Thursday, June 11, 2009

What next for Climate Change Camps - the history and prospects - next meeting Wed 8 July, Wood Green Social Club, Stuart Crescent N22

The central theme of the climate camps is the ecology of saving the planet and its inhabitants in face of the man-made creation of rising temperatures . To this end , the camps collect together thousands of people to both discuss, and plan for , the need for action of the direct type . The camps are models of consensus and anti hierarchical organisations and are increasingly successful in their initiatives .

Historically battles to save the community have been regular events. Near Wanstead Flats in Leyton, London, residents in 1892 first attacked the railway that had encroached on their common land then wrecked the whole project, lines and all. More recently came resistance to the use of nuclear power for energy production. The 1970s was strewn with pitched battles all over Europe as resisters first advanced factual arguments , and, after their rejection, resorted to mass direct action.
Britain saw action at the nuclear plant at Windscale and disobedience on the streets. Nuclear power ? no thanks was the slogan Even today the Labour government, busy trashing the welfare state and hard earned reforms of the past, hesitates to announce a new nuclear building programme.

Another example concerns personal transport. While this is among the great inventions to benefit humanity, relentless expansion of the car economy and roads with the attendant pollution, ill health and despoliation of town and country, has been strongly challenged in the last two decades. Reclaim the Streets - with its aims for walking, cycling and cheap or free public transport , and against cars , roads and the system that pushes them led many campaigns over 15 years. Any sane system would use renewable electricity cars , collective vehicle ownership, tight regulation of speed , and safe roads, and so on.

However the central problem facing environmental campaigners goes back to 1962. In that year, we saw the publication of two books. Murray Bookchin, the US libertarian , who was an ex stalinist and trotskyist, had investigated capitalisms adverse effect of the environment and published an article, under the pen name of Lewis Herber. Next he produced a full length text Our Synthetic Environment which was
published just before the more celebrated Silent Spring of Rachel Carson. Her volume concentrated on pesticides, especially DDT, and its effect mainly on birds, while Bookchin surveyed the advanced use of chemicals in general.

These two publications were to symbolise the two widely differing approaches to environmentalism. Bookchins belief was that this was a problem that presented a massive challenge to western society, and indeed one that it could not solve. His answer therefore was a social transformation of society .

On the other hand the Carson supporters, and orthodox political theory, held that this was just another aspect of development and one that a production-for-profit system could easily accommodate. So that state action, round modest reforms, was the solution. The present world wide concern over climate change can still be positively analysed into the two quite different perspectives - reform or revolution.

So the dilemma facing climate camp activists is whether to continue the direct action that has proved successful in the past, or to become fully involved in the fighting for small, disconnected and separate reforms and thus risk integration into institutionalised opposition . The meeting invites environmental campaigners of either , or no, sides in this debate with a view to resolving the central problem . But don't hold your breathe for this . . .

Rachel Carson information at Wikipedia

Murray Bookchin essays on revolutionary ecology