The debate was well attended and very well organised.
Dave Douglass(former num & iww ) spoke first about the environment and 'clean' coal place within the environment,As expected Dave spoke clearly and passionately for coal , though at one point he came close to stating that climate change was not being accelerated by human activity!
Next to speak was Arthur Scargill. Mr Scargill gave a robust defence of coal and spoke strongly against other forms of environmental degradation especially nuclear power.His speech was well balanced and factual.It was a pleasure to hear Mr Scargill talk,but he was not the charismatic speaker of the 1980's it felt a bit like an after dinner circuit speaker, not the iconic figure we are used too.(mr Scargill chose to go over his allotted time and not to remain for the debate)
Dr Paul Chatterton from Leeds uni followed mr Scargill,(it should be noted that paul and all the speakers from the green movement stated that they were NOT spokesperson from the climate camp) Dr Chatterton gave his reasons for not using coal as a power source, giving clear and factual evidence on climate change and the social conditions in other countries without health and safety laws or unions to help protect the workers.
The president of the N.U.M Ian lavery followed Paul chatterton. Mr lavery delivered a loud and uncompromising speech in defence of coal mining and the combustion of coal,his presentation was laddish,bhol-shy and at points mildly sexist.The accuracy of his facts were also questioned from the floor(from a parsons engineer that helped build Drax)
The chair of the meeting then opened the floor up for debate,at this point it became clear that there was a diverse mix of people attending the debate. Questions came forward from environmental activists,union officials,anarchists and socialists.After a bit healthy debate there was a break for lunch.
After lunch there was a change to the chairperson of the meeting.
Davie Guy a long respected union official spoke gently about C.C.S technology,he was very clear and factual in his presentation.He also spoke with sadness about the current state of the unions within the U:K. One of many points of agreement was opposition to open cast mining and to dirtier coal burning technologies.
Paul Morrozo followed Mr Guy, Paul spoke in particular about the Proposed new power station at Kingsnorth and it's effect on climate change. During Pauls presentation the 'chair' of the meeting continually cut in and added comments.Mr Morrozo Patience was remarkable.The chair then cut paul 10 mins short stating that we were short on time, The chair then used this opportunity to give his opinion on the supposedly naive arguments of the green movement.The 'chair' David Hopper an N.U.M official was challenged by one of the other invited speakers and asked to chair the meeting properly,many people from the floor also asked Mr Hopper not to abuse his position,one of the people from the floor that challenged Mr Hooper was female Mr Hoopers reply was clearly sexist this lead to a furious response, in particular from the anarchists.Mr Hopper chose to resign the position of chair without apology.
After order had been resumed it was the turn of the R.M.T unfortunately Bob Crowe couldn't make it so a regional official of thr R.M.T spoke about the prospects of moving coal by train(apologies for not knowing the speakers name)
The final speaker Kevin Bland spoke on local issues in particular opencast mining and the urgent need to defend our natural environment, Kevin spoke in depth about ecology being a class issue and gave a strong anti-capitalist analysis of environmental degradation.
The chair then opened the debate to the floor,again there was healthy constructive debate.
Overall it was a good event that brought out many positives,there is common ground between grass roots environmentalists and the energy workers.Hopefully the two groups can continue to engage and work together.
The anarchist film collective filmed the days events they hope to make a short film around the debate.
Thanks to the NUM for organising this event and in particular Dave Douglass for his efforts.
Comments from the Floor
"I did 20 years down the pits. The government say they need nuclear weapons because other countries have them. The NUM say we should burn coal because China is. Is there any morality to your argument?"
That was my favourite contribution from the floor.
Another brilliant comment from the floor argued that it isn't about which forms of energy are used but about the environmental impact and about working class power. The NUM's support for coal is "sectionalist"; it puts the interests of workers in the organised industry against broader class interests. He made the case for an energy workers union to combine workers in the Fossil, Nuclear and Renewable industries and mentioned the Workers' Climate Action National Gathering in London on 15/16 November 2008.
The issue of organisation was raised many times from the floor. The conference was run using the traditional method of Chair, Speakers, Floor; with the Chair allowed to voice their own opinions at length and even to heckle the speakers. This was contrasted with egalitarian methods where the facilitator allows participants equal rights to speak and is not allowed to express their own opinions while facilitating. The position of Chair, like any leadership role, puts the individual in authority, in a position where they can be held responsible for acts of resistance by "their members". Workers are empowered when we get the bureaucrats off our backs.
Keep it in the ground!
Keep it in the Ground!