Simon | 09.12.2008 12:03 | Climate Chaos
Green new deal
No third runway
No new coal
You're flying to where?
Campaign against Climate Change
No more carbon dinosaurs
Take global warming seriously
End animal farming
Gordon what did you do in the great warm?
Capitalism isn't working
Assembling in Grosvenor Square
Horsemen of the apocalypse
To be cool stop global warming
No bees, no honey. No work, no money
Rally in Parliament Square
Coal is so 1908
“Our freedom, our prosperity, our luxury, they all result from fossil fuels. Ours are the most fortunate generations that have ever lived. Ours are also the most fortunate generations that will ever live.”
How true, I thought, contemplating the array of multimedia devices, the broadband internet, the web 2.0 infrastructure, and all the other 21st-century technological marvels that I was planning to use to capture the message of the day and share it far and wide amongst all the people who didn’t, or couldn’t, make it there in person that day.
Since the industrial revolution, humankind has been consuming millions of years worth of fossilized energy, with the recklessness of a spoilt teenager who has just been given access to their trust fund, and with scant regard to the consequences of their actions, or to the fact that the money / fossilized energy is about to run out. The irony was not lost on me, that the tools I was using to spread this message are a product of that same recklessness.
Keeping my fingers crossed that the global climate movement would be able to stop runaway climate change, and ensure that in my old age I would have, if not broadband internet and sophisticated multimedia devices, at least a habitable planet to live on, I pressed on with my mission, to use the tools currently available to me to maximum effect in achieving that aim.
Grosvenor Square, the site of the US embassy, had in previous years been the chosen location for Campaign against Climate Change to hold their rallies. This year, in the light of the good people of the US electing Barack Obama to be their next president, the Campaign against Climate Change chose to focus the attention on our own government and their too-little too-late approach to climate change, by starting the march in Grosvenor Square but holding the rally in Parliament Square.
A quick tour of Grosvenor Square whilst the marchers were assembling revealed the demands of the protest:
* No to runaway expansion in aviation, particularly the proposed third runway at Heathrow
* No to new coal-fired power stations, particularly the one at Kingsnorth in Kent, the site of this year’s Camp for Climate Action
* No to biofuels as a solution to climate change, because they cause deforestation and feed cars instead of people
* Yes to the Green New Deal, the solution to the global recession, creating millions of new jobs to do what is necessary in order to avoid runaway climate change.
Shortly before the march set off, I broke away from the assembly to find a position from where I could watch the whole march going past. There I met a photographer who had had the same idea, and together we stood on a bench just off Grosvenor Square, waiting for the line of hi-viz police officers to allow the march to start. He only just retained his position though, having returned to the front of the waiting march to take some photos, and only narrowly escaping being pulled into the march by one of the hi-viz officers who had identified him as a protestor, and therefore on the wrong side of the police line.
Fortunately I experienced no police interference with my mission, as I watched the Forward Intelligence Team take up position on some steps on the other side of the road from me (my new photographer friend and I joked that maybe they were annoyed with us for getting the best vantage point), and then watched and filmed the assembled protestors, including three samba bands, at least two other musical collectives, and a group of Greenwash Guerrillas right at the back, marching past.
I followed, and then overtook, the van full of workers which followed the march, picking up the cones and reeling in the white ribbon which marked the course of the march. I caught up with the march itself, sometimes mingling with the marchers, sometimes walking on the pavement or on the wrong side of the white ribbon, taking the odd photo or video clip, but always moving more quickly towards Parliament Square than the march did. Every time I saw a police officer, I was half expecting to be gently but firmly guided to the protestors’ side of the white ribbon, but it didn’t happen. Maybe there’s something to be said for not appearing to be a protestor whilst trying to capture multimedia coverage of a protest?
In the end, I made it to Parliament Square quite a bit earlier than the march did, which gave me the opportunity to talk to the people who were setting up the stage for the rally about where best to set up my tripod and DV camera in order to film the speeches. They turned out to be very helpful.
Folk band Seize the Day were first on the stage, welcoming the marchers to Parliament Square with renditions of “What’s going on”, “Bigger better brighter bolder bullshit now” and “Thank you”.
What’s going on: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=myRTCVQS6qI
Bigger better brighter bolder bullshit now: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Zyd12Jsn-gA
Thank you: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=JY9ySfn-ZzE
“It’s amazing to see so many of you here, it looks so cool from up here”, said the compere, before outlining the demands of the protest.
Coal, said Kirsty Wright from the World Development Movement, is historically the biggest cause of climate change, and climate change is one of the biggest injustices of our time. With old coal-fired power stations across the country due to be shut down over the next few years, this could, and should, be an opportunity to move away from fossil fuels and towards a green energy revolution. But instead, the government is proposing a new generation of coal-fired power stations, starting with Kingsnorth in Kent. If Kingsnorth goes ahead, it would emit as much greenhouse gas as the entire country of Ghana, or as much as the thirty lowest-emitting countries combined, and could be responsible for thirty thousand climate change refugees. This would make a mockery of the recently passed Climate Change Act.
Mel from the Camp for Climate Action spoke of the need for disobedience, direct action and rebellion. “Sometimes” she said, “the best way to get something done is to do it yourself”. “When thousands of people act together in civil disobedience, they don’t break the law. They change it.”
Almuth Ernsting from Biofuel Watch described how a few years ago governments seemed to be ignoring climate change, but recently this has changed, with them pushing all manner of measures under the banner of climate change, which are more to do with protecting business as usual whilst opening up lucrative new markets for the fossil fuel, logging and agribusiness companies which have pushed us to the brink.
Korshan Alab, an activist from Bangladesh, one of the regions worst affected by climate change, spoke of how climate change would impact first and worst on the poorest and most vulnerable communities.
Mark Dowd from Operation Noah spoke of how peace was the one thing missing from the discussion. He compared the £33 billion military budget spent by the Ministry of Defence with the peanuts spent on renewable energy technologies. "The climate agenda is a peace agenda", he said, going on to point out how countries which are self-sufficient are more likely to be pacific and less likely to go to war.
Nick Clegg, leader of the Lib Dem party, asked the rhetorical question "How on earth did we create an economy which is not only socially unjust but environmentally unsustainable?" He derided the fact that energy companies charge more for the first bits of energy that we use than for the last bits of energy that we use, and said no to a third runway at Heathrow, no to Kingsnorth, and no to spending 12 and a half billion quid on a short-term VAT cut which we'll all have to pay for in the future
John McDonnell, former Labour leadership contender and Member of Parliament for the constituency which includes the community set to be destroyed by the proposed third runway at Heathrow airport, extended his thanks to the organisers of the rally, and to the perpetrators of numerous direct actions over the past year. He welcomed the Climate Change Act and the fact that it included an 80% emissions reduction target, but said that what we need now is not words, but deeds. He said there is no way the government can tell us they are tackling climate change when they are pushing ahead with a new generation of coal-fired power stations, expanding Heathrow and relying on nuclear energy.
Caroline Lucas, MEP and Green Party leader, spoke of how she had observed in the EU parliament, governments including our own repeatedly trying to water down measures against climate change. "This is the fifth climate march I've been on,” she said, “and I don't want to still be doing this in five years' time, because the truth is, we simply don't have the time. The terrible truth is that climate change is happening way ahead of schedule." She related how the latest scientific evidence indicated that the Arctic could be ice free during the summer as early as 2015, eighty years earlier than predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She ended by inviting everyone to a dinner at domestic departures, terminal 1, Heathrow airport, at 7pm 12th January 2009.
Campaign against Climate Change’s treasurer made an impassioned appeal for funds, and standing order forms were handed around.
Seize the Day then returned to the stage, and performed “Flying”, a song about love miles and the difficulty of not wanting to fly when one has loved ones far away, and a new song about peak oil.
Peak Oil: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=JC4wnstsmAU
Muzammal Hussein of the London Islamic Network for the Environment spoke of the need for faiths to be less about ritual for the sake of the ritual and more about achieving wholeness.
Jonathan Neil of the Campaign against Climate Change trade union group spoke of the need for a Green New Deal, to invest heavily in creating green jobs instead of propping up a failed financial system. "In the last year the American government and federal reserve gave two trillion dollars to the banks, to disappear down holes. With that money we could make two hundred million climate jobs in the global south."
Matt Williams of the UK Youth Climate Coalition said "Western leaders, through their environmental wrecking ball tactics, have shown that they lack the courage to take the necessary steps, and that solving climate change is beyond their short-term outlook. The impacts of climate change extend past their careers in office, and past their lifetimes."
Phil Thornhill closed the rally with some chilling unknowns, such as what will happen one summer when there is no more sea ice and the consequences of the reduced albedo, how quickly this will unlock the greenhouse gasses in the permafrost, and when we will pass the tipping point when positive feedback processes take over and runaway climate change is out of our control. Why, he asked, is this not the overriding concern of those people in the Houses of Parliament? "We need a crash programme of emissions reductions right now. 10% in two years might be a good start."
===== Related links =====
Campaign against Climate Change: http://www.CampaignCC.org
Campaign against Climate Change’s YouTube channel: http://www.YouTube.com/CampaignCC
Seize the Day: http://www.SeizeTheDay.org
World Development Movement: http://www.wdm.org.uk
Camp for Climate Action: http://www.ClimateCamp.org.uk
Join the e.on face off: http:///www.eon-foff.com
Biofuel Watch: http://www.BioFuelWatch.org
Operation Noah: http://www.OperationNoah.org
Nick Clegg: http://www.NickClegg.com
John McDonnell: http://www.John4Leader.org.uk
Caroline Lucas: http://www.CarolineLucasMEP.org.uk
London Islamic Network for the Environment: http://www.LineOnWeb.org.uk
UK Youth Climate Coalition: http://www.OurTimeIsNow.org.uk
Any views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of Swindon Climate Action Network, or of any other organisation or body mentioned in the article.
Audio to follow.
Download: Introduction - mp3 909K
Download: Mel from the Climate Camp - mp3 1.1M
Download: Mark Dowd, Operation Noah - mp3 1.1M
Download: Nick Clegg MP - mp3 2.2M
Download: John McDonnell MP - mp3 2.0M
Download: Caroline Lucas - mp3 3.3M
Download: Muzammal Hussein, LINE - mp3 1.8M
Download: Phil Thornhill - mp3 1.5M