth is the radical choice. We have a real chance to affect change and in terms of movement building giving people the sense that they are participating in history and making it happen is crucially important.

In addition going to Kingsnorth helps us see beyond the camp. Clearly our response to climate change can’t be limited to a yearly camp. Which beyond a few times will start to feel like an annual countdown to disaster. Going to Kingsnorth situates us in the middle of a campaign. If we’re serious about climate change then we have to be serious about Kingsnorth and that means planning and preparing a campaign to stop it being built. Heathrow is important but Kingsnorth is far more imminent.

Coal and Anti-Capitalism

The Climate Camp has a radical anti-growth or even anti-capitalist agenda. So how does Kingsnorth offer a platform for this radical critique when other groups such as Greenpeace and Christian Aid are also campaigning against it?

Is there some uncorrupted physical space of pure anti-capitalist opposition? Whatever we decide to do (if it’s at all relevant), from being against GM or No Borders or anti- G8 and supporting strikers, it will on the surface mean that we are opposed to or for things that other groups with less radical agendas also agree with. The question is how we campaign, where we see it taking us, what we say and what we’re building for. The fact that other groups are also interested in Kingsnorth and Heathrow means we’re actively engaging with a wider community and we should be brave enough to make our arguments both as part of and antagonistic to that community. Christian Aid are against Kingsnorth but not against the growth economy: well, let them explain how we’re going to have annual growth of 2%, reduce emissions by 90% and end inequality.

Too much of the anti-capitalism ‘movement’ is just an ideological identity love-in. But if we’re serious about change then we have to get out of the activist ghetto. And in the end that probably means getting involved in issues that other people also care about.

One of the big problems with the camp at Heathrow was the difficulty in making a systemic critique stick. Because it was an airport it was assumed we were against people flying – and in truth lots of people were. So despite a Herculean effort to focus on the corporations, part of the overall message was that people that fly are the problem (which is true but only the first part of a more complex problem).

Kingsnorth is all about corporate and government power. The story is about how big money will do anything (even burn coal in the middle of a climate crisis) to expand or at least maintain its position. Kingsnorth exposes a fundamental truth at the heart of power. It doesn’t matter if it’s wanted or not, it doesn’t matter if it does any one any good or not; if it makes money it’s fine by us.

How do the government and E.O.N justify building this power station?

There are two arguments that justify the building of Kingsnorth. Firstly, that the problem of emissions will be dealt with through the emissions trading scheme. As if the need for action is so limited a country the size of the UK can raise its emissions and expect all the necessary reduction to come from somewhere else. And secondly, the government believe that energy security is more important than climate change, so they’re going to build it in the belief that in public the argument that we have to ‘keep the lights on’ trumps the more distant problem of climate change.

Keep it in the ground.

The simple fact about coal is that if we burn all or even much more of the coal ‘reserves’ on this planet then we’re toast. It’s that simple. Millions of years’ worth of solar energy and carbon are stored in these compressed prehistoric forests. Burn all this energy in a few decades and it’s over. So along with our anti-growth message our central message this year should be ‘Keep it in the Ground’. It’s simple, it’s necessary, and fully acted out it’s very radical.

It’s simple. Keep it in the ground. Anyone can understand what it means and it makes the lines clear. Some people will do anything to burn the stuff; some people believe in a world where fossil fuels stay in the ground.

It’s necessary. If we burn all the coal, oil and gas on the planet then in terms of ecological systems we will cause levels of warming and disruption that take us into extremely dangerous territory. The struggle for a fairer, more ecological world has to be a struggle to keep coal in the ground (also oil and gas but because of the scale of the ‘reserves’ particularly coal).

It’s radical. Growth at its current rates would be impossible without burning astonishing quantities of oil, gas and coal. It would be a mistake to think that this makes this message a purely anti-capitalist one. You can have hierarchical and even capitalist relations of production when you burn wood (early US industrialisation for example). You can have hideous exploitation on organic farms with no fossil fuel inputs. But like No Borders it’s a politically necessary message without being fully sufficient. A society that keeps fossil fuels in the ground will be fundamentally different. How it’s different will be up to the people struggling to make it happen.

Clean Coal?

There’s been an algae-soaked sea of greenwash in the past decade but first prize has to go to this simple two-word combination: Clean Coal. These two words (along with the size of coal reserves and its relative cheapness compared to increasingly expensive oil and gas) have breathed new life into the coal industry. There is of course no such thing as clean coal. Just like there is no such thing as clean anthrax or clean fission.

New generating technologies have improved the efficiency of coal fired power stations from around 35% to 45%. So one could say slightly less dirty coal. But these efficiency gains also reduce costs, which increases demand so whether there is any overall improvement is doubtful.

There’s also the much-lauded possibility of using Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to clean emissions up (or at least bury them). CCS is a method for stripping the CO2 out, condensing it and burying it in salt aquifiers and old or partially used oil and gas wells. The key thing about CCS is that it’s science fiction. At the scale of a large power plant it doesn’t exist. It’s at least 20 years away at any big scale of usage and, given that the next decade is crucial, CCS can make little difference to climate change. There’s the possibility that a small part of Kingsnorth might run a CCS experiment. They want to talk about CCS but the real issue is burning coal, which is what Kingsnorth will be doing in spade-fulls (well ship-fulls). Even in the unlikely event that they do successfully build a CCS section to the plant, Kingsnorth will still emit 6 million tons of CO2 a year. That’s a lot more than the third runway at Heathrow would produce.

There are other problems with CCS, but given that it doesn’t exist there’s not much point in focusing on it. Fusion nuclear might not be a great idea but we don’t run campaigns against it because like CCS it’s still 20 years away. There are even circumstances where CCS might be a good thing but these circumstances will only arise if we win the bigger fight over climate change and energy in the here and now.

Beyond Greenwash!

We’ve entered a phase that goes beyond greenwash. Clean coal is greenwash in that the coal industry uses the term to further its ends. In a step that goes further than this, governments and corporations are now using climate change to create a world in their image, to fundamentally buttress their idea of how the world should work. They use climate change to spread fear and support the extension of the free market ideology, and the idea of progress as the development of technology. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t campaign against climate change; it just means we have to be clear we’re not only against anthropomorphic climate change; we’re against the economic and social forces that cause it.

Where next?

Almost everyone involved in the camp sees the need to move beyond the idea of doing an annual camp. The idea of the camp was to help catalyse something bigger and more enduring. A serious strategic engagement with this issue will have to work for local change whilst be willing to come together to take on issues of national importance issues where no local group could be big enough to generate the opposition necessary e.g. Heathrow or Kingsnorth. Equally it will have to look at the issue of work. Without engaging in the work we do, how we do it, and how we can build a global movement to change the way we do it, we will only scrape the surface of change. So what should we do next? Well lots of things but fairly high up the list is stopping Kingsnorth. We cannot have a successful grassroots movement on climate change if it doesn’t challenge the building of this next generation of coal fired power stations. The good news is that it’s just such a confrontation that might be that making of the movement.

Sonofamigrant or Paul M as he is otherwise known is involved in the Climate Camp networking group (aahhrgg) and works part time for Greenpeace. If he can’t sleep he occasionally gets up and taps out random hazy thoughts on his computer. On this occasion the Shift dream catcher caught these ones.

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The movement is dead, long live the movement!

Posted by KM on August 20, 2008

Original version of this article at Turbulence magazine

There’s a new big story: climate change. Tadzio Müller suggests a way for anticapitalists to deal with the issue’s urgency without falling into catastrophism or quietism.

R.I.P., or: the death of a movement

The movement’s dead! More precisely: the alterglobalisation movement as a common place for movements and ‘activists’ to meet and to become-other, together, linking their struggles under and against the common referent of neoliberal globalisation, is dead. Not that the particular struggles are dead. Nor have we seen the end of countersummit mobilisations: as I’m writing this, preparations for engaging the G8 in Japan are in full swing, and at every gathering of the radical and not-so-radical left, plans are busily being made to shut down one summit or another: the G8 in Italy in 2009; NATO’s 60-year birthday bash in France; and so on and so forth: countersummits-r-us?

But somehow these mobilisations don’t pack the same punch as they used to: how many last hurrahs have there been, how many times have people mobilised and thought “if it fails this time, we’ll stop doing this”? Even the comparatively powerful German movement could do little more at the G8 in Heiligendamm than to realise that it’s one thing to bring tens of thousands onto the street, but quite another for their actions to resonate beyond the immediate circle of participants.

Don’t get me wrong: the movement didn’t die the ignominious death of the defeated. In many ways, it also won. And for movements, who must move to survive, their victories are also often their deaths, for they live and breathe antagonism, they need an enemy. So what of our enemy? Let’s ask Martin Wolf, the Financial Times’ chief ideologue, an eloquent and considered spokesman for the neoliberal offensive. Talking about the day when the US Central Bank bailed out a huge bank to prevent the financial crisis from spreading, he wrote: “Remember Friday March 14 2008: it was the day the dream of global free-market capitalism died.” So neoliberalism is dead (in some ways), as is (again: in some ways) the movement against it, of which the explicitly anticapitalist current from within which this text is written was only ever one part. It seems to have lost precisely that which can forge a movement out of an irreducible multiplicity of struggles, that which can counter the decomposition of resistance that capital and the state constantly seek to impose on us. We need a story, a hope, a hook to move: and at this point, the alterglobalist movement is clearly a movement without a hook, without an enemy, without a goal.

The new ‘big one’?

But as much as there’s a movement without a story, there’s also a story without a movement: climate change. An increasing number of policies (even many that have hardly anything to do with the subject) are being justified in terms of their relation to ‘the climate’. And ever since being outmanoeuvred by the G8 and especially chancellor Merkel at Heiligendamm, the European movements have realised that they must develop a position and a practice around climate change or risk irrelevance in this brave new world of green issues. The most advanced fractions of capital and government apparatuses have spotted a great way to create political support for a new ‘green fix’ to both the crisis of overaccumulation (the problem of too much money chasing too few profitable investment opportunities) that has given us the current financial chaos, and to the legitimation crisis that global authority has been suffering since the power of the story of ‘global terrorism’ began to wane. In a way, the fact that everybody is now talking about this issue is a massive victory for the green movement – but at the same time it’s meant the final nail in that movement’s coffin: every single large green NGO is involved up to its neck in the negotiations about the Kyoto follow-up treaty, and thus unlikely to articulate a political position that would diverge significantly from the dominant agendas in the field.

So there’s a movement without a story, and a story without a movement – which means that, as it stands right now, there is little hope that climate change will be dealt with in ways that don’t simply further the interests of states and whatever happens to be the dominant fraction of capital. And since the default anticapitalist position on climate change is that there is a fundamental contradiction between the requirements of the continued accumulation of capital (i.e. economic growth) on the one hand, and the requirements of dealing with climate change on the other, this would seem to constitute the perfect opening for a reenergised anticapitalist politics that can manage to connect to people’s widespread worries about climate change, and the impression that what is being done (Kyoto, Bali, emissions trading, etc.) is far too little, far too late. These are precisely the situations where radical social movements have the greatest capacity to act and ‘make history’, when the usual problem-solving approaches (these days: create a market around it, or repress it) don’t seem to provide any believable way of dealing with something that is widely perceived as a problem. It’s precisely when it seems impossible to find any solutions that openings exist for social movements to expand the limits of the possible. On the face of it, the perfect storm…

The politics of pointlessness

… or so it seems. In reality, if the practical difficulties faced by most really existing attempts to contribute to the emergence of an effective anticapitalist movement around the climate change issue are any guide, things seem a lot more difficult. Looking at it from the perspective of the global North, there are definitely attempts to develop an anticapitalist climate change politics, but each of them is facing a mounting set of difficulties. Seen from here, it all begins in the UK in 2006, with a ‘climate action camp’ that aimed to “shut down for a day” a coal-fired power station in northern England, but more importantly, to provide a space for developing new ideas and practices for an anticapitalist climate change politics. The idea of organising similar ‘climate action camps’ has since then inspired people in Germany, Sweden, the US, Chile, Australia and New Zealand and elsewhere, and currently this seems to be the main ‘weapon’ in the emerging climate movement’s repertoire of action (somewhat ironically, the initial idea for the camp also arose out of the lessons learnt about the shortcomings of one-off summit protests).

I really don’t want to talk down the importance of these camps – after all, inspiring so many people in so many different countries is no mean feat – but from the many critiques of the climate camps, one thread stuck out: the question of whether these camps were in fact doing much good beyond satisfying a desire to do something? It feels good to hang out and camp with your mates and comrades, but there’s that nagging question: what do we want? What can we achieve? And does this whole camping-business, trying to shut down power plants one at a time, while at the same time constantly fighting not to be drowned out by the more powerful voices that crowd this political field, stand in any relation to the magnitude of the challenge of climate change? That’s the kind of question that’s likely to leave people pretty frustrated.

To be clear: this is not to say that people shouldn’t organise climate camps – only that these camps need to be part of a wider project that gives them some political meaning beyond their highly localised intervention. We could of course hope that this wider meaning, a certain kind of political globality, would emerge from the links being formed between the various climate camps happening this year, but this kind of coordination has been limited to non-existing. No common ‘demands’ (other than that of being ‘against climate change’, which is about as politically useful and distinguishing as being against clubbing baby seals), no common story, no ‘shut down the WTO’, not even a vague compromise like ‘fix it or nix it’: no ‘another world is possible’!

So if the UK-movement’s way of dealing with the challenge of climate change comes across as somewhat limited in its political scope, at the other end of the spectrum there’s the way the issue has been approached in Germany. Attempts to kick-start a climate camp-process here have not only been beset by the usual leftist bickering and infighting, and there has even already been a split in the process, it has also come up against another political problem: here, the radical left is so academic and steeped in the tradition of ‘critical theory’ and ‘deconstruction’ that the main response to the challenge posed by climate change is to engage in a ‘critique’ of the ‘dominant climate change discourse’ and the ‘hegemonic role of scientific knowledge’ in constructing climate change as a crisis. Sure, it’s important to remember that the reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) come from a deeply conservative institution, and to critically reflect on how recourses to ‘scientific knowledge’ are often used to shut ‘non-experts’ out of political debates, but Diskurskritik can’t be the only response to the climate change issue. It feels a bit like throwing copies of Adorno and Foucault at a coming flood and hoping that it’ll just go away.

From timelessness to effectiveness

But let’s be honest: the anticapitalist left in the global North should be pretty used to being politically ineffective and marginal, small outbursts of transformative power in particular moments of excess notwithstanding. What does one ‘social centre’ in Hackney, Kreuzberg or Las Ramblas really contribute to the struggle against gentrification? Does an anti-war-demo in San Francisco really, as a film made on the occasion claims, ‘interrupt this Empire’? Does shoplifting, even conducted en masse, significantly disrupt processes of capitalist commodity circulation? To be honest, I don’t know, and I think very few people who engage in these practices have a clear idea either. But, and this is the important point, when talking about ‘capitalism’, anticapitalists feel they don’t really have to have an answer to that question. One way of dealing with that is to point to the non-linear dynamics of change in complex (social) systems, meaning that we can’t know what effects our actions of today will have tomorrow (think butterfly in Bali and hurricane in Haiti). Or, by referring to an argument that’s achieved nearly dogmatic status in anticapitalist discussions: ‘look, capitalism hasn’t been around forever, it began in some place at some point, so it’ll also end at some point’ – much the same could be said about the universe! I could go on enumerating the various intellectual tricks that exist to rationalise our relative political irrelevance, but hope the point is made: that anticapitalist politics in the global North exist in a sort of timelessness because we either can’t or don’t dare to think their effects in the future. Ostriches come to mind. As does the graffiti sprayed on the wall of a school in Gothenburg that had been stormed by the cops: “But in the end, we will win!”

And this is where we get back to why it seems so hard for the anticapitalist movement to develop a politics around climate change: whatever rationalisation makes it possible to think that ‘in the end we will win’ against capital, it’s pretty impossible to think that in relation to climate change. Against the usual timelessness of anticapitalist politics, climate change poses the issue of urgency. And the problem then becomes how to deal with that urgency. Both positions described above (the overly ‘activisty’ as well as the overly ‘critical’ one) are attempts to do so, and both are pretty unsatisfying. The first takes this urgency far too seriously, and jumps head over heels into a political field dominated by much stronger players. The second position recognises that the construction of urgency and the resulting politics of fear are often strategies of domination – but then contents itself with criticising that construction, rather than engaging with the urgency of the issue behind the discourse. And this urgency emerges precisely from a conflict of times, of temporalities, between the exponential temporality of capital (where capital perpetually speeds up social life and production) and the temporality of complex eco-social-systems, which are of course not static, and can adapt to new circumstances, but generally not at the speed required by capital – if change is too fast, that’s when the by now infamous ‘tipping points’ are reached, where changes to particular eco-systems become irreversible and catastrophic (the infamous ‘switching off’ of the Gulf Stream being one such example, the melting of polar ice caps another).

So how do we deal with this problem of urgency? First, by admitting that it’s unlikely, actually impossible, that the politically marginal radical left will be able to effectively slow down the production of greenhouse gases such as CO2, in a world where the accumulation of capital is inseparable from the burning of fossil fuels (someone called this ‘fossilistic capitalism’). Neither are we able to somehow force the faster adaptation of ecological systems to the speed of capital. But we can intervene into the temporality of politics, of governmental ‘climate change politics’, whose role it is to insulate the speed-up effected by capital from social criticism by creating the illusion that the continued accumulation of capital is compatible with socio-ecological stability: that, in other words, we just need to make a few (preferably market-based) adjustments, and can otherwise continue more or less as we were. The result of this insulation is that the potentially explosive force of the increasingly widespread realisation of this antagonism between capital and a humanity that exists embedded in complex ecological systems is contained, even captured. Captured so as to provide support for a new round of accumulation (think: ‘green capitalism’) and the further extension of political regulations ever deeper into our lives.

Forget Kyoto!

So again: the anticapitalist left in the global North can’t ‘stop’ or even significantly mitigate climate change. To assume that we could would necessarily leave us trapped in our timelessness, because we could only ever hope to achieve our goal at some point far, far in the future – out of real time, as pie in the sky. But we can, with our limited strength and resources intervene into the insulation of capital’s time from the ‘slowness’ of genuine democracy. If we once again leave the depressed certainty of our own decomposition and timelessness, if we remember that as movements we have the capacity to be faster than the state, then we can escape from and intervene into their capture and internalisation of antagonistic energies.

And how do we do that? How do we keep open the political space created by the increasingly widespread concern about climate change, which has the potential to produce new ideas and solutions, new possibilities, that might in turn promise to go beyond capitalism? How can there be an intervention into the powerful pressures towards the constitution of a new ‘green capitalism’, towards an ‘eco-Empire’, a global authoritarian eco-Keynesianism? If urgency forces us to think in terms of effectiveness and, what’s more, efficiency, how can our small, resource-poor wing of the movement effectively deploy our limited strengths to achieve a maximum outcome with respect to the goal of creating and/or maintaining space for the development of multiple, bottom-up, non-capitalist solutions to the climate crisis?

The answer to this question begins with two further questions, and then takes us back to the beginning of the whole argument. First question: what is probably the single most important process by which the governments of the world are trying to insulate capital from public criticism in relation to climate change? Answer: almost certainly the Kyoto/Bali-processes, where the world is treated to the dramas of international high politics, but which in the end produce little or nothing that would actually protect the climate (just as an aside: since the signing of the Kyoto-accords, global CO2-emissions have exceeded even the worst-case scenarios projected by the IPCC), and where a tiny bit of emissions reductions legitimate a huge pile of continued production of greenhouse gases – not to speak of the creation of a whole new market in emissions credits (expected to value about US$2 trillion by 2020), much to the delight of global capital. The follow-up process to Kyoto, which began in Bali in December 2007, is supposed to be signed at an international summit in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Second question: where do the strengths of the radical global movements lie both in comparison to our enemies and to our more moderate allies? Answer: in the organisation of large-scale, disruptive summit mobilisations. It is precisely in summit mobilisations that we have developed something that could be called ‘best practice’, where we have before achieved a substantial political effect. In Seattle, we not only managed to shut down the conference by being on the streets, we also exacerbated the multiple conflicts that existed ‘on the inside’ between the negotiating governments. If we manage to do the same thing again, and to build a political coalition around and momentum behind the demand to ‘Forget Kyoto’, we would both be able to keep open the political space to discuss potential ‘solutions’ to climate change that go beyond the reigning, market-driven agenda, and also provide a focal point and common demand for the emerging global climate movement to rally around. Forget Kyoto – Shut down Copenhagen 2009!

But why suggest organising yet another big summit protest after arguing that countersummits have become a lot less effective than they used to be? Because the politics of climate change in 2008 look very different from the politics of neoliberal globalisation in 2008 – in fact, they look more like the politics of globalisation did before the WTO summit in Seattle was shut down. Back then, during the decade of the ‘end of history’, many knew that neoliberal capitalism wasn’t flawless, but there was no recognition, not even on ‘the left’, of a movement, or maybe even a ‘movement of movements’ that could oppose it. Seattle created the possibility of seeing the commonality in many different struggles, of seeing them as all fighting the same enemy. Of a ‘movement’ in the first place, which is where the argument comes full circle: the alterglobalist cycle of struggles may have ended, but its lessons have not gone away, like the importance of avoiding the ‘one-week-a-year’ movement problem of focusing only on big events. The emerging climate movement must be rooted in sustainable and everyday practices of resistance and transformation at all levels, not just global, but also regional, national or local. But before ‘it’ can even see itself as ‘a movement’, something is needed to make a mark, show that there is a position on climate change that’s more radical than simply asking for more and better emissions trading. That there are those who don’t just focus on climate change, but also on the cause of climate change: capitalism. And for that to happen, we might just need what some people once called a ‘moment of excess’, where time speeds up, and changes become possible that were impossible before. A countersummit can do it. So in that sense: the movement is dead – long live the movement!

The ‘Kyoto Protocol’ (short: Kyoto), which was signed in 1997 and came into force in 2005, is an international treaty whose signatories pledge to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane. The protocol’s key mechanism is ‘emissions trading’, where countries and/or companies buy and sell licences to pollute. As the Kyoto protocol is set to expire in 2012, a major international summit was held in Bali in December 2007 to begin negotiations on a follow-up accord to be signed in Copenhagen in 2009.

Tadzio Müller lives in Berlin, where he is active in the emerging climate action movement, and teaches political science at Kassel University. He is an editor of Turbulence.

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Interview with Alice (and Robin) from NoBorders about the Gatwick camp

Posted by KM on August 20, 2008

Original version of this article at Shift Magazine

Last September, some 300 people gathered a few miles from Gatwick airport for the No Borders camp. What was the idea behind the camp? What were its aims?

The camp was part of the campaign against a new detention centre, Brook House, that is being built at Gatwick Airport. It was also a conscious attempt to strengthen the UK No Borders network, to gather ideas for how to build up the fight against the system of migration controls with other groups working on this issue in the UK, Europe and beyond. There were loads of workshops, talks, films, networking and skill sharing at the camp. Another aim was ‘outreach’ and raising the profile of the campaign against the new detention centre and displaying our opposition to various parts of the immigration infrastructure in the Gatwick area, (reporting centre, detention centre, companies involved in removals flights etc.) As the original call out explained, “Gatwick is a border in the middle of Britain. People arrive there everyday. People are forcibly deported from there everyday. It is a place where people are imprisoned for unlimited lengths of time without trial, where people are forced to hide underground and be invisible, where people are treated as criminals for the ‘crime’ of crossing the border… We demand the end of the border regime for everyone, including ourselves, to enable us to live another way, without fear, racism and nationalism.” The UK context has arguably become much harsher under recent legislation and a cranking up of the No Borders network was certainly needed.

How was the camp organised and why did it come so quickly after the Climate Camp at Heathrow airport?

There have been discussions about a UK No Border camp for many years. This camp was continuing the tradition of the No Borders camps across the world since the late 1990s, and like the camps that took place last year in the Ukraine in August and on the US/Mexican border in November. The original idea, in March 2007, was to have a smaller action camp to disrupt the building of the new detention centre but the idea developed and publicity was taken to the G8 in Germany, early June. This meant that the camp grew in size and became much more ambitious. We have all certainly learned lessons from this experience.

Although there were monthly, open meetings, the majority of logistical organising, networking and fund-raising was done by a (too) small group of existing No Borders activists based mainly in London, Brighton but also from around the UK. The short time frame over a busy period meant that it was difficult to get more people involved. In our debrief, we discussed that perhaps from some places there was pressure to pull off something of similar scale to the climate camp, but this was not by any means an explicit aim of the camp. The main reason that the camp was planned for the late summer was not to clash with other camps/events but also we felt it was essential for the campaign against the new detention centre that it was this summer, building work has already begun! In fact the detention centre is due for completion in 2008.

A conscious decision was made to rent, rather than squat, the land on which the camp was held. Also, instead of mass direct action, the main event was an authorised demonstration to Tinsley House detention centre. Were there (dis)advantages to working within the law?

Squatting was certainly always there as a fall back option, to my knowledge there was certainly no conscious decision made not to squat. Saying that, there was a strong argument to make the camp a place where people with insecure legal status could come without putting themselves at risk. It’s hard to say exactly how asylum seekers and migrants are treated by the criminal justice system, but its certainly unpredictable and often small offences can risk detention and deportation. Of course with squatting, defending the site could well end up being the action in itself and we were not sure about how many people we would be. Ultimately though, we found a really good location and sound farmer for an amount of money that we could afford so we went for that. Due to police pressure, we then lost this site, 48 hours before set up was due to start! We were pretty close to not having a camp at all when we lost the land. This is one big disadvantage of working with rented land, ultimately the police harassed the family on this farm to allow them full access, they denied it, the police continued to harass them and eventually they pulled out of the contract. This has happened before, at the G8 camp in Stirling for example, and this shows that the police are prepared to try hard to stop these events happening.

Because at the last minute the location of the camp was forced to change we were much further from intended targets and so smaller affinity group actions were much harder to do, although there were some, (including an occupation of Virgin Airlines offices and a blockade of Group 4.) This was a real shame as all along the idea had been to have both legal demos and provision for direct action, but it was way out of our control. After the decision was made to get a temporary events notice to make the camp a legal and safe space, from that point on there was a need for negotiation with the authorities. In the end there was no license because our actual location fell in a different council and it was too late.

One thing that was advantageous of having a main, pre-organised legal demo, was that the time actually at the camp, (only 4 days long rather than 8 days at the climate camp,) was not spent deciding what to do and people could easily come just for the day. There was a clear programme of events and of course, autonomy, (although maybe not enough time), for groups wanting to organise direct action alongside that. It did seem strange to be organising a legal demo and it was for sure an uneasy political choice for many. But in reality the aim of the demo was to march through Crawley town centre on a busy Saturday afternoon, show our opposition to the new detention centre and to get to Tinsley House to show our solidarity and communicate with the detainees inside. Our negotiation of a route and a legal demo meant that we did this successfully. Not all the events were negotiated in this way, at Lunar House in East Croydon we gathered outside to give out food and information to the people queuing and the police tried to stop us by using kettles to contain small groups.

Although I took part, I would question whether what happened at the climate camp was a mass direct action. Despite the many many hours spent looking for consensus on the plan, there were many people who felt the whole thing was manipulated and sabotaged. The action on the Sunday at BAA was essentially a blockade at a building which was not open for business. Whether this was fundamentally more effective/ empowering than the demo in Crawley is a question for each individual involved to answer. But the point is that each case needs to be thought about on its own merits about what it is trying to achieve and be planned accordingly. To really get a mass of people I think that at least partly open, pre-planned events can really help. I think also that we should learn about how much energy and time can be spent on reaching consensus with very large, diverse groups which then can sometimes result in decisions which very few people are happy with.

Many of the people at the camp had also been at the Climate Camp. Was there an overlap of effort?

There was certainly a great deal of co-operation between the people organising the infrastructure. The No Borders camp was able to borrow and store structures and a lot of necessary bits and pieces from individuals, groups, neighbourhoods and ‘central’ climate camp tat. This made the No Borders camp able to happen and was a great example of how effort from one thing can carry on to the next. There are plans afoot to make this process more easy – formalised in some way in the future. In all other ways, networking and the campaigns involved, overlap wasn’t really an issue. But I was definitely glad to see that quite a few people did cross over, and that the two issues are seen as interrelated. For example XL airways were targeted during the climate camp for their involvement in deportation flights to the Democratic Republic of Congo. This airline then made a public statement that they were stopping their involvement in deportation flights just before the No Borders camp.

Some commentators have remarked that the Climate Camp stood for ‘austerity’, while the no borders camp stood for ‘freedom of mobility’. Aren’t these irreconcilable politics? Was this an issue at the camp?

Was it an issue? Not one that was discussed that I was aware of. For me it’s an interesting comment, because there is very little that seems to link the two issues together in the public eye. Social justice arguments related to climate change are often down played or ignored whereas I see migration and climate change as totally connected. I was involved in both events, and saw no clash between them but of course I can only speak for myself. For me, climate camp was about many things, I don’t think it is possible to reduce these things to one position. Climate change is perhaps the starkest symptom of the economic system which promotes endless economic growth over all else. Finding ways of living with more autonomy from a fossil fuel- oppressive- climate changing system is one of those, learning skills for self reliance is another. Challenging the idea that the well-off have some inalienable right to fly away to Paris for shopping trips is also important. This year’s camp was also about highlighting BAA’s Heathrow expansion plans and making the argument that this is madness in light of climate change. Perhaps most importantly to me, it was also about opposing the idea that the people whose homes, schools and communities would be destroyed by the expansion of Heathrow, and all the others who will feel the less direct impacts, are the unfortunate victims of necessary progress. The people in Sipson village are one of thousands of communities around the world who are threatened by the pressure for expansion and profit. The climate camp was also about standing in solidarity with those people, but also with the many millions of people whose lives are directly or indirectly affected by the environmental and social ravages of an oil-addicted consumer culture. So yes, climate camp is about challenging unjust and unsustainable consumption, which isn’t the same as being for austerity which has negative connotations. Spiralling debt, work related stress and mental illness, obesity, depleted sense of community are all symptoms of this illness and localised community responses to climate change can also have many other benefits.

Open borders and the freedom of movement for all is also an anti-capitalist position. From slavery through to modern day neo-liberal free trade agreements, the position of wealth and privilege in the global north is, to a large extent, the result of the exploitation of land, people and resources of the two thirds world. The immigration system and fortress europe is designed to preserve this division. Flows of people are managed and controlled in the national interest, and for economic benefit. To speak out against migration controls also challenges the huge injustice which exploits people and resources around the world for the benefit of few. Freedom of movement is the preserve of the relatively rich. People who question the principle of freedom of movement, should consider their huge privilege if they have an EU passport.

In summary, both camps call for social change, a desire for a redistribution of wealth which is both a call for reigning in of western decadence and an opening up of that same wealth to those affected historically and also right now. The climate camp offers a radical critique of responses to climate chaos offered by governments. Many of the options offered by the state such as carbon rationing, would de-facto lead us blindfold into a police state. No Borders has at its core this same resistance to encroachment on our liberties and sees that government systems of control are often trialled on asylum seekers, but they can and will affect us all.

The Climate Camp aimed to build a movement against the causes of climate change. Can you see an emerging no borders movement?

On the one hand yes, the number of active No Border groups in the UK has certainly grown since the camp and there are projects and actions going on, which link these groups into a network. There are big questions which we will be discussing at an up-coming national gathering, about how any No Borders network could be strengthened and made more effective. As well as challenging the construction of new immigration prisons and deportations to possible death and torture, a No Borders movement would have to build widespread agreement that such things are morally unacceptable. Each case that is highlighted by anti-deportation campaigns, every action against a forced removal is part of building towards that point. There may well be a growing movement against the companies that carry out deportation flights for example or the detention estate, run by private companies for profit. Educating ourselves about the immigration system, the harsh reality of ‘illegal’ economic migrants, challenging racist officials and laws and acting in solidarity with all the struggles against these things I see as part of an emerging No Borders movement.

But what exactly do we mean by a movement? There is no such thing as a blueprint for a movement but I understand it to be an informal group action for social change which aims to influence the wider political agenda with its message.

The Climate Camp aimed to include as many people as possible, brought together to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions through education, sustainable living and direct action. An enormous amount of energy was spent bringing a non-hierarchical model of organising to a wide group of people, recognising that we need radical action on a mass scale. The result of this long planning process was two flawed, but fantastic, week-long events. This process was made possible because ultimately there was already a general feeling that “something must be done about climate change” within the mainstream consciousness that could be tapped into and developed. Although many people involved with the camp place this message within a much wider critique, in itself, doing something about climate change is far from a radical message. Indeed everyone including American presidential candidates to fossil fuel companies such as Beyond Petroleum finally seem to agree.

After two years of climate camps, a direct action movement is being drawn together and strengthened against the fossil fuel empire, one of the root causes of climate change. Since the high profile, audacious events, some climate campers have become spokespeople for more radical arguments within the broad, public climate change debate which involves NGOs, politicians and the mainstream media. The Climate Camp was, in short, less about the message conveyed and more about how to get there. It also successfully brought arguments about economic growth lying at the root cause of climate change in to the public spectrum.

I wonder if this approach to movement building is possible, appropriate or even desirable for No Borders. The No Borders network has existed since 1999 and is a loose association of autonomous groups and individuals who work within a political spectrum of direct actions, anti-deportation campaigns and demonstrations which challenge migration controls. The No Borders position is certainly far from having popular currency. It is explicitly anti-state and pro-freedom of movement for all people. It argues that immigration controls are inherently racist and so acts out of solidarity with economic migrants as well as asylum seekers and refugees. In a global economy, where goods are transported and monies flow irrespective of borders, nation states are a way of controlling access to wealth and privilege and dividing the haves and the have-nots both between and inside countries.

This political position is currently on the very fringes of debate about migration, which is dominated by right wing, anti-immigrant scape-goating and human rights based reform. A huge amount of important work is done by groups to support those suffering immigration detention and destitution and supporters will hold someone’s hand all the way to the plane. However, many of these groups do not or can not challenge the immigration system as a whole and are unlikely to ever become part of any No Borders movement. Although there will be some cross-over there are different underlying aims, (reform of vs. abolition of immigration controls). No Borders has a vital role therefore in articulating the anti-capitalist/anti-state position within this debate and taking direct action to prevent things when we can. We are, however, a very long way from making the fight against borders part of the mainstream in this country although there are emerging links between struggles of undocumented workers, detainees and those struggling against immigration controls around the world.

It seems we are perhaps, finally a little nearer to seeing radical action on climate change, (if only the eco-radicals of the 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s had been listened to!) But it is important to remember that both are essentially part of the same struggle to destroy our current economic, capitalist system and are equally far away from achieving this aim! Both emerging movements will encounter similar resistance by those who will fight to maintain their power and privilege and this remains the most challenging struggle of all.

The no borders camp got little media interest in the mainstream press. Do you still think it was a success?

It all depends on how you measure success; I sometimes thought it was a miracle that we pulled off the camp at all! I also enjoyed not having a paparazzi or fit team camera pointed at us the entire duration of the camp. We were there for many reasons, getting mainstream media interest was not a high priority for many of us though there were some very positive reports in the local media. It was a success for us as a local group, it was an exciting beginning to a rejuvenated No Border network. There were some very powerful, informative and useful workshops; one I went to about the impact of migration on the autonomous, indigenous communities in Oaxaca for example. There were some really important exchanges between people, both at the camp and outside, when we were at Lunar House reporting centre in Croydon and talking to people inside Tinsley House for example. I had never been on such a big demo at a detention centre and I don’t think Crawley had ever seen anything like it. There were also invaluable opportunities for lessons to be shared with No Border activists and other people struggling in other places around the world.

In retrospect I think everyone involved would have done things differently. But, whether the camp was a success or not will only become clear as we see how the actions, campaigns and network develop over the coming months and years. Any camp needs to be measured on so many different levels, its atmosphere, its logistical organisation, its political impact etc. I for one have had enough of camping for a while and think that I will put energy in to other things, but it was a great experience. The campaign against the new detention centre continues, see for updates.

Alice is involved with a No Borders group in Brighton. She is also part of Trapese, a popular education collective who recently published, Do It Yourself: A handbook for changing our world. See

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Sound and fury

Posted by KM on August 20, 2008

Original version or this article at ‘Now or Never’

The thing which stood out for me were the questions ‘who are we?‘ and ‘what do we want?‘ Or rather, these questions were conspicuous by their absence.

Were we a single issue campaign against the airport and BAA, or were we against the root causes of climate change including the political and economic structures which cause the mess? Most people seemed to think the former (“No third runway! No third runway!”), and that was how we were portrayed in the press.

Were we against flying altogether, or for taxes that would prevent the poor from flying but give free rein to the citizens of Richistan? Many at the camp apparently were; both made us seem ridiculous.

Were we a (dramatic) lobby group with faith in the UK oligarchy, or do we actually want some semblance of democracy in this country? Apparently the former.

Were we anti-capitalist, or just thinking ‘corporations are bad, man’, or rather ‘corporations should behave more pleasantly’? The latter is what came through.

None of this was a deliberate strategy I’m sure. Perhaps the principles of the Camp were kept quiet to make us more appealing to a wide audience. Perhaps the event was hijacked by liberal types. Perhaps nobody (myself included) made enough of a fuss to get these things discussed, and so naturally we got co-opted…

There seemed to be five dominant political approaches , which I list in order of prominence

[Disclaimer: I’m bloody confused, and don’t know where I stand. More generally however, I was one of the folks in 4.]

1. Holy Shit! Do something fast!

“We must get the government to take control of the situation, in a similar fashion to 1939 [this was referenced a great deal. Only they wield the power necessary to bring about these changes: more control, more surveillance, more punitive measures, extend the apparatus of the state further into our lives, suspend democracy if we must. The camp is a high adrenaline mass lobby for that.”

A workshop of around 100 people applauded Mayer Hillman for saying this, while I began to see environmental issues in a very different light from that moment onwards. George Monbiot said much the same, but in a very apologetic manner; his approach seemed to be the most popular. The assumption is that we’ll sort out the resulting social and political mess once the planet has been saved, when governments will of course be happy to cede all the powers they have taken. A track record suggesting the state and capitalism to be fundamentally corrupt and among the principle causes of the present crisis and chief obstacles to its solution, is irrelevant – there is no alternative! Be realistic people! [The fact that bureaucracies and dictatorships are actually inefficient- that this WOULD NOT work wasn’t raised. People want a big Daddy or big Mommy to save them, and the state is the biggest mother around…]

2. The ‘you fly, they die’ approach.

“Lifestyle change is the way forward. To circumvent the unpleasant business of dealing with the state and trying to persuade the government to do our dirty work, let’s create a culture where energy intensive lifestyles become socially unacceptable, a bit like smoking/corporal punishment. Target the consumer, and get them to make more ethical choices.”

Whilst lifestyle changes are necessary, too much emphasis on them really does let the social, political and economic systems off the hook. It also makes it too easy to be portrayed as nagging, puritanical, luddite guilt-tripping, middle class organic freaks etc.

3. The Fetishisation of Direct Action.

“Do or die! Get the bad guys [big corporations in this instance]! All of them , the more audacious the lock-on, the better the action! Not enough time to ask questions.”

Whilst it was great to see so many actions, most seemed to be done without reflection. Were they symbolic or practical (I know the symbolic is practical, it’s like a direct action on public consciousness)? If the former, it’s more like a protest. So what are we protesting about? Are we a single-issue group against aviation? Against climate change? Or for wider reaching social change? The lack of clarity played directly into the hands of category 1, making the camp seem like a dramatic mass lobby (Friends of the Earth with d-locks), rather than an attempt to spark a debate on alternative political responses to this crisis, or assert our desire for autonomy.

4. Science Geekery.

We definitely must know the science. It is the starting point to every discussion of how we respond politically to climate change. One has to be careful when blending politics and science, but blend them we must. However, at times it seemed politics had been entirely usurped by science as the most important matter for discussion. This was most apparent in the Q and As to workshops and big evening discussion. Technical questions far outnumbered political ones. It seemed that we thought our job was to say as loudly as possible how awful the scientists’ warnings were, and win over any doubters with our impeccable knowledge. By default therefore, we leave the politics of it all to the government.

5. Anarchist, anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian in principle

(but finding it hard to know how to adapt these principles to the environmental crisis, or indeed, how to do anything more than criticize everyone else at the camp.)

Especially when a significant proportion of the Camp seemed unaware of these principles altogether, or viewed them as irritating stumbling blocks to effective action on climate change

From conversations here and there, and debates in workshops, troublingly few people at the Camp knew about concepts like anti-authoritarianism, anti-capitalism and especially anarchism. I had a hilarious conversation with one group of people which went like this;

‘Anarchists never get anything done.’
‘What about this camp then?’
‘Oh, er.’

We were there to try and encourage the government to act.

I feel too confused by the problems that climate change presents us with to know what is right or wrong, the fact is at present there is no debate.

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Interview with Catherine from Climate Camp

Posted by KM on August 20, 2008

Original version of this article at Shift magazine

This interview was carried out partly before and partly just after the 2007 UK Climate Camp at Heathrow

The Camp for Climate Action spearheads a radical movement against the “causes of climate change”. What are those causes?

I’m no expert but the key cause of climate change is the release of carbon out of the earth back up into the atmosphere as CO2. All the carbon from the trees and plants that have been slowly getting squashed to make coal, oil and gas over millions of years is now being released very quickly into the atmosphere. This quick release started at the Industrial Revolution and has been speeding up ever since. So the main cause is the burning of these fossil fuels for transport (e.g. cars and planes), making electricity (e.g. coal and gas fired power stations) and the manufacture of just about everything we use in the modern world (e.g. fertiliser for food from oil, electricity for factories and homes). There is also methane, emitted by the huge amount of cows we now have on earth, landfill (where household waste is buried underground) and other places such as the permafrost, which is now starting to melt and release huge amounts of methane.

You can therefore say that behind this, a key cause is modern life – capitalism and consumerism which focus only on profit. Also the individualistic nature of these, where other people and our impacts on them (whether in producing trainers or losing agricultural land through climate change) are ignored. This is completely unsustainable in every sense of the word – we depend on the earth for our survival (air, water, food) so destroying it is not an option if we are to survive. But the way we live, or at least those of us that do the mass consuming and live in capitalist systems, is doing just that.

The Camps were no spontaneous gatherings but were meticulously organised. How many people were involved with the planning process?

I’d say around 150. Some of these were working on camp stuff for an hour a week or less, others were doing it more like a part time job for several months. Some worked on the camp over 8 months, others did their bit nearer the start or end of the process. At each monthly weekend-long gathering (where key decisions were made) there were 50-80 people. Some people came to every gathering, some to most and some just to one. So there was a core of the same people (maybe 30) every time but also the group was different every time.

Working groups also met at these gatherings. These were smaller groups with a specific focus e.g. Networking (website, media and publicising the camp) and Site Practicalities (infrastructure and transport). They had autonomy to work on their particular areas but any big decisions, which affected the whole process or camp, were taken to the full gathering and decided by everyone. There were also smaller working groups (e.g. entertainments, kids) who mainly met at other times or worked together through phone calls and e-mail. All members of working groups did lots of work outside of gatherings and many met between as well as at them.

In gatherings and working group meetings consensus decision-making was used – allowing all voices to be heard and everyone’s say to be equal and drawing together the best of everyone’s ideas to reach a decision that everyone was happy with. This was tricky at times but meant that all decisions were collectively reached.

Also local groups (e.g. Yorkshire, West Midlands) got together to organise neighbourhoods. Before the 2006 camp these were mainly just organising to get a kitchen, shelter and people to the camp. After the camp some of them became local action groups, taking action against the causes of climate change locally as well as organising a neighbourhood for the 2007 camp.

The land on which both Camps were held was squatted. How was it occupied?

I wasn’t actually involved in this but in 2006 small groups of people (about 80 people in total) were transported to near the site and dropped off at different places. This was in the middle of the night. They then walked onto the site. A fence was erected and legal notices put up. A complex scaffold tripod was erected and some attached themselves to it so that eviction would be harder. A few marquees were erected. This was all done before about 6am. That all sounds quite simple but it took an awful lot of planning and organising, which had to be done in secret.

In 2007 a similar method was used. Small groups of people from different parts of the country got themselves to places near the site – transport was less of a problem in an urban location – then when the coast was clear walked onto the site and carried on as last year but with a simpler and quicker to set up fence and a spectacular double tripod which it seems was erected in seconds, well minutes. Both times it took the police a few hours to find the site, by which time infrastructure was well under way.

The focal points of the Camps were the “days of mass action”. What did these actions aim to achieve?

There were several aims in 2006. The first was to shut down one of the root causes of climate change: Drax coal fired power station. It seems crazy to try to shut down a power station but it’s much crazier to still be burning coal in such huge quantities so it’s a proportionate response. Secondly we wanted to get media attention to let people know just how crazy it is to be burning fossil fuels and that people are willing to take direct action to stop it. Thirdly the aim was to inspire people – who were on the action, at the camp or heard about it – to take direct action against the root causes of climate change. As well as being inspired people could also attend training and workshops and talk to each other so that they had more idea of how to take action. The aim was to build the growing network of climate change activists, and that people joining this network would come from lots of different backgrounds not just the ‘usual suspects’. This last aim seems the least tangible but you should never underestimate the potential of physically getting lots of people together in one place who share a common purpose, and then telling loads more people about it.

In 2007 the second and third aims were the same and were definitely expanded on – we got huge media attention and a lot more people got themselves clued up and joined the action. Also a dozen smaller actions took place around the same time as the mass action – BP, carbon offset companies, a nuclear power station and an airport owner were targeted by small affinity groups. The first aim was to disrupt Heathrow airport but by targeting the corporations – BA and BAA – not passengers. These corporations are pushing for airport expansion and a third runway in the full knowledge that this gives the UK zero chance of meeting even its 60% CO2 reduction targets., Basically they want to commit us to runaway climate change. So this year we wanted to tell BA and BAA exactly how appalling their actions are and support the ongoing local campaigns against airport noise, pollution and expansion by telling the whole world about the proposed third runway and the wider impact on climate change and all our lives.

Why and how was the decision made to target Heathrow airport in the first place?

The decision was made by a process of consensus decision-making at a gathering of about 100 people, one of the open public monthly meetings. Detailed information on six different locations was provided by the Land group who had spent months researching different potential sites.

How do you measure success or failure?

I don’t think you can. The camp was definitely a huge success both years in that we achieved our aims, but it’s so much more than that. For me there are many successes, small and large but all important. Just mobilising enough people to organise the camp was a huge success, as was each bit of positive media coverage we received or each person inspired.

I don’t think you can say that something as complex as Climate Camp was simply a success or a failure, and to do so is to completely detract from our whole ethos which is that there is no one solution to climate change, that people need to find new and various ways of working together, that we are trying out new ways of living, being, thinking and organising here. This is all about a complex, diverse, ever-changing way of behaving not about simple black and white choices between A or B. So there were multiple successes and lots of failures too, but I’d see these more as part of our learning and our experiment. Like some of the meetings at the camp were very difficult, people didn’t participate in a fair way and bad decisions were made. However, that is both a failure and a success if in the process lots of people learnt better how to conduct themselves in meetings to make them work well. You can only succeed or fail if you have set, concrete and immovable aims. Thankfully Climate Camp isn’t like that – if it was then it would be just another political party or ideology-based group.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t think about success or failure, of course we should, but that it would be dangerous and counterproductive to measure it in the terms it is usually measured in, say in the contexts of business or elections. It may make us sound like we’re fobbing off the person asking whether we succeeded or failed, but people need to start thinking in different ways if we are to change the world enough to escape the most devastating effects of climate change. It is up to us to demonstrate and live these different ways, and to inspire others to do the same by the way we act and what we say. For me the camp was a huge and ever-changing experiment in collective living which was incredibly exciting. We started off at this year’s set-up with maybe 150 people who were already used to DIY culture and working collectively, then every day more and more people arrived who weren’t used to that but started to learn about it, be inspired by it and consider how they could take it back into their homes, communities, workplaces and anywhere else they found themselves. This was incredible to be part of. Every day in the Welcome tent I met dozens of people for whom this was all completely new, and every day I saw someone who I’d welcomed yesterday taking part in consensus decision making, being a legal observer, cooking with others to feed 200…now that’s what I call a success!

The only thing I would be tempted to call a failure would be if the taking of the land hadn’t worked or we’d been evicted straight away, but even that wouldn’t have been a complete failure. It would be a failure in that the aim of taking a site wasn’t achieved, but so many of our other aims would have been achieved because a huge amount of people would already have been inspired and mobilised and we’d have run at least the workshops somewhere else. It was portrayed that not shutting down Drax was a failure, but again that’s only if you take a narrow view of what success and failure are. It wasn’t a failure to me – it would have been great if we had shut it down but the real impact and therefore success was still there in the money it cost them for security, the huge amount of adverse publicity and the fact that lots and lots of people really started to think about coal and why we really have to stop burning it.

Also, for me personally and for many others, we understood what direct action is all about and were inspired to support or carry it out ourselves. For me one of the biggest successes you can have when campaigning on any issue is to educate people – be it information, ideas, attitudes or behaviour. Every single person that has ever campaigned, protested, taken action or stood up to be counted was inspired and educated at some point which set them off on that path; whether through reading something, seeing something, hearing something or talking to someone. So, just getting our message and our ways of living, working and being out there was, to me, actually our biggest success.

Will there be a third Camp for Climate Action?

Who knows! There are regional meetings taking place through September for local groups and neighbourhoods to get back together and decide what they can do next. Then there will be a national gathering in October where everyone will decide what next. Anyone who comes can input into this. Lots of people assume there will be a third camp but there are lots of other ideas to consider too. Whatever happens though, this ever-growing movement for action on climate change is not going away. I can’t wait to be a part of what happens next…

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Climate Camp Hijacked by a Hardcore of Liberals

Posted by KM on August 20, 2008

Jessica Charsley

Original version of this piece at Shift Magazine


The Camp for Climate Action landed with a thud at Heathrow this summer, directly in the path proposed for a third runway, at the busiest airport in Europe. I experienced both of the UK’s Climate Camps from the starting point of local level preparations. In this article, I do not knock those who put blood, sweat and tears into the camp, because it was a valiant effort and an incredibly inspiring experience. Whilst I had a fantastic time, I also think that if we are for ‘social change’, it is essential that we critically analyze along the way, so this article will cover my hopes and fears before the camp and whether they were realised. I focus in particular on the messages that the camp gave out and the nature of political debate within the camp.

Mixed Messages

In the run-up to the camp, much promotional material included the message that ‘we can not trust governments and corporations to solve the problem of climate change’. This message was the result of discussion meetings had before the Drax camp and the Heathrow camp, on an open, consensus basis. The result of these discussions was that the Camp would take a fairly radical stance on the solutions to climate change, and present alternative ideas to those proposed in the mainstream. The platforms for the latter are huge, for example, the voices of major NGO’s, the government, corporations and the mass media. However, green voices in these situations are severely constrained by the very platforms they stand upon. ‘Legitimate’ organizations are rarely able to host voices of dissent. Legality, hierarchy, government and corporate influences are the issues that the climate camp originally homed in on as fundamentally linked to the problem of climate change, and these are the very issues that the mainstream ideas cannot confront, because their existence depends upon these concepts being intact. For example, an NGO would be liable for inciting illegal direct action.

The camp therefore set about building its own platform. The method of organization aspired to replace the hierarchical models we are accustomed to with horizontal systems. Rather than a pyramidal hierarchy, horizontal organizing allows participants equal ownership over and responsibility for a process. Whilst tasks can be divided, they are not delegated down to others and significant decisions must be reached via consensus because it is a rejection of leadership. Devolving responsibility for the camp required an enormous amount of time, with frequent open meetings held around the country throughout the year. This is not to say that the organization was inefficient, rather, that incredible effort was put into carefully constructing the platform in a manner that corresponded with the ideals of the camp.

Desiring inclusivity, mainstream voices were welcomed, and the camp attracted people with a variety of political persuasions, predominantly liberal. In other words, many people came with a desire for moderate social and political change, expressed in opposition to a third runway, for example. All who attended the camp were sufficiently worried about environment issues – and open-minded enough – to leave the realm of conventional lobbying tactics and legality. So what did the camp present to them as an alternative to government action? What were the radical alternative visions of those who agreed that the camp would not trust them the government to act? Unfortunately, from my perspective, the case against the government and capitalist social relations was not explored enough, never mind made strong enough. It was there, but only in glimpses, so the mainstream voices were again the loudest.

Granted, regardless of the camps’ message, the mainstream media would only have picked up on soundbites, so the camp did do well to get journalists reporting a criticism of economic growth. But, for the people who attended the camp, criticism of economic growth, corporations, and the government could have been the starting point for crucial debates and ideas sharing. The odd dig at corporations and the government can only hold up with a home audience. Meanwhile, the lack of emphasis on social change left us vulnerable to attack. For example, the camp put major emphasis on lifestyle change, even though most passers by could tell us that it is impossible to live sustainably in today’s society. Compost toilets and grey water systems are not things that the majority of the general public can opt into, so what remained was the demand for them to opt out of other actions, such as flying. Hence, one message of the camp appeared to be a call to ‘riot for austerity’, in contrast to calls that have historically rallied mass movements around a desire for prosperity.

One of the more radical messages of the camp was the call for direct action. In this case, the concept rested on very murky ground, but was presented as one of our features to be most proud of. The whole camp was geared towards a day of direct action, so the topic came up in almost every interview and press release. Although encouraging a break from the destructive codes of conduct that we live by, such as deference to illegitimate authority, direct action alone does not an anarchist make. One problem is that it can be coercive, and has been employed readily by fascists. Another is that it can be confused as a dramatic lobbying technique. Both of these problems were significant at the camp, for example, tending towards the coercive, it was inevitable that we would be accused of wanting to disrupt holidaymakers. Secondly, the majority of actions taken were in fact more symbolic than direct, in terms of both the amount of disruption caused and their interpretation as a demand to the government. I had hoped that there would be a little more honesty at the camp about the potential of direct action, or, non-violent direct action, as political tools.

Green Authoritarianism

I first became concerned about the politics within the camp when I saw the workshop programme lead with four white middle class men who have no trouble getting their voices heard elsewhere; Lynas, Hillman, Monbiot and Kronick. The star status given to these people made me uneasy, but this quickly turned to anger as I began to realise that their ideas would be left relatively unchallenged. . In the lecture by Hillman, for example, he explained that his latest published work did not go far enough in terms of expressing the urgency of climate change and the severe measures necessary to deal with it. Interpreting the camp as a plea to the general public to change their lifestyles he told us that instead, our best efforts should be geared towards lobbying the government, for it is only the state that can save us now. The talk was well received, even when it hit the topic of authoritarianism, stating that we can not risk having elections in which one party will offer higher carbon incentives, so in effect what we want is a suspension of democracy.

Also on the topic of state intervention, such as carbon rationing, Monbiot apologized to ‘the anarchists in the crowd’, despite the Anarchist side of the argument being left virtually untouched. So, as much as I was surprised to see a lack of anarchist theory, I was shocked at the fervor with which green-authoritarianism was received. The call for direct action generally sat uncomfortably next to the call for more state intervention, which would require a higher degree of obedience. At best, I would say that the enthusiastic applause for increased state intervention may have been down to celebrity culture, a reflection of the sheer excitement at the gathering, or, more seriously, down to better formed arguments. Although, this does not explain why the Turbulence panel were not received with such enthusiasm when they raised points in a similar vein to in this article.

A classic argument against anarchist theory is the insufficient time for a complete overhaul of the way society functions, so we are better off trying to improve peoples’ lives directly. With a renewed sense of urgency over climate change, many climate campers seemed to be erring towards the side of ‘there is no time to have anarchist ideals, we must succumb to the system which is slowly destroying us’. I do not at all suggest that in the run up to the camp a deep critique of capitalism should have been agreed upon by consensus, rather, that debates should have been had at the camp, covering difficult questions such as:

How can one be for autonomous living and for closer policing of personal carbon counts? Why do many environmentalists talk about the problem of increasing global population without talking about redistribution and freedom of movement? If the public are infantilized by state intervention, how can it be the solution to getting people to take responsibility for their environment? If we offer more power to a government will we ever get it back? Will it ever be in the interests of an elite to minimize environmental damage to the poor? Can we reconcile ‘we want luxury for all’ with ‘we want sustainable luxury for all?’

The science tells us that the situation is urgent, so it is essential to think hard, for example, about what kind of world we are trying to save and for whom. There were opportunities at the camp to reveal another emancipatory layer to our desire for social change, for example, a demonstration at the nearby detention centre, but perhaps due to energy drain, they were not fully realised. I concede that the camp was a DIY project, so if I wanted anarchist theory to be more prominent then I should have done something about it myself, but it actually took the experience of the camp itself to make me realize this as a priority.


Whilst troubled by the difficulties ahead, I’m excited by the buzz around the emerging movement against climate change. Perhaps it could be the dawn of a mass realization that systemic change is necessary? If it is a climate for change in more ways than one, then let’s simultaneously be bold, clear and thoughtful about the type of change we want!

As for the camp, I have the nagging thought that when journalists accused Anarchists of ‘infiltrating the camp’, we may have missed the chance of a lifetime, to say to the whole world, yes, the camp has been formed on the anarchist principles of horizontal organization, cooperation and self-determination. If the platform that we constructed can be compared to a football stadium, I would report that “it was an absolutely crucial match for a team who never get invited to play away, yet the home game advantage was not quite seized upon and, and ‘at the end of the day’, too many own goals were scored”.

The camp at Drax had a message of decentralizing power in both senses of the word, which fitted well with autonomous ideas. The decision to hold the camp at Heathrow presented many problems for getting such a radical message across, but perhaps it will stimulate overdue reflection on how we tackle issues of individual lifestyle choices versus collective action and desires for wider social change. Of course, all of the disadvantages must be weighed up against the kick that major media coverage may have given to the movement. As for the lack of controversy around the call for increased state intervention in our lives, I think that it would have been a problem regardless of the location of the camp. The sense of urgency will only increase each year, making the Climate Camp movement more susceptible to its’ influence.

Jessica Charsley attended Climate Camps at Drax power station in 2006 and Heathrow airport in 2007. This year she was lucky enough to be in one of those affinity groups who made it to the siege of BAA headquarters despite the best efforts of the police!

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