Keith Farnish | 28.08.2009 08:40 | Climate Chaos
BBC Radio 5Live featured a few interviews from Climate Camp attendees this morning, one of whom called himself “Oscar” (actually, it’s probably his real name). Oscar found himself in the apparently uncomfortable position of having to defend actions that would potentially affect people’s “legal right to work” (the presenter’s words, not his). Unfortunately, rather than take the magnificent opportunity to decry the entire industrial capitalist machinery that is progressively destroying every aspect of the global ecosystem in the pursuit of profit — and which most of the people who are “legally” working are playing a very active part in — he proceeded to apologise to those people who would be affected, and then stumbled into a description of why climate change is a serious issue.
It would be unfair of me to single out Oscar, after all he was probably one of many people put forward for interview, but his words are deeply resonant of the environmental mainstream, not any radical form of environmental activism. If a camp is to be about taking action to prevent climate change then it needs to take action against the root cause of the problem, not scratch at the surface of our cultural concrete overcoat.
I don’t say this as an unqualified armchair observer: I have taken part in many actions on behalf of groups like Greenpeace, Campaign Against Climate Change and Friends of the Earth, and seen f-all result from them, even the ones that appeared to be fairly radical at the time. The reason for this is because the environmental mainstream are utterly petrified of facing up to the reality of the problem: the ubiquitousness and all-pervasive nature of the industrial economy.
So where does that leave Climate Camp?
At best, it is a place for people to meet, discuss the things that are upsetting and angering them and, for a good few of them, become radicalised against Industrial Civilization, understanding that nothing in the industrial system should be trusted nor accepted as a way forwards. I have no doubt that some of the people attending will already be radicals and anarchists, and they may help guide more mainstream activists towards actions that are more effective in undermining the industrial system. That said, Climate Camp is not, directly at least, a threat to the industrial system.
At worst, Climate Camp will reinforce the mainstream belief that it is possible to create change through existing means — political lobbying and campaigning, symbolic protest (such as banner drops and office invasions), public engagement and so on — and so ensure that those people who might have become radicalised remain deeply entrenched in a “softly softly” mindset. Meanwhile, the (largely symbolic) direct actions continue to emanate from the camps, giving the activists the impression that they are making a real difference.
I don’t know how this one is going to pan out, nor does anyone else; my guess is that it will fall somewhere between the two, but it would be nice to think that something really good could come out of Climate Camp, rather than just a load of placards and pro-consumer platitudes.
Keith Farnish is an environmental writer, philosopher and activist. He lives in Essex, UK with his wife and two children.
He has been involved in environmental issues for many years, for a large part of that as an active member of various environmental organisations, almost all of which he has become totally deluded by. He is continually striving to minimise his impact on the natural world.
He also has a deep interest in human rights, and the way in which this is closely wrapped up in the protection of the global environment.
Keith is the author of The Earth Blog, intended as a source of inspiration for people who want to be challenged, and offering uncompromising solutions to difficult problems, and writes for The Sietch Blog. In 2006, Keith co-founded Green Seniors alongside Joyce Emery of Iowa, USA. Green Seniors’ aim is to mobilize the millions of environmentally aware seniors around the globe into using their experience and free time to make a positive difference.