Tag Archives: Climate Change

The Problem with the Police – Time for Climate Camp

The police are insisting that their raid on the Climate Camp at Kingsnorth, in which they confiscated rope and board games, was carried out in the name of preventing lawbreaking, and that they are only too keen to police lawful protest. They have no desire to intimidate and scare people off. Whilst this may be true for some of them, the reality is that their actions are likely to mean that some people are less likely to turn up, particularly if this were to be their first time at an event like this. The actions also point to a broader structural problem with the police at such events.

Whilst the confiscation of items like rope was probably carried out to look effective (it’s a camp site, there’s rope there!) it is highly likely that the law will be broken this week, with or without the disabled access ramps which have been seized. I am of the opinion that, if the law favours those who pump carbon dioxide into the air at unsustainable levels, then the law is wrong and should be ignored. More to the point, if the state authorities aren’t going to prevent companies and corporations from pursuing projects which cause great harm, as a new coal plant from E.ON would, then it is the responsibility of citizens to do so.

The problem with this is that if the police are only ever going to uphold the strict word of the law, then they will become tools of the state and of the unjust laws that state is pursuing. The police will stop us from shutting down the Kingsnorth power station because, whilst they support lawful protest, they do not support unlawful action. I realise that they are not allowed to do anything else, their task is enshrined – hence it being a structural problem.

Laws which fail to ensure security and quality of life are not worth following or upholding. A few protestors might be unsettlling in the short term, but they are nothing compared to what the effects of allowing E.ON to (legally) build their coal plants would be. Nazi Germany gave us a stark example of how ignoring the law can be an absolute moral duty (a duty which many sadly failed to carry out). Whilst I’m not saying that we are in such a situation, it does help to remember that the law is not immutable, and that the rule of law is not an absolute concept. Breaking the law won independence for the colonies, it carried the Civil Rights Movement forward, and it ended the Vietnam War. Unjust laws should be ignored – how else can we ever build respect for proper laws? If they have no moral and utilitarian content, then they have no purpose beyond testing our subordination.

If the government won’t shut down E.ON, then ordinary people have to do it. If the government decides to renege on it’s duty to protect its citizens, then its laws cease to have relevance and purpose. The police will insist that they are ‘only doing their jobs’, but this is an argument with little real content. The Evening Standard will scream that we are terrorists, and fabricate stories to show the world that we can’t be trusted, but they will, as usual, be wholly wrong. We are simply people who have recognised that their government is failing to protect them, and that if they do nothing about it, then it is up to ordinary citizens to take over the reins. Come join us!

Edit: My girlfriend, trying to enter the camp at the moment, has just told me that the police have formed a line across the entrance, and are not letting people/food/bags in. I’m sure they will soon stop this particular distraction. Like so many other small irritations, it forms part of the project of making it harder and harder for us to camp and to act. What they will realise, as they did with Faslane, is that our resolve to make life harder for their system goes far beyond anything they’ve got!

Edit edit: Maybe they’re keeping them out because Arthur Scargill’s speaking this afternoon? They don’t want a whole new generation of trade unionists to fight.

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Not With A Bang But A Whimper

I’ll write a proper post on this later today, but there’s a superb article in yesterday’s Guardian by Andrew Simms, examining our proximity to the fabled ‘tipping point’ for climate change, and the potential to shift our economy into reacting to the greatest threat humanity has faced in recent history.

The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere today, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, is the highest it has been for the past 650,000 years. In the space of just 250 years, as a result of the coal-fired Industrial Revolution, and changes to land use such as the growth of cities and the felling of forests, we have released, cumulatively, more than 1,800bn tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Currently, approximately 1,000 tonnes of CO2 are released into the Earth’s atmosphere every second, due to human activity. Greenhouse gases trap incoming solar radiation, warming the atmosphere. When these gases accumulate beyond a certain level – often termed a “tipping point” – global warming will accelerate, potentially beyond control.

Faced with circumstances that clearly threaten human civilisation, scientists at least have the sense of humour to term what drives this process as “positive feedback”. But if translated into an office workplace environment, it’s the sort of “positive feedback” from a manager that would run along the lines of: “You’re fired, you were rubbish anyway, you have no future, your home has been demolished and I’ve killed your dog.”

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The challenge is rapid transition of the economy in order to live within our environmental means, while preserving and enhancing our general wellbeing. In some important ways, we’ve been here before, and can learn lessons from history. Under different circumstances, Britain achieved astonishing things while preparing for, fighting and recovering from the second world war. In the six years between 1938 and 1944, the economy was re-engineered and there were dramatic cuts in resource use and household consumption. These coincided with rising life expectancy and falling infant mortality. We consumed less of almost everything, but ate more healthily and used our disposable income on what, today, we might call “low-carbon good times”.

A National Savings Movement held marches, processions and displays in every city, town and village in the country. There were campaigns to Holiday at Home and endless festivities such as dances, concerts, boxing displays, swimming galas, and open-air theatre – all organised by local authorities with the express purpose of saving fuel by discouraging unnecessary travel. To lead by example, very public energy restrictions were introduced in government and local authority buildings, shops and railway stations. This was so successful that the results beat cuts previously planned in an over-complex rationing scheme. The public largely assented to measures to curb consumption because they understood that they were to ensure “the fairest possible distribution of the necessities and comforts of daily life”.

There is no point in postponing action until the economic downturn has levelled out. If we don’t change our lifestyles now, we’ll look back on these as the glory days.

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Coincidence and Luck

I’m sitting at home suffering from what my mother has snidely referred to as ‘man-flu’, and so haven’t found the time to do a review of Marxism 2008. In the meanwhile I highly recommend Monbiot’s article from last week in which he muses on an alternative to the established principle of contraction and convergence as a solution to climate change, and his article from Tuesday on fishing and the global food crisis . What surprised me about the articles is the frank and disappointed acknowledgment that the decline in global oil supplies and the global economic downturn may accomplish more through coincidence and luck than activists have managed in over 20 years of campaigning.  He also exposes the false dichotomies that have come to characterise Gordon Brown’s statements on the matter:

Last week the prime minister’s advisers admitted to the Guardian that his renewable energy plans were “on the margins” of what people will tolerate. But these fears are based on a false assumption: that there is a cheap alternative to a green economy. Last week New Scientist reported a survey of oil industry experts, which found that most of them believe global oil supplies will peak by 2010. If they are right, the game is up. A report published by the US Department of Energy in 2005 argued that unless the world begins a crash programme of replacements 10 or 20 years before oil peaks, a crisis “unlike any yet faced by modern industrial society” is unavoidable.

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