Thursday, March 03, 2011

Climate activists change course

There will be no Camp for Climate Action this year, and leading activists say this is in recognition of the world’s changing economic and political landscape.

After a lengthy meeting of camp activists, a consensus was reached and a statement issued which says:

“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.”

Climate Camp mobilisations, as well as the protests by students last year, have shown that there is nothing passive or deferential about young people in Britain. Their actions have put the trade union leaders to shame, exposing them as weak-kneed in the face of injustice.

Visiting the camp over the years, you could chart the deepening of people’s understanding of the source of the climate crisis. Year by year, people moved away from the idea that ordinary human beings and their consumerism are to blame, to a recognition that it is the capitalist economic system of production itself that is the root of the problem.

As the Camp’s statement says: “As the financial crisis unfolded we moved to directly targeting the root cause of airport expansion and coal-fired power stations: our economic system.” The 2009 camp was the high point, with a huge sign at the entrance on London’s Blackheath stating “Capitalism IS crisis”.

But at Blackheath, the question arose – can we overthrow the corporations DIRECTLY by targeting them with protests; or can we only create change that is truly transformative by bringing down the governments and STATES which maintain their rule of the transnationals that have gone about destroying the planet’s eco-systems?

Climate Camp answered that question with more of the same, culminating with the occupation of the RBS bank’s headquarters in Edinburgh. This protest simply did not rise to the political challenge people in Britain were now facing, with the election of a Coalition government hell-bent on imposing the cost of the crisis on the mass of ordinary people.

This is a government that, far from curbing the role of the corporations in response to the climate crisis, is extending their reach. Ministers took part in the Cancun conference’s decision to abandon any attempts to sign a replacement treaty for Kyoto. Privatisation and cost-cutting will drive down standards in the name of profit.

The Climate Camp’s statement continues: “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.”

The revolutionary times are, in fact, here and now. The new generation that is leading the revolutionary upsurge in North Africa and the Middle East are driven by the impact of the global crisis, including climate change that has contributed to soaring food prices.

Climate campaigners championed People’s Assemblies during the protests at Copenhagen in 2009 . Hopefully, climate camp activists will now join the movement to establish a network of People’s Assemblies throughout Britain. Then we will not only challenge the power of the state to impose cuts, and the corporations that are wrecking the eco-system, but actually go on to build a sustainable alternative to capitalism’s destructive growth addiction.

Penny Cole

Environment editor

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