Saturday, 29 August 2009

Climate Camp - Day Three

My third day began by wandering around the perimeter helping a couple of guys from the defence group secure the fencing, which had taken a bit of a battering during the night from wind. That's the beauty of Climate Camp, there's always something to get stuck in with and never a shortage of help if you're in need. This was soon followed by the fencing team coming to the rescue of an Italian guy and his girlfriend desperately trying to pitch their tent as the heavens opened. I'd ignored the forecast of rain to venture out in shorts and t-shirts and I was soon ringing wet through as we tackled with the flapping tent. As if to rub it in, it seemed the rain was only targeting Climate Camp - in the distance, Canary Wharf was swathed in golden sunlight. It's times like these I wonder why I don't wait for the British climate to warm a little bit before getting involved with the fight against climate change...

In mid-afternoon the Indymedia guys from Leeds and the North held their first media workshop. Around twenty people, including a secondary school teacher, an architect, a Brazilian girl and a Bohemian looking Czech guy sat around in a circle to hear how the Indymedia collective works and how it can be used to an activist's advantage. Many of the people in the workshop had little media experience and simply wanted to know how they could be given a voice. This is the essence of Climate Camp, sharing skills and knowledge and educating each other to help each other's battles.

Indymedia was originally set up in Seattle in 1999 ahead of the now infamous WTO meeting to report on events without any vested interests taking over and forcing the news to pander to editors or advertisers. A concurrent outlet in London helped disseminate news from the 'frontline' to try and counter mainstream interpretations of proceedings. It's since spread to over 70 countries around the world with numerous collectives within each nation.

The group run on the principle of open publishing and are run in a non-hierarchical manner with different groups covering different regions. Anybody can publish news to the Indymedia website and the only stories removed are usually those that are pushing an authoritarian or other agenda counter to their own loose political leanings, but they're never fully removed and if the community wishes they can always be reinstated.

They have a fraught relationship with the mainstream media, who often steal content and don't credit them. They also point out the hypocrisy of some media, such as the Guardian who ran a story covering Climate Camp alongside adverts for jobs involved in Heathrow's proposed third runway.

A quick Q&A followed with other members of the group sharing their ideas and knowledge of how to use basic media to further their cause and lots of notes were scribbled down by an eager audience.

After the workshop I went for another wander around the site which had swelled with more tents. People were either busy learning about generating electricity with bicycles, fixing up toilets, cooking meals for upwards of 300 people, taking part in workshops on a variety of different topics or listening to slam poetry in the main marquee. You're never short of something to do at Climate Camp.

I finished the day with a talk about airport expansion, joined by Alan from the Stop City Airport Masterplan (SCAM) group. The people of the villages around Heathrow's third runway have been fighting plans for nearly a decade but were beginning to feel jaded and adopting an almost defeatist attitude until Climate Camp sprung up on their doorstep in 2007, reinvigorating the campaign. Asked why that was, one of the campaigners said that although wary of the campers at first, to see outsiders who were utterly committed to stopping the runway gave a morale boost to a flagging movement. Plane Stupid have also got in on the act and introduced the Adopt a Resident scheme to give wider support to locals. The campaigns team now feel confident the plans will be dropped, especially as the Conservatives have voiced their opposition to the runway and look likely to win the next election, but there are still many smaller battles, like the expansion of London City Airport, to be fought.


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