Runaway Climate Runway Capers

by | Aug 14, 2007

The “Camp for Climate Action” has opened near Heathrow Airport. Announcing the event, and commenting on some of the legal problems the organisers have faced, the campaign website said:

Unfortunately the police have stopped and searched some people coming to the camp, under anti-terrorism legislation. This is clearly an abuse of this legislation as the Climate Camp is organised openly, and we are clearly not a terrorist group!

We’d agree that anti-terror legislation is the wrong sledgehammer for this bunch of nuts, and however much we disagree with Climate Camp, their right to protest is worth defending.

However, Climate Camp are not against playing the terror card to further their own political messages:

The science is clear: global emissions of carbon dioxide must go into rapid decline within the next decade. If they don’t, humanity faces a bleak future.

The science says nothing of the sort, of course. The science just says that the world has been getting warmer recently and that that is probably largely due to CO2 emissions. And their political message?

To achieve this in a way that respects global justice means 90% cuts in developed countries like the UK

Hey, that’s a radical 10% more than the UK Conservative Party is calling for. (Perhaps the extra 10% covers the ‘global justice’ bit.)

As we say in our introduction:

15. Widespread disengagement from politics means that politicians pander only to the loudest, shrillest voices.

16. Science is increasingly expected to provide moral certainty in morally uncertain times.

17. Environmental concerns are serving to provide direction for directionless politics.

Success in politics today is achieved through painting a darker vision of the future than one’s adversaries. A cursory look at the environmental movement, and those behind the War on Terror, for example, would give the impression that the two were politically opposed, but a closer inspection reveals that they are cut from the same cloth. Take away the terror, and there is nothing left; no positive view of what society can achieve, no sense of shared purpose, no vision of a better life – just a vague promise of ‘security’.

Fear-mongers need media coverage. But only the right sort of media coverage. Previous Climate Camp actions have banned the media from their sites. Last year, the Camp was organised around the aim of shutting down the Drax power plant, and causing widespread inconvenience so that we all heard about the stunt, and “got the message”, but it doesn’t want the media to intrude on the precious lives of its own activists. This year, that policy received criticism from journalists:

Camp for Climate Action has stated that media will only be permitted on site between 11 am and noon; that they must be accompanied and identified with a flag; must stick with the tour; that some journalists will not be allowed on site and that a “black-list” will be operated. Sympathetic journalists will be given longer access.

After this protest from the NUJ, the campaign’s website announced that it had changed its policy, and explained:

This policy is a compromise that attempts to provide reasonable media access whilst respecting camp participants’ right to privacy. Past protest events similar to the camp have had a no-access policy, and last year’s media hour, which worked well for all concerned, was, we thought, a major step forward. The proposed addition this year of longer access for some journalists was intended as yet another step toward fuller media access and more in-depth coverage. However, this year’s experiment in providing greater access has not worked for anyone. The media team does not have enough people to do the job, journalists saw a tiered system as unfair and many camp participants have declined the offer of living for a few days with the press. So, we have revised and simplified the policy, with fairness, equal treatment of all, and ensuring that we have the capacity to deliver what we offer as our key principles.

Climate Camp is so anxious about its image that its organisers have cordoned off those who might be on-site, but off-message – it doesn’t even trust its own membership to speak freely. It’s a funny kind of protest movement that has to ban the media from observing it on the squatted land it occupies. The pretence of ‘protecting privacy’ is as spurious as the overzealous application of anti-terrorism legislation by the police. In excluding the critical eye of the media, and favouring those who would paint the protest in a good light, it reveals exactly the same Orwellian tendencies it claims to be the victim of. It wants a public image on its own terms, to pull a loud, irritating, inconvenient stunt, and then run away to hide behind it’s ‘rights’ when challenged. ‘Postman’s knock’ politics. A big noise, but no message.


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