Climate Camp in Review
So now comes the time for the Climate Camp post-mortems. As ever, I shall remain upbeat, whilst perhaps pointing a few failures here and there, which is pretty much how I feel about the whole mobilisation. I spent 4 days and 3 nights on site, and really enjoyed myself, but to fail to critique would be a mistake – the movement lives on because it critiques itself.
I’m not going to write about the day of action, not least because I wasn’t at Climate Camp at the time, but instead at Momentum, which I shall write about just as soon as I find time, though this could take a while, as I’m at Greenbelt, which I shall no doubt require some work. Yes, I’ve been at 2 camping events, and I’m at a 3rd, and all with only one night to “recover” in a bed, which happened to be on the Caledonian Sleeper.
The camp began with a “Swoop” action, that morphed into a mass meet up and travel to site after the site take was brought forwards by some 15 hours. The land that RBS essentially permitted us to use was a longish strip along the back of their own nature reserve, an eerily manicured area of nature with more slugs than I’d seen in my life thus far (they even slimed my sandals for me!). The land was split naturally into 2 sections, one overlooking the offices, and the other nicely surrounded by trees, and all portioned from RBS large and boringly smart building with impeccably mown lawns by a creek with a couple of bridges spanning it.
The policing was satisfyingly chilled, and Stop and Searches were kept to a reasonably low number targeting individuals rather than the camp as a whole. The police took the attitude that our field was our sovereign territory, and that anything that took place up to the bridges was not their problem.
On the first morning, the Friday, just after the main food delivery, a bicycle-hauled sound system was wheeled around the camp, with a growing number of people joining us, before the entire crowd moved peacefully past the police, across the main footbridge and onto the lawns, messages of greeting waved and read out as others danced their way around the buildings for about an hour. The police brought in around a dozen officers who tried to hold the herd together and take pictures, whilst allowing the group to keep mobile. It was an amazingly productive manoeuvre, setting the bar high for later actions and extending a positive message to ensure the staff knew exactly what we were doing on their land and exactly which investments we might be talking about.
The workshop program, being much more targeted, worked a lot better. The main meetings, neighbourhood meetings and strategy sessions all seemed to run smoothly, and giving an hour for working on the site at the start of the day (10-11, just after Neighbourhood meetings 9-10) worked really well. The fact is, we know how to do a Climate Camp – now we have to find innovative ways of using that knowledge, the first of my conclusions: Climate Camp has developed a wealth of “best practice” knowledge, which we can share with other movements.
I think we all came to understand that the location didn’t quite have the sense of urgency that a coal fired power station has, where chimneys belch greenhouse gases and the camp intervenes to switch the machine off, or airports where each departure and arrival can be watched. This also had an impact on the media coverage, and I have to say Climate Campers should feel grateful for what UK press we did get, especially given we were in Scotland.
My second conclusion, therefore, is that Climate Camp needs to take its strengthened message of anti-capitalism as a logical response to climate catastrophe to the places of extraction and emission.
My third conclusion is that Climate Camp is generally doing much better at responding to the criticisms of past members than it is either being credited with, or than it is doing at attracting the fresh interest that it will need, despite many claims to the contrary. This is especially true in getting people to discuss the role of capitalism in the camp. It is becoming more and more clear that those voices are actually from those who simply haven’t the time to put into an annual event.
But one moment more than any other highlighted why the camp remains relevant: a woman arriving at the Welcome tent, who had only just begun to think about the issues behind Climate Camp, having only read our agit-prop newspaper! It really convinced me that Climate Camp remains one of the best gateways to the movement. Finally, I have drawn the conclusion that the Climate Movement can only dispense with Climate Camp once it has found a suitable replacement as the gateway to the movement for those with no prior experience.