Just got this!
Metamorphosis: A statement from the Camp for Climate Action
The near-collapse of the financial system; droughts in the Amazon, floods
in Pakistan; a new government in the UK; a violent programme of
unprecedented cuts; food prices rising and real incomes eroding;
revolutions across the Middle East… This is all very different from 2005
when the Camp for Climate Action first met to spark radical action on the
greatest threat to humanity, climate change.
In 2011 the climate science is as strong as ever – and the need for action
on climate change never greater – but the political landscape is radically
different. As a movement, to be relevant, we need to move with the times.
Therefore the Camp for Climate Action has decided, after much discussion
and reflection, to change. To that effect,
1. We will not organise a national Climate Camp in 2011.
2. We will not organise national gatherings as ‘Climate Camp’ or the Camp
for Climate Action in 2011.
This closure is intended to allow new tactics, organising methods and
processes to emerge in this time of whirlwind change. With the skills,
networks and trust we have built we will launch new radical experiments to
tackle the intertwined ecological, social and economic crises we face. To
3. We have created interim working groups to manage the transition.
4. There will be a major meeting in the near future.
In 2006, 600 people camped in the shadow of Drax power station in West
Yorkshire, the UK’s biggest, single source of carbon dioxide, for ten days
of learning and sustainable living, culminating in a day of mass action
against the power station. Our aim was to kick-start a social movement to
tackle climate change. This experiment – its organisation and the form –
fitted that moment and proved a success. Instead of a one-off camp we then
went on to target planned infrastructure projects that showed the suicidal
nature of ‘economic development’. In 2007, we made the daring and
difficult decision to join the campaign against the expansion of Heathrow
Airport culminating in 2,000 people camped on the site of a proposed third
runway. In 2008, we opposed the building of a new coal-fired power-station
at Kinsgnorth, Kent, the first in the UK for 20 years. Despite police
infiltration, repression and violence, plus regular media attacks, these
camps, in alliance with diverse campaigns, won. Neither looks set to be
As the financial crisis unfolded we moved to directly targeting the root
cause of airport expansion and coal-fired power stations: our economic
system. We had a hectic 2009. When London hosted the G20 in April, the
European Climate Exchange (home of EU carbon trading) had to close its
doors after 4,000 people set up camp on Bishopsgate, in London’s financial
centre. Later that year we organised a camp at Blackheath overlooking the
City of London, attended by over 5,000 people. There was no mass action at
the camp – we separated it to be more effective – so in October 1,000
people swooped to shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, in
Nottinghamshire, a major carbon emitter owned by E.ON the energy giant
behind the Kingsnorth plans. In December, many travelled on Climate Camp
coaches to Copenhagen as part of our affiliation to the international
direct action network Climate Justice Action, against the skewed UN
negotiations known as COP 15. Despite much success, weaknesses in our
organisational structures and processes were exposed within our networks.
There had been a dramatic surge in climate-related action, understanding
of the root causes of the crisis, and developing truly sustainable and
socially just solutions. But many worried that using the same tactic –
mass squatted action camps in antagonistic locations – would become
ineffectual. Yet, these camps were an inspirational experience for large
numbers of people. So, again we camped, taking aim at RBS, the now
publicly owned ‘Oil and Gas Bank’. For the first time we actually squatted
the land of our target – RBS global headquarters near Edinburgh – a
massive success. But the decision, target and form of action were being
hotly debated within the movement.
As a result, we continued a process of deep reflection and in November
2011, at our national gathering in Manchester, it was decided that we
needed additional time to think and strategise together about the future
of Climate Camp. We therefore held a week-long ‘retreat’ type event at
Monkton Wyld in Dorset to figure out what to do. Fittingly, the Manchester
gathering named the event ‘Space for Change’.
Over six days, about 70 people shared their experiences and critical
reflection. We should not pretend that these discussions were easy. We
talked about the limitations of an organisational model built to plan one
camp a year, when we now have both the will and capacity to do much more.
We debated the constraints of this model, which was devised when we were
much smaller in numbers. We discussed how other movements and groups have
responded to changing circumstances in the past to learn from those
experiences. Here is not the place to repeat the discussions: extensive
minutes will follow on our website. But the premise is worth repeating:
how do we best harness the energy, dynamism and commitment to fight the
root causes of climate change at local, national and international levels?
How do we best grow a climate justice social movement that is relevant,
vibrant and successful over the next few years? What organisational
structures, consistent with our desire to tackle hierarchy, will take us
to a new level of participation and action?
The decision not to organise a camp, nor organise as Climate Camp or the
Camp for Climate Action, will be a shock to some, and may provoke a lot of
questions. We hope these decisions will give space and time for those
questions to evolve into new forms of effective and inspiring action and
organisation. This is no retreat from organised large-scale action on
climate change, rather a freeing of our energy to organise much more
effectively all year round. For local groups using the Climate Camp name,
these decisions are not intended to direct them, as they have always been
Internationally, it has been amazingly inspiring to see that climate camps
have happened from Ghana to the US, France to Australia. Wherever people
are, we urge them to use the organisational tools and tactics that have
been popularised or developed by Climate Camp if they are useful and
relevant: these were never ours to own.
To make sure that we don’t lose what we have learnt over the years, nor
the capacity, relationships, networks and skills, we have created four
interim working groups to help us in this transition:
1. A group to maximise the usefulness of our material resources.
2. A group to address ongoing communications plus learn from and document
our experiences over the past few years.
3. A group to investigate new organisational forms, structures and tactics
for possible next experiments.
4. A group to organise a meeting to share ideas about these next experiments.
The next newsletter will let everyone know how to get involved in these,
with all information also posted on our website. Details of the meeting
will also be made available shortly. Separately, the Climate Camp legal
team will continue ongoing legal actions against the police.
Nothing lasts forever. Movements have to move. That doesn’t mean there
won’t be grieving: many of us have given heart and soul to Climate Camp.
But we can’t demand that society changes radically, while we ourselves do
not. As everyone who has tried something daringly new knows, it can be
scary and there are no guarantees of success. But that didn’t stop us
before the first Climate Camp, nor did it stop the students at Millbank,
nor the people of the Middle East. And it shouldn’t stop us now.
Yes, Climate Camp leaves a space. What fills that space is up to us. This
is a unique opportunity to work together with others to create a more
co-ordinated, dynamic and stronger movement against climate change and its
root causes. Now is a chance to team up with the anti-cuts and
anti-austerity movements and play a crucial role in the revolutionary
times ahead. Anything but co-ordinated action is doomed to fail.
See you on the streets.
The Camp for Climate Action. Monkton Wyld, Dorset. 27 February 2011.
“When storms come, some build walls, some are thrown by the wind, others
build windmills.” Lao Tzu