On Saturday the 16th October, hundreds of climate activists blockaded the access road to Coryton oil refinery in Essex. This was more than just a symbolic direct action - it directly impacted on the oil system. More than 50 tankers were prevented from leaving the site, that's about 375,000 gallons of fuel.
The day started with 3 blocs meeting in locations around central London, all waiting in anticipation and ready to occupy, build, blockade and reclaim space. As the masses travelled further out of central London, with less than happy police in tow, the energy was mounting. A large road blockade to the Shell Havens Oil Site further down the road consisted of beautiful bamboo tripods, some suitably creative banners and costumes and a personal highlight - the Stilt Bloc.
Police were forced to close the road as further on 12 female activists handcuffed themselves to vehicles deliberately blocking the way for fuel tankers. The day was part of a global week of action against the fossil fuel industry. As the UK's biggest refinery, Coryton is responsible for 22% of the national forecourt demand. Our lives have become so saturated with oil that unless drastic changes are made, we won't stand a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.
The Crude Awakening highlighted the failure of governments to have the guts to make the necessary changes; as usual, profits are put before people. Finding new oil reserves is the last thing we need and yet oil companies, hand in hand with governments, continue scouring the planet for the last few drops of dirty oil.
So it's about time we stopped oil companies trampling the rights of local communities, devastating local environments and pushing us all closer towards tipping points. Instead we need to start finding alternative solutions and learning skills for a post-oil future.
Following the recent protest and complaints to the charities commission calling for an end to the Fairford Air Tattoo's Charitable status, the Air Tattoo has now dropped the "working to support RAF Charitable Trust" logo from it's website.
In a recent blog we highlighted the major issues and controversy surrounding the Fairford Air Tattoo event and a week on, it has been revealed that the logo on the Air Tattoo website has now been dropped.
This is an admission on their side that they should never have been operating as a charity. Up to now, they have always played the charity hand in all their advertising, with the implication that if you buy a ticket you are contributing to a worthy cause. It is therefore clear that they have been fraudulently trading.
The Fairford Air Tattoo accounts show only 0.3% of their sales go to helping injured service personnel, and for an event that is so environmentally unsustainable, for it to be branded a charity, it is outright wrong.
CtrlAltShift Blog #3 - Rosie Slay - There are many ways in which self defence doesn't capture the aims of climate action. Self defence, in legislative terms, is a way of defending oneself and one's own interests, and climate action is usually taken to defend others. This is both those in the present who do not have the luxury of time before they face the consequences of a changing climate, and those in the future, who may not have the opportunity to defend themselves from climate change, because our generation's actions have pushed us too far.
Climate action is, however, self defence in a broader sense of the word; defending human life and human communities, rather than any one individual. As a species ourselves, we are completely intertwined with the wider biological system we live in: "Earth". If we choke the lungs of the planet we only choke ourselves. If we strangle the planet's life system (of clean air, water and natural resources), we, as one of the recipients of these life systems, will only serve to strangle ourselves.
'Self defence' is often understood as a reaction of someone who is under (immediate) threat. But in many cases, our laws and institutions protect rich individuals, big businesses and economic growth, having little regard for the future generations, the protection of natural resources or social justice. This is clear from the case of the Climate 9, who, seeking to defend themselves and others, have instead been found 'guilty' by the courts, for the actions they took to shut down a polluting industry.
I believe that, at this juncture of the fight against climate change, climate action should not only be excused as self defence, but accepted and encouraged as the only rational response to possible climate catastrophe. Climate action (in whatever shape or form) can be far more proactive and socially responsible than the finger pointing and lip service which constitutes the sum total of our own governments reaction to this challenge.
We’re very excited about Just Do It, the upcoming documentary featuring many of Plane Stupid’s finest.Please lend them your support, it’ll be well worth it we promise.
Just Do It: get off your arse and change the world is the inside story on the country’s biggest troublemakers.This upcoming feature documentary is a behind the scenes portrait of UK climate activists by acclaimed filmmaker Emily James.The film, currently in post-production (that means the edit) is set for release in Spring 2011 and will be free to watch and free to share.
Just Do It is funded entirely through donations, freeing the film from the constraints of investors or broadcasters.Through a totally unique production model that embraces crowd-funding and the power of working collectively, this film is breaking new ground in independent production.But they need your support.
From TODAY Lush will be matching all donations made to the film, pound for pound up to £10K for a limited time. The Challenge: £20K in 20days – you give half, Lush gives half. So there’s never been a better time to show your support to this truly independent project.Don’t sit on the fence, throw your contribution into their online hat and Lush will match your generosity.
Visit www.just-do-it.org.uk to donate.Do it today, join our crowd and be part of this pioneering film. And of course, donating is only the first step. To make this whole crowd funding malarkey work Just Do It is relying on you to recruit your friends, family, colleagues and anyone else you know to join the crowd and donate. Here’s how:
1 – Email your friends, family and colleagues. Below is a prepared sample message for you but remember it’s the personal touch that counts.
2 – Facebook – update your status, (inc. www.just-do-it.org.uk) post on your friends’ wall, invite your friends to like our page here
3 - There’s nothing like the real world. Start a conversation, show someone the trailer, pick up the phone – convince someone to donate.
There’s a sample pre-packaged message for you below to help you on your way.
Subject: Get off your arse and help these guys
There’s an amazing documentary film being made but it can’t get finished without our help
It’s called Just Do It and it’s going to be a feature film about climate change activists, it’s going to be funny and inspiring. They’re making it totally independently (ie no big backers) and planning to give it to us for free. But money doesn’t grow on trees, so they need our help.
Go over to their website, check it out, and make a donation. RIGHT NOW Lush are doubling donations so get in there and make it count.
CtrlAltShift Blog #2 - Ask most direct action environmentalists what we should do with all the airports and coal-fired power stations, and they will probably give you a funny look - "obviously we should shut them down!" Josh Moos explains...
Unfortunately, coal-fired power stations and airports are currently workplaces for thousands of workers, from technicians to baggage handlers. Most environmentalists have a vague idea that they want these workers to be involved in a 'just transition' to a low-carbon economy, but what does that really mean? Even when the environmental movement acknowledges the "problem" of these workers' existence, it has a tendency of overlooking their agency and potential power to effect change. If we are to prevent catastrophic climate change, these issues must be addressed.
Workers in high-emitting industries are not the enemy. Climate change is not caused by workers, but by a system based on profit and accumulation where the majority of people in society produce the wealth and a minority appropriate it. This system is called capitalism.
By understanding the causes of climate change, we can also work out the solutions to it. If it is the workers that produce the wealth, then ultimately it is the workers that hold the real power in our society. Those best placed to press the figurative "stop" button in a coal-fired power station are not the people frantically (if admirably) throwing themselves at the fences, but those working in that power station.
Those dynamics were clearly demonstrated by the recent strikes by British Airways cabin crew. By striking, they grounded thousands of planes, and had a considerably bigger impact on emissions than myself and other activists did when we shut down Stansted Airport for several hours in 2008.
This is not to suggest that Plane Stupid shutting down Stansted was unsuccessful, or that environmental direct action of that kind is in anyway pointless. However the fact remains that, while the BA strikes may not have had a directly "environmentalist" motivation, the workers' action still prevented considerably more emissions than we did. We have to recognise the power that workers hold.
This is not simply a question of using workers as a conveniently-placed army to disrupt the activity of high-emitting workplaces. It is about disrupting the wage relation and profit motive that are, fundamentally, the root causes of climate change. By striking workers challenge the "right" of their bosses to run their workplaces (and, by extension, the whole economy) in the sole interests of profit. This creates the possibility of workplaces and a society in which other interests - those of human need and environmental sustainability - come first.
Even a strike around "bread-and-butter" issues like pay or pensions poses the question of power and control. If climate change activists active within the workers movement can win workers in high-emitting industries to a radical environmental perspective, we could again see workers taking action to save the planet as well as their jobs. This is what happened at the Lucas Aerospace plants in the 1970s; when faced with redundancies, the workers developed an Alternative Corporate Plan to convert their factories and save their jobs. The factory produced military hardware, but the workers demonstrated that it could instead manufacture renewable energy equipment.
From the point of view of an environmental activist and not a worker in a car factory, this may all seem rather abstract, but the implications are crucial. The environmental movement needs to engage with workers in high-emitting industries, rather than alienating them. Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group (CACCTU) have attempted to start this process with their "Million Climate Jobs" Report, and Workers' Climate Action is a network built on the idea of working-class environmentalism.
But we need these initiatives to grow. At the most basic level, if a car factory is threatened with closure we shouldn't lick our lips at the prospect of getting rid of a high-emitting workplace, but actively campaign alongside workers to keep the plant open, while helping develop worker-led conversion plans so that factories currently producing cars or aeroplanes begin producing socially and environmentally necessary products.
Everyone knows that climate change will hit the poorest first and hardest, but a united working class is not a vulnerable victim, it is a significant social power. A 'just transition' is not an abstract concept but an integral part of the fight for the survival of our planet. On 20 July 2010, Linamar car factory workers started a fight to save their jobs, and BA cabin crew workers rejected a pitiful pay offer from bullying boss Willie Walsh.
These are workers' struggles in the here and now which need our support and solidarity; they are the path to a just transition and sustainable future.
Plane Stupid's Polar Bear ad has been nominated for the Viral Video Award 2010! Out of 500 submissions, 20 were selected for the competition starting on Monday 18th October.
Online voting will be open for one month on www.viralvideoaward.com, with the award ceremony taking place on November 19th within the 26th International Short Film Festival Berln run by Interfilm Berlin. The film is written and commissioned by creative agency Mother, made by production company Rattling Stick and directed by Daniel Kleinman.
Aviation is the fastest growing cause of climate change, and the film reminds viewers that each flight has an impact. So get voting from the 18th October!