Inside the BAA car park shanty town (Image by Kristian Buus)
The fact that I have such powerful, personal memories of the Camp for Climate Action might cause some to doubt my ability to take a cool, rational overview of the whole affair. To such doubters I say: ahh, you’re just jealous that you weren’t there. Plus, you’re missing a really important point: many of the two-thousand-odd people who came through the camp will have left with similar feelings of inspiration, energy and hope – and this, more than anything, was the camp’s real achievement.
Yes, the camp got incredible global media coverage, reaching news outlets serving ¾ of the world’s population. Yes, activists were able to appear all over the mainstream media hammering out the key messages about aviation expansion being madness, about how climate change will only be solved by major social change, and about the importance of mustering people power against entrenched political and corporate interests. Yes, the political balance in the
During the eight days the camp was officially open, I counted at least nineteen peaceful direct actions taking place against climate criminals. You can find more information, pictures and first-hand reports at Indymedia, but the brief run-down goes something like this (with much text taken directly from the Climate Camp website):,
- A group of activists set up a climate camp on the wing of an Airbus A380 on its way to be assembled in
- Farnborough and Biggin Hill airports, both exclusively used by private executive jets, are blockaded by two teams of climate activists in disgust at the obscenity of the super-rich using planes as a taxi service.
- The doors of six
- Activists superglue themselves to the front doors of the Department for Transport's
Main entrance to Department for Transport - closed (image from Indymedia)
- Ten people occupy the office of private charter company XL, which has a contract with the Home Office to deport rejected asylum seekers, exposing the connection between climate change and forced migration.
- Children and their parents blockade the World Freight Centre at Heathrow in protest at the damage to the climate caused by unnecessarily flying food around the world.
- 60 people occupy Carmel Agrexco's Heathrow warehouse in Hayes, where produce is air freighted in from territories occupied by
- Several marches take place around the site of the proposed third runway, involving local residents from Sipson and Harmondsworth (the villages that BAA is planning to demolish), John McDonnell MP, and the striking sight of hundreds of activists wearing copies of the Tyndall Report on their hands, carrying a banner reading, 'We are armed....only with peer-reviewed science'.
Pictures of people affected by climate change that doubled as handy cardboard shields when the police got their batons out...leading to the horribly surreal sight of cops trying to beat their way through the faces of Bangladeshi children to get at peaceful protesters. (Image by Kristian Buus)
- Despite the presence of 1,800 police wielding batons and the Terrorism Laws, BAA’s attempts to slap injunctions on people, and the fact that the date, time and target had all been announced in advance, hundreds of protestors still make it to BAA’s corporate headquarters, blockade the only vehicle entrance, set up a new neighbourhood of the camp and stay there for 24 hours. BAA tells most of its staff to stay at home or work elsewhere on Monday.
It was around this point that the words of the song "Power To The People" became changed to "Shower to the people...coz the people need a shower..." Look, it was funny at the time, OK? (Image by Kristian Buus)
- BA World Cargo depot is blockaded for about four and a half hours by eight protestors locked to each other.
- Three teenaged girls make it onto the roof of the
- Two carbon offsetting companies (in
- Five protesters use a concrete lock-on to block the entrance to Sizewell A and B nuclear power stations. Their banner reads, 'Nuclear power is not the answer to climate chaos.'
- Eighteen protesters occupy the office of the owners of Leeds airport, Bridgepoint Capital, on Warwick Street in London, armed with Yorkshire puddings and a banner declaring “Yorkshire’s flooding, yer daft puddin!”
- Twelve protesters superglue themselves to the entrance of BP’s headquarters.
- A troupe of rebel clowns stake out a fourth runway in the garden of Clive Soley, pro-runway lobbyist and Campaign Director of Future Heathrow.
- The building works for a controversial gas pipeline being constructed through the Brecon Beacons are sabotaged overnight.
Despite the patchy-at-best coverage of all of this in the mainstream British media, it’s not hard to see why a CNN news bulletin referred to the week as a “climate uprising”. And for those of you sceptical about the effectiveness of this kind of action, here’s why it’s so important:
1) It’s proportionate to the scale of the problem. As George Marshall has pointed out, it’s hard for people to see climate change as a huge problem when the proposed solutions are “change your lightbulbs” or “pump up your car tyres”. Once people start taking peaceful, arrestable action on climate change – demonstrating that they are ready to break the law and go to prison over this issue – it significantly raises the game and marks climate change as a “real” issue.
2) It raises the political temperature. The
3) It identifies and confronts the culprits. The uncomfortable truth is that the prevention of catastrophic climate change won’t happen with a big warm cuddly consensus. We have to stop burning fossil fuels, massively reduce our reliance on cars and planes, and make some fundamental changes to the way we run our lives and the economy. A lot of influential people and corporations who rely on the current system for their wealth and power will lose out in a big way (while the great majority of people should benefit from a low-carbon world, if we do things properly), and so we can’t pretend that there won’t be confrontation and conflict. There will. We have to accept that, and then figure out how, in the battle of people vs. corporate profits, the people are going to win.
4) It’s the most genuinely empowering form of action that anyone can take. To strip away all of the distractions and just place your body in the way of the bad stuff…it’s not enough by itself, but it’s infinitely more powerful and inspiring that turning down your thermostat or paying £50 for a pop concert.
There are now thousands of people all over the UK who have been informed, trained, educated and inspired by the Camp for Climate Action, and are gearing up for more action (as Green Party Speaker Derek Wall put it, the camp “built capacity, with a vengeance”). Hundreds of new people have been drawn into the movement (the poets and folk singers at the camp's open mic session were joined by rappers, post-rock noise merchants and a teenage emo-punk duo), and loads of older activists have been re-energised and re-inspired. If you want to know more about what’s happening near you and how to get involved, have a look at www.climatecamp.org.uk, or Indymedia, or ask whichever one of your online friends seems to be a member of the right sort of Facebook groups.
Even if you’re not ready to take peaceful direct action yourself, then think about what you can do to support it – the actions around the camp couldn’t have happened without the time and energy of hundreds of helpers, and the camp would have received far less favourable media coverage without the quiet (or, better yet, noisy) support of millions of people across the