Climate Change : Time For Action

Merrick, 30th April 2006ce

'Action now can help avert the worst effects of climate change. With foresight such action can be taken without disturbing our way of life.'

So said Tony Blair in his foreword to a report that gives two-thirds odds that climate change will shut down the Gulf Stream and drop European temperatures by eight degrees.

‘Our way of life’ got us into this mess. One way or another, ‘our way of life’ will be disturbed by climate change. Even if we don’t change things ourselves to avert the most dire consequences, that eight degree temperature drop alone would involve major social change.

But, as Blair said to the World Economic Forum last year, 'if we put forward, as a solution to climate change, something which involves drastic cuts in growth or standards of living, it matters not how justified it is, it simply won't be agreed to'.

Consider how chilling those words are, ‘it matters not how justified it is'. Growth - that is to say, increased consumption - over anything else, no matter how justified it is. Even if our very lives depend on it. Which they do.

We know that our elected leaders and the corporate interests they represent are not going to lead the way to the change we need. Despite being in full possession of the facts, they want to carry on making it worse. They are not the solution; they are the main agents of the problem.

We need to confront those primarily responsible. Of course, we are all responsible for climate change. If you don't fall short of your standards now and again it's because you haven't set them high enough. This is not a holier than thou thing. But there are vested interests trying to obscure the science and downplay the threat in order to keep their present position. This needs tackling head on.

Climate change is an issue that unites so many people; all around the world people feel as concerned, furious, scared and daunted as we are. We've already waited way too long for someone else to start this off. We have all the evidence we need that governments are going to block rather than deliver solutions. If we want change, we have to make it ourselves. Positive social restructures were ever thus.

It means doing without things that even those of us who know about it still use. But if we plan and enact this transition together we can build something that doesn't ruin us. If we just leave it, the dwindling resources will go to ever higher bidders while everyone else fights like cats in a sack for what's left over.

The poorer nations will suffer the most, being less insulated by welfare systems, less able to buy food from elsewhere, and more at risk from the earlier effects of climate change. Yet it is we in the industrialised nations who are the prime cause. The need for change lies most with us. It is our responsibility to do what the world so badly needs us to; to be the first mass militant demand for austerity, to live simply that others might simply live.

If there is to be a change, it will not come from above but from below. The present political system can't think beyond the lifespan of those alive today, usually less - the next election or the next quarterly profits. We need to act like there are lives that matter other than today’s rich humans. We need to take a stand as responsible ancestors. We see that immediate drastic action is essential.

So it's not just rejecting politicians and corporations as agents of change, it's got to be rejecting that whole centralised power structure.

Climate change casts a long, deep, dark shadow over the future. But whilst where we’re heading looks very ugly indeed, there is still time to change course. This time can be an opportunity, a moment when people come together and say 'enough'.

Already, major social change is inevitable, all we can do is steer toward one kind or another. The solutions we need have to be grassroots and equitable. If they're going to work for everyone, they have to be visioned and created by everyone. They will mean reforging communities, relocalising our social structure.

Pretty much anyone with an ear to the ground knows the problem is as large as any humanity has ever faced. Indeed, it is so big, the targets are so vast, and the culprits include, well, all of us. We want to see the changes, we want to help build the momentum for change, but where do we begin?

We begin by getting those of us who feel that way together.

We know the challenge is huge, but the only way we can guarantee being beaten is if we don't try. The science is already in. The facts are already common knowledge. We know the kind of threat, that the present path is essentially suicidal. The imperative is clear. And yet the urgency is missing from the issue. It is misrepresented and belittled by the mainstream media. It needs to be made the top priority of our era. The radical action seen on other environmental issues has been absent on this one; it's time for that to change.

There is a growing grassroots movement that fundamentally challenges the fossil fuel economy and aims to instigate the changes we need.

The Camp For Climate Action

This summer, in northern England there will be the Camp For Climate Action. Running from 26th August to 4th September, it will be a mix of workshops, meetings, socialising, information-sharing and action. It will bring together thousands of people from the UK who want to act to stop climate change before it's too late. It will be a place that encourages discussion on what we are faced with, what the alternatives are, how we can achieve them and the diversity of tactics and action we will need to get there. It will be a base for direct action against some of key sections of the fossil fuel economy.

The camp will also offer a hint of what things might be like if we scale back to a more sustainable pace of life. It will use small amounts of energy and most of the energy it does use will come from renewable sources.

It will be a place for this badly needed movement to get together. It will be a place for new people, people who have never been ‘political’ before but who want move beyond concern into activity. It will be a place for experienced activists: old and young, cynical and hopeful. We all need courage, the guts to step beyond the comfort of our concern or the borders of our group.

We need to educate, discuss, network, strategise and act. It's the issue that makes all others seem trivial by comparison. We no longer have the excuse of ignorance. We no longer have any excuse at all.

This isn't about a few people organising a camp and trying to get everyone else to sign up to an unquestionable manifesto. We don’t have all the answers, but we do know that it’s going to take all of us to do it. The point of the camp is to provide a place to share where we’re up to on the issue and dream up new strategies and approaches to resisting the problem and creating further solutions.

What technologies can help? Which ones are red herrings? What can we do to make change, in our daily lives, in our families and communities, in the wider world? How do we take effective action?

The camp is not about discussing whether climate change is real. We know it is here already. We do not need to duplicate work being done elsewhere on lifestyle changes. We already know about them. Other people are doing the further research, the lobbying. We need to be the thing that's missing. We need to put this issue in all its terrifying urgency right at the top of our social priorities, right at the heart of our social thinking.

The camp brings us together to focus on:

- Action. We need to confront the things that exacerbate the problem. The aviation industry, the oil industry and many other major players have no future. This is not a battle between us and them; it's a battle between them and the one system that supports life. There will be action happening throughout the camp at the root causes of climate change.

- Education. How to we climb down from the precipice? How do we cope with the unrest, the ending of so many livelihoods? How do we get around? How do we reduce the need to get around? How do we kick our addiction to the thing that ruins us?

- Sustainable living. The camp itself will be a living example of how differently things can be done, both in terms of the ideas element, with no hierarchy and consensus decision making, and in terms of the practicalities with no fossil fuel power, compost toilets, local foods, etc.

What Will The Camp Be Like?

It's estimated that 1,000-2,000 people will turn up.

Inspired by what we've seen in other campaigns and organisations, most notably the Stirling camp at the anti-G8 protests last summer, the camp is not ‘laid on’ for punters to come and consume. Everyone who comes is both punter and crew.

It will be self run on a neighbourhood system, each with a large marquee at the centre housing a kitchen to provide food for the people camped there.

Neighbourhoods will be based on something the people in it have in common – this could be a particular issue or campaign, or it could be where they’ve come from – so that people can easily meet others and get involved in what's going on.

Many groups are already hosting neighbourhoods but more are needed, if you or your group is interested in hosting a neighbourhood go to the neighbourhoods page on the Climate Camp website for more information.

There are several reasons for doing it all this way; first up, we don’t have the money and resources to do anything so grand, but more important are the social reasons. The fair solution to this crisis means relocalising our lives, producing what we need for each other, regenerating the community aspect of life that has been lost in fast-living urban times.

To initiate this, we need to network with others who feel the same, we need to learn and teach all manner of social and practical skills. By running the camp for ourselves, we provide a great opportunity to do this.

Plus, running the camp this way gives us a chance to really get to know other people with similar concerns and form solid bonds. As with any type of gathering or conference, no matter how great the programme of talks, the really great stuff is what happens over meals and at the bar.

What Will Come Out Of It?

When the camp is over, it's not the end; hopefully, it's the beginning. At its best, it will be a kickstart for a movement that's been waiting to happen, a movement long overdue, a network of people, a conspiracy of action, of actively taking responsibility, of facing up to it with determination and hope.

For further info, visit

Book your time off now! 26th August - 4th September