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Climate Camp Dissolves Itself

ex-camper | 01.03.2011 22:09 | Climate Chaos | Social Struggles | Sheffield

The near-collapse of the financial system; droughts in the Amazon, floods in Pakistan; a new government in the UK; a violent programme of unprecedented cuts; food prices rising and real incomes eroding; revolutions across the Middle East… This is all very different from 2005 when the Camp for Climate Action first met to spark radical action on the greatest threat to humanity, climate change.

In 2011 the climate science is as strong as ever – and the need for action on climate change never greater – but the political landscape is radically different. As a movement, to be relevant, we need to move with the times. Therefore the Camp for Climate Action has decided by consensus, after much discussion and reflection, to change. To that effect,

1. We will not organise a national Climate Camp in 2011.

2. We will not organise national gatherings as ‘Climate Camp’ or the Camp for Climate Action in 2011.

This closure is intended to allow new tactics, organising methods and processes to emerge in this time of whirlwind change. With the skills, networks and trust we have built we will launch new radical experiments to tackle the intertwined ecological, social and economic crises we face. To that effect,

3. We have created interim working groups to manage the transition.

4. There will be a major meeting in the near future.

An explanation

In 2006, 600 people camped in the shadow of Drax power station in West Yorkshire, the UK’s biggest, single source of carbon dioxide, for ten days of learning and sustainable living, culminating in a day of mass action against the power station. Our aim was to kick-start a social movement to tackle climate change. This experiment – its organisation and the form – fitted that moment and proved a success. Instead of a one-off camp we then went on to target planned infrastructure projects that showed the suicidal nature of ‘economic development’. In 2007, we made the daring and difficult decision to join the campaign against the expansion of Heathrow Airport culminating in 2,000 people camped on the site of a proposed third runway. In 2008, we opposed the building of a new coal-fired power-station at Kinsgnorth, Kent, the first in the UK for 20 years. Despite police infiltration, repression and violence, plus regular media attacks, these camps, in alliance with diverse campaigns, won. Neither looks set to be built.

As the financial crisis unfolded we moved to directly targeting the root cause of airport expansion and coal-fired power stations: our economic system. We had a hectic 2009. When London hosted the G20 in April, the European Climate Exchange (home of EU carbon trading) had to close its doors after 4,000 people set up camp on Bishopsgate, in London’s financial centre. Later that year we organised a camp at Blackheath overlooking the City of London, attended by over 5,000 people. There was no mass action at the camp – we separated it to be more effective – so in October 1,000 people swooped to shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station, in Nottinghamshire, a major carbon emitter owned by E.ON the energy giant behind the Kingsnorth plans. In December, many travelled on Climate Camp coaches to Copenhagen as part of our affiliation to the international direct action network Climate Justice Action, against the skewed UN negotiations known as COP 15. Despite much success, weaknesses in our organisational structures and processes were exposed within our networks.

There had been a dramatic surge in climate-related action, understanding of the root causes of the crisis, and developing truly sustainable and socially just solutions. But many worried that using the same tactic – mass squatted action camps in antagonistic locations – would become ineffectual. Yet, these camps were an inspirational experience for large numbers of people. So, again we camped, taking aim at RBS, the now publicly owned ‘Oil and Gas Bank’. For the first time we actually squatted the land of our target – RBS global headquarters near Edinburgh – a massive success. But the decision, target and form of action were being hotly debated within the movement.

As a result, we continued a process of deep reflection and in November 2011, at our national gathering in Manchester, it was decided that we needed additional time to think and strategise together about the future of Climate Camp. We therefore held a week-long ‘retreat’ type event at Monkton Wyld in Dorset to figure out what to do. Fittingly, the Manchester gathering named the event ‘Space for Change’.

Over six days, about 70 people shared their experiences and critical reflection. We should not pretend that these discussions were easy. We talked about the limitations of an organisational model built to plan one camp a year, when we now have both the will and capacity to do much more. We debated the constraints of this model, which was devised when we were much smaller in numbers. We discussed how other movements and groups have responded to changing circumstances in the past to learn from those experiences. Here is not the place to repeat the discussions: extensive minutes will follow on our website. But the premise is worth repeating: how do we best harness the energy, dynamism and commitment to fight the root causes of climate change at local, national and international levels? How do we best grow a climate justice social movement that is relevant, vibrant and successful over the next few years? What organisational structures, consistent with our desire to tackle hierarchy, will take us to a new level of participation and action?

The decision not to organise a camp, nor organise as Climate Camp or the Camp for Climate Action, will be a shock to some, and may provoke a lot of questions. We hope these decisions will give space and time for those questions to evolve into new forms of effective and inspiring action and organisation. This is no retreat from organised large-scale action on climate change, rather a freeing of our energy to organise much more effectively all year round. For local groups using the Climate Camp name, these decisions are not intended to direct them, as they have always been autonomous.

Internationally, it has been amazingly inspiring to see that climate camps have happened from Ghana to the US, France to Australia. Wherever people are, we urge them to use the organisational tools and tactics that have been popularised or developed by Climate Camp if they are useful and relevant: these were never ours to own.
What next?

To make sure that we don’t lose what we have learnt over the years, nor the capacity, relationships, networks and skills, we have created four interim working groups to help us in this transition:

1. A group to maximise the usefulness of our material resources.
2. A group to address ongoing communications plus learn from and document our experiences over the past few years.
3. A group to investigate new organisational forms, structures and tactics for possible next experiments.
4. A group to organise a meeting to share ideas about these next experiments.

The next newsletter will let everyone know how to get involved in these, with all information also posted on our website. Details of the meeting will also be made available shortly. Separately, the Climate Camp legal team will continue ongoing legal actions against the police.

Nothing lasts forever. Movements have to move. That doesn’t mean there won’t be grieving: many of us have given heart and soul to Climate Camp. But we can’t demand that society changes radically, while we ourselves do not. As everyone who has tried something daringly new knows, it can be scary and there are no guarantees of success. But that didn’t stop us before the first Climate Camp, nor did it stop the students at Millbank, nor the people of the Middle East. And it shouldn’t stop us now.

Yes, Climate Camp leaves a space. What fills that space is up to us. This is a unique opportunity to work together with others to create a more co-ordinated, dynamic and stronger movement against climate change and its root causes. Now is a chance to team up with the anti-cuts and anti-austerity movements and play a crucial role in the revolutionary times ahead. Anything but co-ordinated action is doomed to fail.

See you on the streets.

The Camp for Climate Action. Monkton Wyld, Dorset. 27 February 2011.

“When storms come, some build walls, some are thrown by the wind, others build windmills.” Lao Tzu




Hide the following 18 comments

The Movement is changing! Long Live the Movement!

01.03.2011 22:58

Great statement and a brave decision. Looking forward to seeing some of the resulting experiments.

- Homepage:

The reality is that it failed!

01.03.2011 23:11

That's one way of looking at it. Another is that the Climate Camp failed to achieve the objective of building a mass movement to oppose climate change. The cancellation of Kingsnorth and the Third Runway had nothing to do with its actions and during this time the problems have become considerably worse. The reality is that the Climate Camp was run by activists who thought they could recreate the anti-road movement and they failed. This is the correct decision - it's just a shame it took so long for people to realise that they were wrong.


Brave and excellent decision

01.03.2011 23:11

Well done, IMO the best, politically useful and most inspiring decision the CC could have taken, congratulations.

See you on the barricades!

Harry Robert's aunt

alternative outcome

01.03.2011 23:12

climate change is a fact of life, a great cycle of the times, its gonna get chillie folks. Don't get me wrong, pollution is! It's nuclear that the UN wants. Carbon trading is not the answer. CO2 = life, don't forget it. More forests please :-)

The peoples war against the corporate death machine


01.03.2011 23:23

Fine words, but the truth is that with all the cheap thrills provided by student protests and UKuncut, campaigning against something as serious and long term as climate change was no longer trendy and the bourgeois little squirts who have taken control of Climate camp, simply gave up. Lets hope they all go off and find themselves comfortable jobs in some right on NGO and we dont have see them again.


Nice one!

01.03.2011 23:28

I think this is a great statement. It would be great if some other groups/networks/orgs would be as self-critical and reflective!

Somebody else

The reality is that it got too big for its boots.

02.03.2011 00:08

Climate camp had success with its first three camps, but then its logic became ... the root cause of climate change is capitalism, so we take on capitalism. They completely ignored that many and vastly more powerful groupings have attempted to take on capitalism and failed. So with this hubris, they beat their heads against a wall they could not possibly effect and unlike the situations at Heathrow and Kingsnorth where they had positive engagement with local people, they did it on their own. Hence, they produced no real effect over the last couple of years. Neither are they good at being honest. Over and over again have they attempted to spin failures as successes. Deep down people knew that they were failing.

Old Socks

No bad thing

02.03.2011 03:12

@ bullshit: More or less right, I think.

@cynic: The Camp for Climate Action was started by people with a background in the road protest movement and others which followed it, such as RTS, but they were replaced by the people @bullshit calls "bourgeois little squirts". I think we have now seen the limitations of the latter and their (middle) class-based politics and media obsessions. Yes, the objective political situation has changed but they have no new or re-invigorated perspective on the climate crisis. What this amounts to is the mainstream media is now looking elsewhere, so we're off to where the lenses are pointing and / or where we can build careers.


Doughnuts all round in the NETCU broom cupboard

02.03.2011 12:04

Already fun to see how many different angles you've got guys!

Nee Nor

some thoughts about this...

02.03.2011 12:09

first of all, i have to say that an organization trying to renew itself and its politics is positive in itself, but i am doubtful about seeing the people in the climate change movement moving towards a revolutionary anti-capitalist direction. Their 'politics' (which can be summarised as a combination of middleclass enviromentalism. life-style anarchism, ethical consumerism, post-modernism) will likely to stop them from making a general critique of their movement( not just the action, but the theory and the ideology of enviromentalism itself)

imho its highly unlikely that they'll come back with a strong anti-capialist strategy and useful tactics which links climate change to class warfare and capitalist mode of production and which tries to tackle the issue of climate change in a more systemic way instead of focusing on single issues(ie wasting their whole energy to single issue campaigns instead of building up a grass roots anticapitalist movement) Bcs of this, I think they'll probably resurrect again in the near future with exactly the same politics. without any self-criticsm of the past. Bcs these groups consist of 'activists''(i hate this term btw), i am sure they feel that there'll be more action in the student protest field and they'll be focusing more into anti-cuts groups which , i think, will create problems for the class-struggle militants in the anti-cuts groups as these enviromentalists with their shit politics will try to influence anti-cuts groups.


Ideas please

02.03.2011 12:17

Also though there are obviously some genuine posters. But it's still hard to see your ideas for a mass movement for climate justice. Or for something else if you want something else. Should we all join Earth First? The Anarchist Federation? What?

Nee Nor

The start of a new, more thoughtful movement?

02.03.2011 13:34

This is a really brave and intelligent thing for the Climate Camp to do. Recognising that wider society is changing and that your previous forms of organisation and action are no longer adequate is very difficult and the Climate Camp have managed to recognise this and move to act on it pretty quickly. In fact this move fits into a wider discussion going on at the moment, thinking about what has changed, what is working and what possibilities this opens up.

This move by the climate camp, though, really ups the ante. Other organisations (and individuals) need to step up to the plate and undergo a similar rethink. Of course some of the comments here show how difficult this process will be. These a tendency to make your politics unchanging so they insulate you from wider society, the programme remains the same no matter what changes in the wider world.

However, despite any difficulties this process of rethinking is going to be essential if we are to be of any use to the movements that are currently emerging.

People in glasshouses


02.03.2011 16:49

Hey, Nabat, I share your frustrations at the main tendencies in the climate movement, but you're lumping us all together simplistically when you say:
"Their 'politics' (which can be summarised as a combination of middleclass enviromentalism. life-style anarchism, ethical consumerism, post-modernism)"

It really bugs me that you are failing to acknowledge the presence of a small but significant number of 'class-struggle militants' WITHIN the climate movement. With this lazy black-and-white over-simplified way of talking about things you are making a currently marginalised radical tendency even more invisible.


Climate Camp Is Dead! Where Now For Climate Action?

02.03.2011 17:10

"In 2011, let us be in no doubt: the only way to create a sustainable future for our species is to have a working class-led revolution. I'm delighted that many dedicated and talented climate activists have chosen to focus more of their energy on this cause, because the class struggle and the environmental struggle are one and the same."

Infantile Disorder
- Homepage:

The answer was given at the Kingsnorth and the Ratcliffe trials

02.03.2011 17:51

The NASA expert used in both trials advocated the rapid building of nuclear power stations as the only actually viable plan.

So lets get on with it......

NASA man

@nasa man

02.03.2011 23:11

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that it's not nuclear power stations that we need to power the national grid, it's a national bear grid instead. The efficiency of having an unlimited supply of ale to every home, school and factory would help us drink more sensibly.

CAMRA scientist

one group?

04.03.2011 09:50

One group to rule them all, One group to find them,
One group to bring them all and in the darkness leave them walking in the wrong direction without a clue!

one group?


05.03.2011 13:27

Cynic - though how the climate camp paints itself now is that it was originally set up to create a mass movement, it's just not true. That may of course have been in some people's minds, and not in others - but if you look at the old websites through you will see that it was added after the first camp.

The 'anti-roads movement' anyway had lots and lots of people and groups involved, lots of different levels of action, but was never mass. That's not a comment on the size, but on the form - anti-roads had Road Alert networking info and trying to provide resources to local camps and groups, but never tried to be the centre, like the climate camp has; the climate camp also has had a lot of people (not everyone involved of course) who believe in the form of mass actions, and also think that we are the people who can create a mass movement.

Bullshit - I'm not going to rise to the bait of the armchair class warriors who see what they want to see tarring everyone involved the Camp for Climate Action with one brush, and shoot down stuff on IMC, but don't seem to be out there making stuff happen.

Old Socks - that's just not true, though spinning everything to sound great has bothered me too.

Nabat - again, don't presume that everyone in the 'climate change movement' has those preoccupations or that profile, it's just not true. And people say that anti-roads was single issue - it was not. You take an issue, and you use it to confront the fundamental root problems in society. It's not environmentalism - after all, despite the worst climate chaos to come, humans might die but the planet will go on. Don't fucking slur people who take an ecological angle as environmentalist and having shit politics. Some of us green anarchists have been actively involved for the best part of 20 years with a deeper politics that is self-critical and analytical.

To all of you, saying they will come back exactly the same, or saying they are all xxx, is because you are not engaging at a real face-to-face level, but just mouthing off on the internet - which doesn't promote understanding or change, just makes you feel better.

NASA man - bollocks! May you fry buried in a nuke waste dump.

See you all at the EF! summer gathering! That's the place to figure out ways forward, all working together (or in parallel) and creating things the way we want them to be.

good move folks

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