Friday, 31 August 2007

What I Did On My Holidays / A Climate Uprising

It was around 1am, and in the small tent village that had appeared across the only vehicle entrance of the British Airports Authority’s corporate headquarters, a giggling gang of protesters ate lentil pate sandwiches and sang daft songs while a large white bunny rabbit scampered around the feet of the bemused police officers standing nearby. This unlikely scene was part of the much-heralded Day of Mass Action for the Climate Camp near Heathrow, and it was the culmination of the most extraordinary, hilarious, inspiring, exhausting, terrifying and wonderful week of my life. Even as I fought through my fatigue and tried to prepare myself for the barrage of stupid questions that the morning media scrum would bring, I was filled with the warm, glowing knowledge that this week had been A Very Good Thing.

Inside the BAA car park shanty town (Image by Kristian Buus)

The fact that I have such powerful, personal memories of the Camp for Climate Action might cause some to doubt my ability to take a cool, rational overview of the whole affair. To such doubters I say: ahh, you’re just jealous that you weren’t there. Plus, you’re missing a really important point: many of the two-thousand-odd people who came through the camp will have left with similar feelings of inspiration, energy and hope – and this, more than anything, was the camp’s real achievement.

Yes, the camp got incredible global media coverage, reaching news outlets serving ¾ of the world’s population. Yes, activists were able to appear all over the mainstream media hammering out the key messages about aviation expansion being madness, about how climate change will only be solved by major social change, and about the importance of mustering people power against entrenched political and corporate interests. Yes, the political balance in the UK seems to have shifted, with Heathrow’s 3rd runway no longer seeming like a done deal, and the government now talking about including aviation in the Climate Bill. This is all fantastic stuff – but these weren’t the most exciting or important things to come out of the camp. Oh no.

During the eight days the camp was officially open, I counted at least nineteen peaceful direct actions taking place against climate criminals. You can find more information, pictures and first-hand reports at Indymedia, but the brief run-down goes something like this (with much text taken directly from the Climate Camp website):,


- A group of activists set up a climate camp on the wing of an Airbus A380 on its way to be assembled in France. The Welsh police decline to arrest them, and they all walk free.


- Farnborough and Biggin Hill airports, both exclusively used by private executive jets, are blockaded by two teams of climate activists in disgust at the obscenity of the super-rich using planes as a taxi service.


- The doors of six London travel agencies are chained shut and plastered with signs saying 'Closed, gone to the Climate Camp.'

- Activists superglue themselves to the front doors of the Department for Transport's London headquarters. A tourist spontaneously joins the protest by chaining himself to the doors.

Main entrance to Department for Transport - closed (image from Indymedia)

- Ten people occupy the office of private charter company XL, which has a contract with the Home Office to deport rejected asylum seekers, exposing the connection between climate change and forced migration.


- Children and their parents blockade the World Freight Centre at Heathrow in protest at the damage to the climate caused by unnecessarily flying food around the world.

Cargo terminal closed by slightly damp picnickers (Image from Indymedia)

- 60 people occupy Carmel Agrexco's Heathrow warehouse in Hayes, where produce is air freighted in from territories occupied by Israel, highlighting the issues of food miles and the unjust and unlawful distribution of natural resources in the Middle East.


- Several marches take place around the site of the proposed third runway, involving local residents from Sipson and Harmondsworth (the villages that BAA is planning to demolish), John McDonnell MP, and the striking sight of hundreds of activists wearing copies of the Tyndall Report on their hands, carrying a banner reading, 'We are armed....only with peer-reviewed science'.

Pictures of people affected by climate change that doubled as handy cardboard shields when the police got their batons out...leading to the horribly surreal sight of cops trying to beat their way through the faces of Bangladeshi children to get at peaceful protesters. (Image by Kristian Buus)

- Despite the presence of 1,800 police wielding batons and the Terrorism Laws, BAA’s attempts to slap injunctions on people, and the fact that the date, time and target had all been announced in advance, hundreds of protestors still make it to BAA’s corporate headquarters, blockade the only vehicle entrance, set up a new neighbourhood of the camp and stay there for 24 hours. BAA tells most of its staff to stay at home or work elsewhere on Monday.

It was around this point that the words of the song "Power To The People" became changed to "Shower to the people...coz the people need a shower..." Look, it was funny at the time, OK? (Image by Kristian Buus)

- BA World Cargo depot is blockaded for about four and a half hours by eight protestors locked to each other.

- Three teenaged girls make it onto the roof of the Heathrow Business School and unfurl a banner that reads “Make Planes History”.


- Two carbon offsetting companies (in Oxford and London) are targeted by protesters dressed as red herrings. In Oxford the campaigners get into the offices and have a round table discussion with the staff about the problems with offsetting.

- Five protesters use a concrete lock-on to block the entrance to Sizewell A and B nuclear power stations. Their banner reads, 'Nuclear power is not the answer to climate chaos.'

(Image from Indymedia)

- Eighteen protesters occupy the office of the owners of Leeds airport, Bridgepoint Capital, on Warwick Street in London, armed with Yorkshire puddings and a banner declaring “Yorkshire’s flooding, yer daft puddin!”

- Twelve protesters superglue themselves to the entrance of BP’s headquarters.

It's clearly meant to look like oil, right? Not blood. Journalists are weird. (Image from Indymedia)

- A troupe of rebel clowns stake out a fourth runway in the garden of Clive Soley, pro-runway lobbyist and Campaign Director of Future Heathrow.


- The building works for a controversial gas pipeline being constructed through the Brecon Beacons are sabotaged overnight.

Despite the patchy-at-best coverage of all of this in the mainstream British media, it’s not hard to see why a CNN news bulletin referred to the week as a “climate uprising”. And for those of you sceptical about the effectiveness of this kind of action, here’s why it’s so important:

1) It’s proportionate to the scale of the problem. As George Marshall has pointed out, it’s hard for people to see climate change as a huge problem when the proposed solutions are “change your lightbulbs” or “pump up your car tyres”. Once people start taking peaceful, arrestable action on climate change – demonstrating that they are ready to break the law and go to prison over this issue – it significantly raises the game and marks climate change as a “real” issue.

2) It raises the political temperature. The Iraq war demonstrated how much attention the Government currently pays to large numbers of people marching from Point A to Point B. Every past movement which required major social change – from the anti-slavery campaigners to civil rights in the US to women’s suffrage – required an element of civil disobedience and peaceful law-breaking to keep the issues on the political agenda. Tackling climate change will require bigger changes than all of these previous campaigns were calling for. Direct action helps everybody working on climate change issues across the whole of society, by opening up new political space and pushing the debate forward.

3) It identifies and confronts the culprits. The uncomfortable truth is that the prevention of catastrophic climate change won’t happen with a big warm cuddly consensus. We have to stop burning fossil fuels, massively reduce our reliance on cars and planes, and make some fundamental changes to the way we run our lives and the economy. A lot of influential people and corporations who rely on the current system for their wealth and power will lose out in a big way (while the great majority of people should benefit from a low-carbon world, if we do things properly), and so we can’t pretend that there won’t be confrontation and conflict. There will. We have to accept that, and then figure out how, in the battle of people vs. corporate profits, the people are going to win.

4) It’s the most genuinely empowering form of action that anyone can take. To strip away all of the distractions and just place your body in the way of the bad stuff…it’s not enough by itself, but it’s infinitely more powerful and inspiring that turning down your thermostat or paying £50 for a pop concert.

There are now thousands of people all over the UK who have been informed, trained, educated and inspired by the Camp for Climate Action, and are gearing up for more action (as Green Party Speaker Derek Wall put it, the camp “built capacity, with a vengeance”). Hundreds of new people have been drawn into the movement (the poets and folk singers at the camp's open mic session were joined by rappers, post-rock noise merchants and a teenage emo-punk duo), and loads of older activists have been re-energised and re-inspired. If you want to know more about what’s happening near you and how to get involved, have a look at, or Indymedia, or ask whichever one of your online friends seems to be a member of the right sort of Facebook groups.

Even if you’re not ready to take peaceful direct action yourself, then think about what you can do to support it – the actions around the camp couldn’t have happened without the time and energy of hundreds of helpers, and the camp would have received far less favourable media coverage without the quiet (or, better yet, noisy) support of millions of people across the UK. So turn up to meetings, make sandwiches, organise benefit gigs, gather donations, give talks, write supportive letters to the local paper, set up or join community food/transport/renewable power projects, create stunning political artwork for people to take on demonstrations…there’s loads you can do. The Climate Camp was important, but it was still just one step along the path to building a real, powerful movement for climate action in this country – a movement that we all need to be a part of.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Mr Foot! I’d like you to meet Mr Bullet.

Oh my word. Whoever would have thought it?

The award for the biggest supporter of the Camp for Climate Action 2007 goes to…the British Airports Authority and their ludicrous attempt at an injunction.

Aided and abetted by corporation-lovin’ lawyer Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden (famed for defending poor defenceless multinationals from nasty peaceful protesters), BAA have spent the last week attempting to slap climate change campaigners with the most extraordinary and wide ranging criminal injunction in British legal history. They wanted to make it illegal for members of fifteen groups (ranging from local anti-runway lobby groups to the National Trust) to protest anywhere near Heathrow Airport, including the Piccadilly Line and parts of two major motorways. BAA tried to use the 1997 Prevention from Harassment Act to criminalise up to 5 million people and prevent them from coming to the Camp for Climate Action (14th – 21st August).

They completely and utterly failed. One farcical court case later and BAA’s proposed sweeping ban on peaceful protest was reduced to a small civil injunction against three individuals and the direct action group Plane Stupid, with the upshot being that if certain people do certain things at Heathrow that are already illegal, then they might face stronger penalties than usual, if it can be proved in court that they were breaking the terms of the injunction as well as the law. For this glorious non-triumph BAA ended up paying not only Lawson-Cruttenden’s doubtless extortionate fees, they also had to pay for everyone else’s costs as well (apart from the three injunctees and Plane Stupid, whose costs were covered in any case).

The mini-injunction (minjunction?) that BAA ended up with provides no extra powers of arrest and does not cover the Climate Camp, which will go triumphantly ahead and will probably be much bigger than it would have been thanks to the enormous amount of publicity generated by the court case. (You can check out the latest fantastic-looking timetable of workshops and events planned for the camp here.)

Other good things to come out of this:

  • Thanks to the juicy court case story, campaigners were able to pop up all over the media this week talking about the link between aviation and climate change;
  • BAA managed to simultaneously look evil and buffoonish, which can’t really add much credibility to their already-pretty-pathetic arguments for airport expansion;
  • The judge (Mrs Justice Swift) made some clear rulings on how the Prevention from Harassment Act was not intended to be used to stifle peaceful protest, which will hopefully make it much harder for amoral slimetoads like TLC to play their nasty little legal games in the future.

There was one slightly sour twist in yesterday’s events, however: those cheeky rapscallions BAA sneaked out of court before the hearing was finished and, displaying the integrity and honesty that make them such a beacon of good corporate practice, they told all the media that they’d won the case. Combine this with a healthy dash of lazy journalism and what do you get? All the major media outlets trumpeting BAA’s “victory” for a few hours before getting round to reading the results properly and realising they’d got it wrong. By this time, the almost hilariously dire freebie “London Paper” had already printed their brilliant “Heathrow kicks out eco-demo” headline, accompanied by an article so crudely cut-and-pasted from the newswires that it included both of the following sentences:

But campaigners claim the order will stop up to 5 million people using the roads and public transport near the airport.”


A spokesman for Plane Stupid, one of the organisations behind the protest, said: “BAA sought a criminal injunction against 5 million people and in fact didn’t get anything like that – it was a complete failure.””

Sheer genius.

Even the usually-reliable George Monbiot managed to get confused over this – in today’s Guardian he’s written what would have been a great article about the erosion of the right to peaceful protest if only BAA had won their case. Except they didn’t.

One last time then, just to clear this up: as explained on the camp’s website, the Camp for Climate Action is completely injunction-free, is going ahead as planned, and is going to be utterly brilliant.

Special thanks must go to BAA for all of their hard work in making this possible.

Thursday, 2 August 2007


See below for a statement from the Camp for Climate Action on the injunction that BAA are currently trying to get imposed on peaceful protestors (originally posted as a comment to my earlier posting). For some background see this Independent article, for the news from yesterday's hot court action see this Indymedia article. The court case is due to finish tomorrow, and the first best place to look for the outcome will almost certainly be Indymedia.

Sorry I've not posted for a while - ludicrous busyosity!

Proper update soon...well, probably at the end of August.



Whether or not BAA win their injunction today, the Camp for Climate Action and direct action against corporate criminals will go ahead.

We accuse BAA of abusing these people’s right to freedom of expression.

We accuse BAA of pushing for the expansion of airports in the full knowledge that it will lead directly to climate change and indirectly to the deaths of millions.

We accuse BAA of lying to local people, having first promised an end to the expansion of Heathrow in 1978.

We accuse BAA of being climate criminals. A crime for which they cannot be punished under UK law and which the government is actively supporting them in committing.

Today we are sending out a call to anyone that believes that BAA are the real criminals in this case, that knows that governments and corporations will not solve the problem of climate change but that it is down to ordinary people to find the solution, that sees that we are living beyond what the earth’s resources can sustain and need to create major social change to live sustainably.

We call on anyone who wants to find a way back from the brink of climate catastrophe to come to the Camp for Climate Action near Heathrow Airport from the 14th to the 21st August. To join a day of mass action against corporate climate criminals on the 19th, and to learn together how we can turn this situation around.

The responsibility to tackle climate change lies with us all.


The injunction's under the Protection from Harrassment Act 1997, intended to protect vulnerable women from dangerous stalker ex-boyfriends. It's insane that one of the best protected sites in the UK could feel harrassed by peaceful protesters outside its perimeter, let alone a member of the RSPB with a balloon - one of the named prohibited items - standing on a Finsbury Park tube platform.