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Climate Camp must keep focus on the environment

Hannah Bottom

Hannah Bottom reports from this years Climate Camp, that took place in Blackheath London last week

Climate Camp began with a clear vision. Outside Drax power station in Yorkshire in 2006, campaigners shouted a specific protest against our reliance on fossil fuels. They were environmentalists trying to stop climate change.

While this year’s camp maintains this by suggesting how we could live in “post-carbon” world, its ‘actions’ have lost focus. Original issues, like Drax and Heathrow, have been pushed to the side, while central protests jump on recession-inspired public indignation. Focusing on big-scale corporations, banks and the government, Climate Camp 2008 has caricatured one huge, morally corrupt bad guy.

Press releases headlining protestors’ response to a Police Report as a provocative “we’ll see you in August” merely confuse the public by portraying participants as anti-establishment, rather than environmentally-motivated. The locations for ‘swooping’, from which groups of coloured-coded protestors travelled to Blackheath to set up camp, reinforce this.

Chosen positions included Stockwell Tube Station, to show “our solidarity with all those who have experienced police violence” - referring to Jean Charles de Menezes - and Shell offices, because of the company’s “history of human rights abuse”. These may all be fair causes, but they aren’t the cause the camp puts its name to.

My visit to Climate Camp was an enjoyable one. Walking around a Scout-like camp, I saw populated discussions, conservation ideas and met people who discussed their views and issues I voiced. And credit to them, from 600 people in 2006 the movement has grown to a 3000-strong, varied community.

Travelling there, I began my walk across Blackheath heading towards a funfair on the heath. It wasn’t until I got closer that I realised my error. My mistake, however, sums up the problem for Climate Camp 2008: its protests have turned the issue of climate change into a pantomime of booing and hissing at a simplified baddie.

Protestors may complain that the European Climate Exchange is “gambling with your planet”, but the camp’s lack of clear goal is the real issue jeopardising the possibility of a cross-social group which changes environmental policy.

By sensationalising their message, they are diluting it, by trying to “show solidarity” with such varying communities, they alienate people concerned about the environment but who have no interest in blame and caricature. Climate Camp needs to leave the human rights and the word wars at the gates and keep focussed on the environment if it really wants reform.

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