Friday, 28 August 2009

Climate Camp - Day Two

Day Two of Climate Camp started with the first of the promised non-violent direct actions in the City of London.

A number of campers donned their finest garb and locked sights on the Climate Exchange on Bishopsgate, target of the G20 Camp in the City for its role in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, one of the world's biggest carbon markets.

I set off to get some video but by the time I got there they'd left. Of their own accord I think, not because of the police, so on to Blackheath went I.

The camp was almost in top gear when I arrived and a marked contrast to the previous day. Many of the neighbourhood kitchens and compost toilets had been constructed, as well as the central infrastructure including the comms, welcome tent, first aid and media tents.

The Welcome tent, just by the main entrance, was staffed by two very charming ladies dishing out sweets, literature and advice about the camp. It's also where you can go to meet other people if you've turned up on your own, meet 'guides' if you're a local resident come for a butcher's and see which jobs need doing, if you feel inclined to get your hands dirty.

There were still a couple of big jobs remaining, principally the main marquee in which most of the workshops are held. The four masts had already been erected, hoisted up and fixed in place by guy ropes and mounted with Climate Camp flags. It almost looked as though a tall ship had been sunk in the heath, only its masts showing. The canvas that makes up the roof of the tent was lain on the ground, the four large sheets being threaded together at the seams. Later on (things can go quite slowly at Climate Camp, but in such lovely sunshine I don't blame them) dozens of campers stood around the edge of the marquee ready to lift it into place. A few strong campers crawled under the fabric to the masts and began winching the canvas up from the centre. As it went up, the helpers on the outside set in place wooden poles onto which the walls would later be attached. It was done in a matter of seconds, adding to the Camp's lovely little skyline, though it paled in comparison to the docklands in the distance.

Inside the media tent, a photo opportunity for the Guardian turned into an impromptu workshop on citizen journalism as the media group quickly lead us through how to produce photo and video stories on the cheap, accompanied by some handy little leaflets providing templates. Paul Lewis spoke to me after about producing our own content, but my sentiment about us not trusting the mainstream media didn't make his article...

The London neighbourhood was a hive of activity all afternoon, especially around lunch time as campers queued up to receive their vegetarian fare. A blackboard with a rota on let people add their names to duties such as cooking and cleaning and it was all carried off with ease and efficiency. Once the pots and pans have been washed, the water is put through two redundant bath tubs filled with hay, pebbles and hessian, which strips the water of the detergents and chemicals used in the cleaning process. The water filters through and collects in a large hole in the ground, about two feet deep. This 'clean' water now seeps back into the ground, recycled and with minimum harm to the environment. Clever, huh?

Elsewhere in the camp, people were chilling in their neighbourhoods, listening to bicycle-powered soundsystems and waxing lyrical about all things environment and politics. A crowd had begun to gather at the main entrance which had now been beefed up with hay bales in an almost medieval-style castle entrance, to thwart any attempts by the police to enter the camp. People were sat in the tripods and up on the bales in what I thought was a photo thing for the media. Turned out Frances Wright of the legal group was speaking to the Met's silver commander, Julia Pendry. The camp had taken the decision not to allow the police in to the camp out of respect for those who had suffered at their hands during the G20, but Pendry, who was only joined by three other officers, didn't seem to mind. Both were smiling and it was all very civil. The police had however, put in place a cherry picker the day before, which the girls in the Welcome tent told me was home to one of those heat sensitive cameras, I assume to see how many people were getting up to in the tents.

By late afternoon I had to leave the camp to head for central London. There'd been no word of any other direct action, though I noticed the Carbon Casino banner was available free for anybody to use, as long as they brought it back. Later that night, the first plenary was held, but it's today (Friday) when the workshops really kick off and no doubt we'll see a few more campers running around the City of London. Bankers, beware!


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