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At the Birmingham 'Climate Change festival'

EirONy/WM climate camp | 07.06.2008 16:41 | Climate Camp 2008 | Climate Chaos | Ecology | Birmingham

Anticapitalist climate activists visited the 'Climate Change Festival' in Birmingham this week to protest at the sponsorship of the event by E.On, the very company which this years climate camp will be targeting, and by Crest Nicholson, a major development company known for it's dodgy developments of cheap, and utterly environmentally aggressive build, and to raise awareness of Climate Camp.

the sponsors
the sponsors

our stall
our stall

Big sister is watching!
Big sister is watching!

We felt it important that while acknowledging the positive aspects of the event, which did exist, we draw attention to the hypocrisy of greenwash, the green-capitalist bias of the event and inform people that there are more radical perspectives on climate change.

We began our protest on Thursday morning in Brindley Place, the corporate development which pretends to be public space, where Birmingham City Council were launching their targets for carbon dioxide emissions. We gave out leaflets and presented, as part of the crowd, the radical voice lacking in this. We pointed out E.On as the single largest emitter of CO2 in Britain, owning three large coal fired power stations with plans to build more. We pointed out their claim to be a 'leading green generator' translates in reality to 1% of their output from renewable sources. We questioned their motives in sponsoring the event and invited people to participate in this years climate camp.

A leaked memo recently revealed that E.On are not willing to consider compulsory carbon capture and storage technology for the new Kingsnorth stations.
and would rather delay building the station than meet such a requirement. In this light their sponsorship of the festival seems even more hypocritcal as they are not even willing to commit to the techno-fix fig leaf of CCS to cover their polluting ways.

Brindley Place security were soon on us, asking us not to hand out leaflets as we had no permission to do so in this privatised space, and threatening us with expulsion from the area if we continued. As this was going on, the launch event continued with speeches from a local Muslim leader on the faith/God's creation is perfect angle, and a particularly enervating speech on climate change from the local Chamber of Commerce suit which was so boring even the speaker seemed about to drop off. It's possible our heckles were the only thing keeping him awake.

This was followed by a speech from the renowned international sailor Ellen MacArthur, drafted in to officially launch the City Council's CO2 targets. Her speech was certainly the most down to earth and sensible made, pointing out how on her circumnavigations energy conservation was a matter of neccessity - leaving eqipment on standby for her could mean running out of fuel/energy before completing her race - and so maybe we should have a similar attitude globally; this is not our planet, we merely share it she said.

After the speeches we continued to speak to attendees, including a representative from E.On, who predictably remained unpersauded of our cause! Mr Paul Tilsley, Deputy Leader of the council who was compering the event proved particularly unwilling to listen though, and in our opinion had an agressive and unpleasant attitude to our presence there. One organsier however admitted quite openly that the event was all spin and no substance. For the record, the CO2 target announced at the event was to cut 60% by 2026. This target does not appear prominently however on the 'festival' website or the 'birminghamcuttingcarbon' website, which focusses on individualist/guilt tripping pledges to 'cut carbon' (sic.). The only place I can find reference to this new target is on a corporate media script on the event.

We left voluntarily as the launch event was winding down, after handing out more leaflets. Our security escort informed us that they were expecting 'more of us'. Had they been briefed to expect protests? No comment, except to say they 'recognised' one of us. We were also informed we could do what we liked the other side of the canal, where we managed to speak to Ellen MacArthur as she was being bustled to a photo-op, congratulating her on making the best speech and handing her one of our leaflets which she took gladly. We continued to flyer people as they left the event, and then set up our stall in Centenary Square where the main marquee for the event was situated. On the stall we had leaflets not only promoting Climate Camp and protesting E.On's sponsorship, but leaflets on a wide variety of class and ecological issues, including Rossport Solidarity, food politics and anarchy, along with free carrot cake and seeds for sowing.

This time security took at least half an hour to notice us and ask us to move on, but this time we asked to speak to the organisers to negotiate and find a way forward. In the meantime Paul Tilsely wandered past looking upset at our presence. We told him we were 'off message and proud' as we drew attention to the stall with slogans such as 'just say no to green capitalism'. The security guards meanwhile seemed very fair to us, and as we were waiting to hear from the organisers, our 'minder' security guard told us his opinion: that the 'festival' was a massive waste of his money as a taxpayer, money he felt would be better spent on grassroots ecological projects globally, protecting the rainforests or reversing the ecological and social damage done by British colonialism. If ever we needed proof that ordinary workers have an extraordinarily radical, constructive and genuine perspective on ecological and social issues, far outstripping the facile ideas of Capital, this was it!
To our surprise an event organiser came over to our stall and invited us to move into the main area itself and set up there, which we did. The invitation seemed sincere, and we were thus able to continue to promote what we wanted to promote without compromise or censorship, right in the heart of the event for the rest of the day. We garnered much interest, signing up a number of people to the WM climate camp.
In other news, George Monbiot's preech at the 'festival' also critcised the sponsorship of the event and it seems unlikely that E.On will emerge from this looking good. If anything their sponsorship of the event has exposed them to further criticism.

The following day we were back with our remaining leaflets. As the climate change bandwagon continues to attract Capital's interest, we call for people to continue to challenge greenwash, superficial climate change 'solutions' and the non-action and co-opting of these pressing issues from bosses, and for radical positive solutions from the grassroots. The 'festival' continues till Sunday.

Green capitalism is no solution. Only radical social change that empowers workers and communities can take us forward to a truly sustainable future.

EirONy/WM climate camp
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  1. nice work — achocha kid