Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The end of climate camp? Raise a glass.

Is this the end of climate camp? In a statement put out tonight, the Camp for Climate Action has announced that it will not be hosting a Climate Camp in 2011, nor will it be organising gatherings under a national banner this year. To be honest this is neither a surprise, nor should it be a disappointment.

As the statement clearly says, the world changes and movements must change. For all its flaws, I love and respect the energy and vitality that Climate Camp has brought to the environmental movement. It stopped the Kingsnorth Power Station, it held up the runway at Heathrow and it highlighted the sheer absurdity of bailing out the banks as our environment fails around us. One of my fondest memories is lying on the road in Bishopsgate in 2009, looking up at the skyscrapers around me as my friends and colleagues hung banners proclaiming 'Nature doesn't do bailouts' between the buildings. That is as true now as it was then.

Climate Camp has had a wider impact too. It has inspired the big NGOs, however much they might have tried to ignore it, and many of these groups are belatedly beginning to realise how entrenched they are in a system that is failing. Its tactics inspired the current students, UKUNCUT tax protests and movements in many countries around the world. It was far from perfect, but it gave the activist community a boost and the traditional campaigners a kick.

I will be sad to see it go, but also happy. In one sense Climate Camp has served its purpose. It has motivated and radicalised a generation, and as the Camp's 'high command' has acknowledged, times change. New tactics, new targets and new strategies must be found. The environmental crisis is real and ongoing, from climate change to deforestation, to over-fishing, plastic waste and mass extinctions. We have to act, for our own sake if nothing else.

So cheers Climate Camp, I'm sure you will be back in some way. In the meantime, the revolution goes on! I salute you.


  1. Climate camp has not 'radicalised a generation', if only it had done that. Climate camp failed in its ultimate mission to build a mass movement and it failed in this effort due to the anti-reformist, anarchist driven ethos that ran so strongly through the camp. The very energy that created the camp ultimately ended up destroying it.

  2. Fair point anonymous - I agree with you in part. CC was always too wedded to process, and as you say its anarchist roots mean that it was forced to pander to the more extreme minority pushing a lot of others away.

    I would argue though that it has helped to radicalise a generation. Okay, I use the term loosely. The whole generation is far from radicalised. But CC did help the process. It made protesting and direct action feasible and accessible. No longer was it the preserve of a few Greenpeace special forces, but anyone with a tent and a phone. It's tactics have inspired, and it has had an impact on the wider movement. I work for an environmental NGO and from 2007 onwards ripples of the direct action movement (CC but also ClimateRush, PlaneStupid etc) began to affect our thinking. It made a lot of environmentally minded people who had grown hopeless and complacent sit up and realise that they were in a fight, and that they had to take a side, even in spirit only. I think that is a valuable contribution.

  3. Hello again...

    Yes, I didn't mean that the camp has not been successful and important in a number of ways, some of which you have alluded to, of course that is true and it is very worth noting.

    However, if we start to hold Climate Camp on a pedestal we risk not learning the lessons it has taught us. For me Climate Camp is a classic example of so many spirited, inspired and radical movements that stem out of anti-reformist, anarchistic sentiments.

    These movements often build a huge amount of momentum and usually do have positive effects, but at the same time end up alienating the general public with extreme and unrealistic solutions, i.e. let's overthrow capitalism to sort out climate change.

    I have moaned in depth about this kind of thing....