Climate Camp 2008: What did we achieve?
Posted by KM on August 23, 2008
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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