Climate Camp is
a fast growing grassroots movement of diverse people taking action of climate change
which began in August 2006 when 600 people gathered at Drax, a coal-fired power station in West Yorkshire for a ten day camp or learning and sustainable living, culminating in a day of mass action against the station. This is the first year that there have been regional gatherings and so last weekend, the 23rd and 24th of January, I popped down to Lewes, near Brighton, hoping to meet some like-minded people, learn things and get involved in doing something about this environmental mess we find ourselves in.
As well as being the first South Coast gathering, it was also my first involvement in anything Climate Camp-y, and so I headed down Lewes High Street towards Pop Up studios, housed in the old fire station, with some apprehension. As I rounded the corner of the studios a mock protest was being carried out, with people shouting as they were faux-arrested. I slid inside and arrived at the reception – a table on the stairs with a sign up sheet and a donation bucket. A couple of very amicable women met me and showed me where to dump my stuff and grab a bite to eat. Alone, I explored, discovering the balcony where I sat for a while and contemplated the view. A few others had popped out for to do the smoking, and I got chatting to them about the morning’s events (which I had missed due to extended circumstances leading to me arriving from East London, not Brighton).
Saturday morning had involved discussions of the positives and negatives of Climate Camp then coming up with different areas which needed attention. In the afternoon we went through these, splitting into six or seven groups to further discuss the aims and values, community, outreach, direct action and the national/regional/international links. Each facilitator came around the groups with their A3 piece of paper from the morning’s groups. And so! We discussed.
At anarchist meetings there is lots and lots of talking, and sometimes it does seem as if the talking will never end. Every point needs to be discussed, worked into a proposal and considered by whoever is present. This is one of the things which makes anarchy such a wonderful system (anti-system?) as only those who agree with an action need take it forward and everybody has their say, if they want it, with nobody able to grasp after or hog power, since if people don’t agree with your proposal, they simply won’t do it.
We spent most time talking about the Values of Climate Camp, deciding that anti-capitalism is pro-cooperative and then chatted for a while about whether a member of the BNP would be welcome, considering one of the values was ‘inclusive’. I think yes, so long as they were there for the reasons Climate Camp exists.
Outreach also yielded interesting ideas, a lot of which linked in with the later Community discussion. Suggestions made were mostly to do with raising awareness and educating people, getting more people involved with Climate Camp and other environmental actions, and, maybe most importantly, providing practical solutions to the issues we are educating people about. As a few pointed out, information about the environment can often be overwhelming and people are unaware about further action they can take other than turning taps off and recycling. More regional gatherings and community events were suggested, with a very exciting idea coming out of that…
I mostly listened during these discussions to gauge the kind of ideas being propagated and the enthusiasm of the participants. I did chime in on the BNP topic though, as how people treat and think about that party is a choice rant of mine.
At the same time as these discussions there was a seminar happening on the uses of social media, mostly twitter, for planning and during direction action, as well as awareness raising tools. There was an AWFUL LOT happening over the weekend, often at the same time, so people were frequently popping in and out of the discussions.
Dinner that evening was a delicious vegan squash and potato curry which was so good and very filling. All the food served at Climate Camp events is vegan, and I believe most of the attendees were vegetarian, although I didn’t go out of my way to discuss people’s eating habits (for once!).
That evening we watched a couple of films; Composting Capitalism and Dr Seuss’ The Lorax. Composting Capitalism was filmed in Copenhagen during COP15, and has an overview of the event, interviews with local people – including one of the founder’s of Cristiania – and sections from the People’s Forum. It is well worth and watch and can be found here on YouTube. The creator’s website is here.
I had never heard of The Lorax before. It’s a rhymed cartoon about capitalism and deforestation and such. Very sad! The lorax loses his habitat and all his friends when the Once-ler decides to use the Truffula trees to make thneeds and thus, destroys the local environment. It really made me need a thneed…
I headed out onto the balcony again to collect my thoughts and managed to get locked out! Upon re-entry, I sat with Alice and Elise who were discussing Alice’s squat (in the old museum of childhood in London!) and all the actions they’d been on and WWOOFing they’d done. Alice was delighted to learn that Elise and I were newer to Climate Camp than she, Elise having gone to a meeting for the first time the Tuesday previous and that weekend being my first contact. Apparently most people go to national camp or take part in an action. Alice went to the Blackheath camp in August as her first thing, then went down to VESTAS, before hitting up Trafalgar Square for Cop Out, Camp Out, after which she went to Copenhagen and then she slept for the best part of a month. After listening, agape, we went and got some popcorn, donned endangered-animal masks so Tom could film us dancing (I’m not entirely sure what he does with the footage, but I got to be a panda!), and chatted into the night. Tom’s masks are absolutely beautiful papier-mache creations which he makes to take on actions, all except the penguin which he claims somebody else made and is, actually, scary.
And that was Saturday! Tune in on Thursday for Sunday’s events.