Sunday, June 04, 2006
A must read...
Melting icecaps, flooded communities, heat-waves, hurricanes and general freak weather: yes, climate change is here, and it’s only going to get worse. We are currently on course for a 3C degree rise in temperature, which could mean the deaths of 400 million of the world’s poorest people, and the extinction of 50 million species with which we share the planet. At the moment the richer western countries can use their wealth to compensate for the effects of climate change, by storing food or building sea and flood defences. But our whole civilisation rests on a increasingly fragile web of ecosystems and climate change threatens this life-support system in ways that we as yet cannot understand let alone foresee. European crop failures, the disappearance of the Gulf Stream which warms Western Europe – either of these would have massive consequences for us in the UK alone.
After years of corporate-sponsored scientists creating the illusion that climate change was merely a theory, it is now a fact acknowledged across the board. Government public information is now putting across messages that would have been considered fringe scaremongering a decade ago. Despite this, the government is promising that they do have the solutions: “Action now can help avert the worst effects of climate change – with foresight such action can be taken without disturbing our way of life,” claims Tony Bliar – i.e. keep driving, flying and working for yer pension because we can have ‘sustainable’ economic growth. A capitalism without limits on a planet with finite resources.
Solutions proposed such as nuclear power, a farcical European carbon-trading scheme or a pitiful tax on the heavy polluters will in reality do little to offset the impending disaster.
These market-driven techno-fixes peddled by the corporations and the governments they sponsor are all designed to keep the economy growing, growing, growing. This is to avoid the one thing they can’t face, the one thing that can actually start to deal with climate change – a massive reduction in energy consumption. Ironically the certainty of climate change comes at the same time as the concept of ‘Peak Oil’ becomes mainstream (see SchNEWS 499). The current system simply has no answers. Regardless of whether we put things off for a few years by using nuclear power (see SchNEWS 522), cuts are going to have to come across the board – and that will require a massive restructuring of the way we live our lives and how we organise our society. Our economic systems will have to be transformed beyond recognition. The question is in whose interests will they be remade?
That’s why this desperately needed energy ‘descent’ is going to need a hell of a lot of energy ‘dissent’. It’s time for us to open our eyes to our collective denial, pull our heads out of the sand, stick out our necks, get over our divisions and start working together to build grassroots solutions to climate change. We all bear responsibility for climate change and need to make changes in our own lives. But we also need to act collectively. To undertake the urgent work of energy descent/dissent, we need to work out what needs to be done, what others are already doing, what we should be stopping – and what we should be starting. Reading about how bad things could be is obviously not motivating many of us to change, we need to get together and do it!
The Camp for Climate Action will bring thousands of people together for 10 days of action, education, and living the alternative world we hope to build. It will be a hub for everything from solar energy workshops and campaign updates to direct action against some of the worst offenders of the fossil fuel economy. It will be a climate-friendly gathering, powered by alternative energy, and will demonstrate practical solutions in action. It will be a chance for the diverse people and projects working on all aspects of climate change to get together and make change happen. Although it’s crucial that existing campaigners and activists take part, we want the camp to be an event that reaches out to the huge web of people who are deeply concerned but have no idea how or where to begin making changes.
There will be debates and info on various parts of the science and politics of climate – we recognise that we are entering new territory and no-one has all the answers. What level of carbon emissions is too high, what future for the hydrogen economy, how are we going to deal with peak oil? There’ll be practical skills to learn and ideas and practice for campaigning – from setting up an allotment to setting up tripods, from how to deal with the press to how to mount a legal challenge against your favourite climate criminal. And we want to do more than disaster-mongering; we’ll have plenty of entertainment and lots of activities for younger people – with an energy-use focus.
The camp will also be a base for direct action against the fossil fuel economy. Dealing with climate change is about more than personal action. Changing light bulbs and stopping flying to Spain for the weekend is one small part of the solution, but so is getting in the way of the juggernaut with our bodies, our minds and our hearts. Some might call this idealism or madness. We say madness lies in the passive grey expansion of the suburbs, the packed motorways rumbling towards oil depletion, the climate horror headlines next to an offer for Christmas-shopping flights to New York. Madness is factories that produce rubbish that people have to be brainwashed into buying – sanity is pulling them down. In these times taking direct action against the climate criminals is as real, as reasonable, as necessary as it gets. Direct action, of all the forms of action to take, gets closest to the heart of the problem as well as closest to the beating heart of a truly sustainable, socially just, fossil fuel-free future.
We only have a short time to act and we’re going to need radical ideas and massive action if we’re to make something good come out of this mess. Climate change will not go away, and we need to understand that the longer we leave the process of starting our ‘energy descent’, the more difficult and painful it will be. Ultimately, our whole “first world” way of life is in question here.The way we travel, the way we eat, the way we farm, the way we work. It all needs to be re-examined and adjusted (or done away with) as required. The notion of infinite industrial growth on a finite planet must be discarded for the greedy fantasy it is and always has been.
Climate change and fossil fuel depletion has and will create savage conflicts over vital resources. If we don’t act now, the dark history of the twentieth century will pale by comparison with the Mad Max horrors of the 21st.
Other relevant events before the camp:
* June 10th – Road Block national conference. Fighting one of the big causes of climate change – cars.Workshops and guest speakers, central Birmingham. For details see http://www.roadblock.org.uk
* June 11 – July 1 – Art Not Oil, London. Exhibition and campaign of political/ecological art, and ending oil sponsorship of the arts – a project of London Rising Tide. For info call 07708 794665 For full list of events see http://www.artnotoil.org.uk http://www.nationalpetroleumgallery.org.uk