Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Monday at the Climate Camp

Spent a pleasant Bank Holiday afternoon at the Climate Camp on Blackheath, joining in some workshops and generally chewing the ecological cud. There was quite a spectrum of ideas, and some quite healthy debate. By no means everybody there was a 'lifestylist' - by which I mean people who think you can change the world just by persuading individuals to change their patterns of consumption, never mind the fact for huge swathes of the world's population the problem is that they don't have the opportunity to consume enough to live a decent life. Must admit my main reaction to the Camp, given the generally low level of social movement activity at the moment, is to say 'at least they're having a go' rather than be over-critical (I know I'm going soft).

My main regret was that I didn't get to have a go on the pedal powered-hovercraft!

Having the camp here may have lost it a strategic focus (when it was at Heathrow the location directly linked to the movement against airport expansion), but it did at least open the possibility of a broader range of encounters and for others outside the activist milieu to have some involvement. See, for instance, Greenwich Phantom and Blackheath Bugle's participation - particularly like the latter's maps (shame we haven't got a map of Wat Tyler's 1381 encampment!). Owen Hatherley also has an interesting take on it - I like his notion of combining the sensibility of the fairground (pleasure machines, speed, futurism...), also on Blackheath, with a politics of social change represented by the camp.

I came across the following leaflet at the camp, which appealed to me with its attempt to locate the movement within the geography and history of Blackheath:

Some notes on our location

‘When adam delved and eve span, who was then the gentleman?’

Welcome to the Commons! Welcome to the Climate Camp! Welcome to the Future!

From this heath in 1381, preacher John Ball gave probably the country’s first speech against the class ridden nature of society. What better place to continue the struggle for social justice and the fight against climate change?

This year's Camp for Climate Action is on Common Land. Commons are open to all. The commons of London were fought for, campaigned for, saved by the work of Londoners to be a vital lung for ordinary people. We live better because or their work. This is a public, open space. That is why we must take extra care of it this year. We recognise this could be a challenge, but we like it that we are open, public, visible. We don't want to be marginalized, hidden or ignored. We are a necessary contribution to the landscape in these unstable times.

Moreover, the notion of the Commons is one we must protect in these times of increasing privatization. The land and the air and the sunshine and the rain are a commons. The atmosphere is a commons and it is the pollution of the corporations that is poisoning it. Then they try to divide it with carbon credits and sell off the right to pollute it some more! Always the rich try to control and commodify in order to gain more wealth. It is because we want a common heritage for all that we address the root causes of climate chaos and say we must target capitalism and the privatjsation and commodification that arises from it.

The site has huge historical connections. It has long been used for political demonstrations, suffragette marches, rallies; fairs have continued here since medieval times. Most famously, it is where the Peasants Revolt led by Wat Tyler assembled in 1381 in their struggle against bad government and unfair taxes.

We think it's worth noting that as the police launch their charm offensive and the government says they lead the world on climate issues, that Wat Tyler was murdered, the other leaders executed, and the King's promise to agree to the people's demands were revoked - as soon as the revolt was no longer seen as a threat.

Less famously, the Kentish rebellion of 1450 assembled here too. 5,000 workers and peasants marched on London bad government and unfair taxes. Again. They too were promised deals and pardoned and then they too were executed and repelled.

We can learn from history not to trust those in power, but we needn't be downhearted. Those struggles through the ages are why we have the vote, more rights, fewer working hours, freedom to travel. They were not given by the state, they were taken by the people.

And so it is with climate change. We must change the status quo to save the day.

Within sight of the towers of the city, we come to remember a world where their values do not rule. Our buildings may be lower, but our reach is much wider. The bankers and the clerks who everyday ignore the disasters that their decisions cause, cannot hide for ever, and nature will not bail them out.

We are also on our site with our own boundaries. Creating our own boundaries means we can be adaptable and have a better chance of dealing with police attempts to disrupt deliveries or access.

Lastly, the meridian line. Here we are on a line that has been used to measure the world from, a line to measure time by. That measurement formed one of the bases for colonialism, but we can choose to see its symbolism rather differently. We see that it is time for a new time, time for different values, time for a culture based not on short term profit and resource extraction, but on long term thinking, ecology and mutual aid.

1 comment:

photo editing services said...

This is the 3rd article I have randomly stumbled upon. The climate camp is making waves! Great photo blog!