RIP Climate Camp
An announcement has now been made on the results of the Climate Camp retreat late last month. The gathering was designed to allow longer thinking times with less pressure. The decision: to formally end Climate Camp.
The statement will be read and dissected a hundred ways by a hundred people. I’ve already seen someone asking how the gathering let undercover officers unnamed bring down climate camp. If the police were involved, surely they would make us stick with the model of action they have most experience of responding to?
I have to admit I’m emotional about the decision – for 2 years the camp process was my life. Some friendships will outlast the camp, but not all. I suppose what I shall miss are the wonderful moments of calm at the camp – songs by bonfires, deep discussions over beer, the moments of optimism in the face of repression.
I suppose my worry, and its a personal and emotional concern before being a political one, is that this decision is another move towards a far darker period of activism. The stakes may feel higher and things might feel more dramatic, but they also significantly less upbeat. Climate Camp was often hailed as inspiring – perhaps those days are over? With only action and organising, it could be difficult to hang on to the creative side of the protest-spaces we created. I suspect any previous outbreaks of entertainment during week long actions might be the most endangered of all; the oasis of calm a victim of the mood of Britain. Its certainly right for the movement to adjust to the harsher reality of this decade. What I worry most about is succumbing to the doom and gloom so much that we are no longer a movement founded on hope.
Perhaps this decision will allow a new wave of climate activism to spring up in coming years. Perhaps a new form of action might be necessary. I think its worth remembering that a few years ago, it was climate camp itself that seemed audacious, not the decision to journey into the unknown. And so the breaking of familiar routines is going to be made more difficult if there is nothing to familiar to return to. These audacious steps will be scary – they come just months after a flurry of threats to employ water cannon on protesters amongst other more draconian tactics. They could well be a time of immense discovery and rejuvenation but they could also be a time of mental retrenchment. Given the scarcity of hope, the latter is the more possible. What will remind us to stick to a balanced mix of love and rage and prevent us from ditching the former as superfluous. Sharing a field and making it spotless at the end both helped to emphasise the need for this.
But the whole decision to close this chapter of UK activism has shown movements in the UK are becoming more mature, and more flexible. For groups like CND this would have been unthinkable, perhaps in part due to the rise in social networking that surely adds a longevity to the connections on which a movement like climate camp is built. People have realised that, faced with a growing malaise, putting on rose-tinted specs is going to do more harm than good.
I’m certainly not worried about the movement in the UK for the time being. Smaller than in recent years, but better organised than ever, now is certainly not the time to give up hope. Even if it feels like a disappearance into shadows, it will merely make the next move bolder than ever. I await the reports of fresh action eagerly. It probably won’t be so long…