Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kingsnorth Six

When six activists, protesting against climate pollution, scaled a tower at a coal-fired power station in 2007 the resulting court case drew support from the world's leading scientists. Their subsequent acquittal proved historic and changed government policy. Here, the 'Kingsnorth Six' tell their story

* Geraldine Bedell
* The Observer, Sunday 31 May 2009

Six ordinary people. One extraordinary feat of courage and endurance. Twenty thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide belched into the atmosphere in a single day. Twelve members of a jury, reaching a verdict that could change the future of the planet. From these ingredients, Nick Broomfield has fashioned a film that tells the gripping and (the description is unusually literal) life-changing story of the Kingsnorth Six.

When a demonstration at the Kingsnorth power station in north-east Kent in late 2007 led to the arrest of six climate change activists, what had until then seemed a rather dry local planning issue exploded into a story of national and international concern. The verdict at their trial turned out to have far-reaching implications for activism, the future of coal, even the planet.

Now a 20-minute film, A Time Comes, by the much-admired documentary -maker Nick Broomfield, cuts police and Greenpeace footage of the occupation together with news clips and interviews with the activists. What emerges is how ordinary the Kingsnorth Six are - they could be the bloke next door or the woman across the office - but also how brave and tenacious. The film is released just as the government's review of its coal policy is expected and campaigners hope and expect the review will define a seismic shift in official attitudes to carbon emissions.

"I was attracted to making a film about the Kingsnorth Six because they're such everyday people," Broomfield says. "You tend to think of environmental activists as super-fit professionals, but they are modest and understated. I admire the way they were prepared to see it through - to take action for what they believed and take the consequences - and I wanted to make the film immediate, personal, anecdotal.

"I loved the footage of them struggling up a chimney as if in Dante's Inferno. Their story is just a very human one of great courage and great love and belief, which is, I suppose, what all great stories are about."

It is a story that began in October 2007 when a coal-fired power station at the mouth of the river Medway was nearing the end of its natural life. E.On, the German company that owns and operates it, had applied the previous year for planning permission to build a replacement on the site. This would be the first new coal-fired power station in Britain for 30 years, but a string of similar applications was lined up behind. If Kingsnorth went ahead, it was reasonable to assume coal-fired power stations would be built across the country. The government gave every indication it was intending to give permission, though it is widely acknowledged that coal is the single greatest threat to the climate, responsible for about half the fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. The average Briton emits 11 tonnes of carbon a year; it would take this one hypothetical Brit 1,800 years to emit the equivalent of a day's emissions at Kingsnorth.

So, at 5am on the morning of 8 October, protesters waving placards jostled noisily at the front gates of the power station. While the plant's security guards were distracted, another group of about 30 activists made its way quietly along the sea defences at the rear, cut a padlock and sneaked onto the site. "A security truck with a couple of guys tore up," says Ben Stewart, who was there. "We said we were Greenpeace and we had to shut down the power station because of climate change. They said, 'Good luck. Do it safely.'"

Once inside, the activists scattered in the darkness - some to the pump house, 18 to occupy the conveyor belts that carry the coal to the furnace, five to the chimney that towers 220 metres above the hulking mass of the power station. This last group walked inside, closed a metal roller-door behind them and cut the electricity. Two of them - Stewart and Huw Williams, an experienced caver - had been up the inside of a tower at Didcot power station and they expected to find a similar spiral staircase here. Instead, there was a metal ladder fixed to a wall. The wall and the ladder were almost the height of Canary Wharf.

The five were each carrying 50kg bags holding their supplies, which included climbing ropes, paint, food (pasta, pesto, tinned tomatoes, bread, water, coffee, and a cafetiere - "No instant shit for us," Stewart says) and they'd estimated beforehand that it would take them two-and-a-half hours to reach the top. Without a staircase, it was to take them nine.

"It was the most physically exhausting thing I have ever done," Stewart recalls. 'We were climbing up between the four flues. The CO2 goes up at a temperature of 120 degrees and it was like climbing through a huge radiator - the hottest, dirtiest place you could imagine."

The ladder had a "back-scratcher" - a rudimentary metal cage designed to prevent falls - which meant the space was too narrow for their bags. They had to pull up their kit on ropes, using their body weight to haul them between the five platforms. "Imagine the most tired and in pain you've ever been in and multiply that by a million," says Will Rose, a press photographer, who shot much of the footage Broomfield used in his film.

"We hadn't slept much the night before because we were nervous and in a strange place with a lot of other activists, and after a few hours of climbing, any adrenaline had worn off and we were dehydrated and exhausted. I felt as though I was going to collapse. My arms were aching from pulling on the ropes and my legs were aching from taking the strain. You'd get to a platform and rest for a minute and then have to pull up the bags. You can't stop because you can't let down the rest of the team."

The smokestack was filthy. They had coal dust in their mouths, up their noses. They had to scrape it off like tar. After hours of struggle - "I'm told it was nine but it felt like 12," Stewart says, "a dusty, dark, carcinogenic, hot, horrible experience for hours and hours and hours" - they saw light at the top. They were running at least six hours late. They rested briefly to recover some strength, aware that if they stopped for too long it would get dark. Williams rigged up ropes. Emily Hall, who works for Greenpeace in logistics, mixed paint. Rose shot photographs and film. Stewart spoke to the outside world, including his parents. "You might see me on the news on top of a power station chimney," he warned them. "They said, 'Are you sure that's wise?'"

At 6pm, Kevin Drake, an experienced climber and freelance industrial rope access safety supervisor, went over the side of the smokestack with Hall, who had only been climbing a couple of years, "sporadically". Rose's footage, if you are at all anxious about heights, is sickening: a vertiginous drop down a brick tower, Drake and Hall dangling, tiny figures in dizzying mid-air in the growing gloom.

"It was OK going over," Hall says. "I'd been asked to do it two weeks before so I'd had time to prepare myself mentally. It was later on that it didn't feel so nice, when it was getting dark and starting to rain. I could see the people on the conveyor belts being led away by the police below and that was disheartening. The ropes were really heavy, because they had to be so long, plus we were carrying paint on our backs. Our muscles were already sore from the climb."

It is hard to imagine any of them being in trouble with the law under any other circumstances and for Rose, too, the numbers of police were alarming. "It was cold and windy up there, but the thing that scared me most was the police helicopter that was circling us and the police vans below, with all these little black dots. I've got a huge amount of respect for the police, but it was alarming to think that sooner or later we'd have to come down and face them."

The plan was for Drake and Hall to paint "Gordon Bin It" down the side of the chimney. Drake's main worry was that he was "a bit dyslexic" and may make a spelling mistake. They judged the letter size with a length of knotted rope and from a distance the paint job looks surprisingly professional. "It didn't look so good from close up," Hall says.

They only managed to get as far as "Gordon". By 8pm, the light was failing and they were worried about the climb back up. Tim Hewke, who was co-ordinating from a van on the ground and would eventually be arrested and charged as the sixth member of the team, radioed, urging them to return to the top.

For Hall, getting back up the chimney "was the hardest thing I've ever done. It was a really hard slog, pulling on a rope, and my muscles were exhausted from pulling on ropes all day. I was emotionally drained. My hands were raw from climbing the metal ladder. But Kevin stayed with me. I swore a lot and he whistled and sang a bit and told me I was fine. I knew they were cooking pasta at the top, and I was going to Paris on holiday in a couple of weeks, so I kept repeating to myself, 'Pasta, Paris. Pasta, Paris.' And I knew that not making it wasn't an option".

The pasta and pesto was, by general agreement, one of the best meals anyone had ever eaten. Drake and Hall had intended to go back over the edge the following morning to complete their sign writing, but it turned out that the police in the helicopter, who had been shouting something inaudible at them through a megaphone, were warning that E.On had obtained a high court injunction. They would have to come down.

They decided they were too exhausted to get back safely that night, so they went inside the chimney and slept in the heat and coal dust until 6am. After a breakfast of tinned tomatoes, bread and coffee, they packed up and started back. "It felt OK to come down then," Stewart says. "We felt we'd done something important."

Emerging from the chimney, Hall "felt really proud. So many people had been involved, there had been so much planning and investment, and it was great to be part of it. There was an amazing sense of fulfilment".

The five activists emerged at around 1pm. The police - very pleasant, they all make a point of saying - took them away to their vans, swabbed them for DNA and fingerprinted them. Eventually, they took them to Gillingham police station. "I had to shower naked in front of two policemen," Rose says, "but it was so amazing having a shower, I didn't really care."

All the protesters who had been occupying the conveyor belts had also been arrested. They were charged with aggravated trespass; the six learned that they would also face charges of criminal damage. Hall and Williams were released "by a fluke" that evening with the conveyor belt team. The other four were held in custody for 24 hours.

They had discussed beforehand the possible consequences of the action. "It was unlikely we'd be let off with a parking ticket," Stewart says. Even so, they were surprised by the extent of the criminal damage - £30,000 - said to be the cost of cleaning the tower. "We left absolutely nothing up there," Hall says, "and all they did to clean it up was to paint white boxes over our lettering."

Perhaps, though, they weren't entirely dismayed. Any criminal damage charge for more than £5,000 has to be tried by a jury. "My first thought was, 'I'm going to go to jail,'" Stewart says. "My second was, 'But I'm going to get a jury trial.'" It would be an opportunity to put the climate change case in public.

The months of waiting for the court case were difficult. Criminal damage cases involving similar sums had resulted in prison sentences. "Some days, I felt we'd done the right thing and people would see that and we'd be absolutely fine," Rose says. "On other days, I'd think, 'Oh my God, I'm going to prison for this.' You can see what I look like. I wouldn't last five minutes in prison."

The eminent barrister hired to defend them, Keir Starmer, was made director of public prosecutions a month before the trial, leaving them without a lawyer. Michael Wolkind QC stepped in. "We had a meeting with him," Stewart says, "and asked who else he'd represented. He said, 'The nail bomber, Tony Martin and the 7/7 bombers.' We said, 'Have you ever represented anyone who's not a fascist? And have you ever won a case?'"

The trial opened at Maidstone Crown Court (in Ann Widdecombe's constituency, perhaps not the first place a climate change activist would choose) on 1 September 2008. "Michael Wolkind prepared really diligently," Stewart says, "but his first line to the jury was, 'They care about Tuvalu. Do you too?' And I thought, 'That's it, I'm going down.'"

The standard defence against criminal damage is that by committing the crime, the defendant prevents damage to more valuable property - so it's acceptable to kick down the door of a burning house if you thereby prevent its complete destruction. The argument Wolkind and his team had to make was that shutting down Kingsnorth for 24 hours was a significant contribution to retarding carbon emissions, preventing the worse harm of climate change. They also had to establish that there had been no legal options.

To everyone's surprise, one of the world's leading climate change scientists, Professor James Hansen, responded to an email from Joss Garman, Greenpeace's coal campaigner, by saying he would testify on behalf of the Six. Hansen, whom Garman describes as "a rock star of climate change", has been director of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies for the past 20 years, an adviser to US presidents, and was the first person to testify to Congress on the seriousness of climate change. While in the UK, he met the prime minister and the foreign secretary, because that is the kind of person he is, but his reason for coming was to testify in a small courtroom in Kent. The nub of his argument was that every tonne of carbon counts, so that while it may not be possible to pinpoint the extinction of one species to a particular molecule of carbon, it is reasonable to assert that Kingsnorth alone would lead to the extinction of 400 species over its lifetime.

Both Geoff Meaden, professor of geography at Canterbury Christ Church University, and Hansen produced maps showing the impact of rising sea levels on the Kent coastline, the world's leading climate scientist giving a private seminar to the jury about the future of their area. Inuit leader Aqqaluk Lynge described the melting of polar ice and its impact on Inuit homes and food supplies.

Gordon Brown had just changed his mind about an autumn election; Zac Goldsmith argued that this had closed the normal democratic channels, especially given that it had recently been estimated that the world was a mere 100 months away from a climate tipping point. Jennifer Morgan, a former adviser to Tony Blair and an expert on international climate negotiations, said the G8 had failed to deliver significant progress in preventing catastrophic change.

The defence's arguments were given a boost by the 2006 Stern review for the British government, which put a price on climate change for the first time, calculating that each tonne of carbon causes $85 worth of damage. This means that shutting down Kingsnorth for one day may have prevented around £1m of damage.

Each of the defendants had prevented 3,300 tonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere (their share of a normal Kingsnorth day's output). It would have taken them 300 years of zero-carbon living apiece to have had an equivalent impact.

They all had to give evidence. "It was petrifying," Stewart says. "I kept thinking if I buggered it up I'd be letting down my fellow defendants and ruining the chances of making this important statement. As the case went on and the evidence piled up, and it was such a compelling story, so emotional, I began to think we might get three of the jury not to convict - which, of course, would get us off. I started to think we might even get five."

The jury was discharged at 10am on Tuesday 9 September. They did not return their verdict that day and it was difficult for the Six to sleep that night. "I managed to get through the trial fairly well, to hold my composure," Rose says. "Then about an hour before the verdict on Wednesday, I almost had a blackout. I was shaking, my heart was racing, my breath was short. I kept going back over everything, all the evidence. It was like seeing your life before you die."

"So much depended on that first utterance - 'N' for not guilty or 'G' for guilty," Stewart says. "As soon as the foreman went 'N', the court erupted." His mother, in the public gallery, burst into tears. So did Hall. There was elation in the Greenpeace offices, where everyone was gathered round director John Sauven's phone, waiting for Stewart's text; and in New Zealand, where Hall is from; in the Northumbrian coal mining village where Rose grew up; and especially among all the other activists who had been at Kingsnorth.

That night, the 10 o'clock news reported that a government decision on the future of Kingsnorth had been postponed. That this was a U-turn is not in doubt. E.On had already gone out to tender for construction of the new plant. Exchanges between the company and the civil servants in the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), obtained by Greenpeace under Freedom of Information legislation, prove that the government had been drawing up conditions for approval of Kingsnorth and was prepared to be conciliatory about how far these related to climate change.

Within a month of the verdict, business secretary John Hutton was reshuffled and responsibility for energy moved from BERR to the new Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), which put energy where it belongs, not with business, but with the environment. The new secretary of state was Ed Miliband who, with David Miliband and Hilary Benn, had previously opposed a new Kingsnorth in cabinet.

The government's previous position had been that the new plant would have to be "carbon capture and storage [CCS]-ready". In other words, whenever technology to capture and bury carbon emissions became feasible, Kingsnorth must be able to plug it in. For Greenpeace, this was meaningless - "It's like saying my garage is Ferrari-ready," Stewart says. CCS technology does exist, but has never been tried at scale. It may not work. It certainly may not be financially viable for a huge power plant.

The new policy, as articulated by Ed Miliband in April, complete with a neat soundbite - "The era of new unabated coal has come to an end" - is that no new coal-fired power station will be allowed unless it captures the carbon from 400 megawatts straight away. In the case of Kingsnorth, this would represent about a quarter of its output. And by 2025, Kingsnorth would have to have CCS technology for its entire output.

Many questions remain to be answered. The power companies are now lobbying fiercely, arguing that it makes no sense for them to build power plants that could be inoperable after 2025 if the technology doesn't work or proves to be unaffordable. They have the support of some of the civil servants who moved across from BERR and some members of the cabinet. Greenpeace, meanwhile, doesn't want to see a new plant that guarantees only that a quarter of emissions will be captured; it would rather the CCS experiment was tried on an existing plant.

Results of a consultation on a new coal policy are due from DECC imminently. Miliband will have to decide whether CCS is a promising enough technology to justify public investment and, if so, what form it will take. Carbon can be captured before combustion, which is a cleaner method, or after, which has the advantage that the technology can be fitted to existing power stations and potentially sold abroad.

Greenpeace's position is that there should be limits on carbon emissions for all power stations (which it would set currently at 350g of CO2 per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated and reduce in time as the technology develops). While CCS, certainly pre-combustion, would meet that proposed standard, the technology is not proven and Greenpeace would prefer to rely on renewables.

These are highly technical questions. What is clear, even to those of us who are clueless about the science of carbon capture or unqualified to judge whether the energy gap can be bridged without coal, is that Kingsnorth is now unlikely to go ahead without offering some hope for climate change. The publicity generated at the plant in October 2007 and the subsequent verdict has almost certainly (as long as Miliband doesn't crack) paved the way to a more thoughtful energy policy which has climate change at its heart rather than as bolt-on, entirely dispensable rhetoric.

In this, the bravery of the Kingsnorth Six was vital. What they have shown is that direct action can be a legitimate form of political action. Properly carried out, it can muster public support and change people's minds. It can even shift government policy. In years to come, we may have cause to thank these sympathetic, courageous and ordinary individuals. It's not a bad result from a day and night up a dirty chimney. They all think now that the climb was worth it.

Power to the people

They came, they climbed, they conquered

December 2006
German company E.On applies for planning permission to replace the existing plant at Kingsnorth in Kent with the first new coal-fired station in Britain for 30 years. The plant would produce an estimated 19,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every day.

October 2007
Environmental activists hold a demonstration at Kingsnorth. Around 30 get on site and shut down the plant; five scale the inside of the towers and paint a giant message on the outside. All are arrested. The five who scaled the tower and the activist who coordinated the ascent from the ground are charged with causing criminal damage of £30,000.

January 2008
Medway council votes to allow building to go ahead at Kingsnorth but recommends a public inquiry.

The Royal Society criticises the government policy on coal, saying that any new coal-fired power stations unable to capture and bury 90% of its carbon emissions by 2020 s hould be closed.

The head of the government's sustainable development commission, Sir Jonathon Porritt, tells the secretary of state that a new generation of coal plants would "destroy the overall credibility of the government's climate change programme".

Environmental activists hold a climate camp outside Kingsnorth for 10 days. Hundreds are arrested while taking direct action against the plant.

The trial of the Kingsnorth Six - those involved in the scaling of the tower - takes place. Professor James Hansen, director of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the first person to testify to Congress about the threat of climate change, gives evidence on their behalf. All are acquitted.

The committee on climate change finds that coal stations should be expected to capture and bury all of their carbon emissions by the early 2020s.

April 2009
Ed Miliband, secretary of state for the newly created Department of Energy and Climate Change, announces a change of policy on coal, ruling out unabated coal stations.
Ally Carnwath

The Kingsnorth Six
Kevin Drake
Kevin Drake, 44, lives in a Wiltshire village with his wife and daughter. He works as a rope access safety supervisor and loves the outdoor life, including caving, camping, rock climbing and body boarding. He has been volunteering for Greenpeace for 10 years.

Huw Williams
Williams, 41, is a former shepherd and sign writer from Northamptonshire, and is a keen caver, touring cyclist and narrowboat owner. He has been volunteering with Greenpeace for 15 years and his interests include rural crafts and wildlife watching. He is now cycling to Namibia with his partner and is somewhere outside Tangier.
Emily Hall
Born in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, Hall left home to travel in 1996. She lives in London, works for Greenpeace in logistics and learnt to climb in order to get more involved in direct action. "My mum was incredibly worried throughout the trial. I rang to tell her the verdict straight away. I also rang my boyfriend, who was relieved because he had been worried that he'd have to bust me out of jail."

Tim Hewke
Tim Hewke co-ordinated the Kingsnorth action from the ground. He is in his 40s and has worked for Greenpeace for 13 years as a researcher. He lives in Harrietsham, Kent, and likes "wining and dining, photography and growing vegetables - and recently won the prize for the tallest sunflower in Chegworth.

Ben Stewart
Stewart, 35, is a law graduate from Lyminge, near Canterbury. He is head of media at Greenpeace UK, and a former Guardian Young Journalist of the Year for an interview he conducted with Michael Howard. The then-home secretary lost his temper and threw Stewart out of his office after a question about the Criminal Justice Bill. He has met Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to discuss green issues.

Will Rose
Rose, 29, grew up in Ashington, Northumberland. "The town was completely supported by coal. My grandfathers worked down the pits and my father was an engineer in the industry. It was a big thing for me to find out that coal was a bad thing." A press photographer, he now lives in London and works for Greenpeace and other NGOs: "I wanted to use my skills for something I believe in."


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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On The Green Front

If you are interested in climate change and environmental news then you might like to check out this new radio show.

Other good shows include Living of Earth by Public Radio International and Living Planet on Deutche Welle Radio. Both of these are available as podcasts. All three of these programs could do with funding so if you value your green news then don't act like it is free to make, it aint!

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The True Cost of Chevron Campaign today launched a new website as a hub of information on Chevron’s global toxic operations. The website highlights Chevron’s human and environmental consequences around the world while illustrating the unprecedented coalition against Chevron.

“ We are excited to launch this comprehensive site illustrating the breadth of Chevron’s destructive operations globally,” said Nick Magel, True Cost of Chevron media coordinator.

The website launch was to be coupled with an ad campaign, intended to highlight communities affected by Chevrons operations. The ads, designed as parodies of Chevron’s “Will You Join Us” advertisement blitz were immediately rejected by CBS Outdoor.

"Chevron is running a campaign that's merely window-dressing their dismal environmental and human rights record. It's hypocritical for CBS to reject our billboards. It's a shame that we can't help our client tell their story with a billboard or two." said Charlie Cardillo, President and Creative Director of Underground Advertising, the agency that developed the campaign.

On May 26th the True Cost of Chevron Campaign releases it's alternative annual report for the consideration of Chevron shareholders at the May 27th AGM

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UK Climate Policy?

Things are getting tough for Ed Miliband. It looks like fudging the issues isn't the same as providing leadership.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Climate Camp Ecuador!

At the moment as Marea Creciente (RT-Ecuador) is just begining with very few members (full time workers & students!), we're joining forces with other groups, which includes the national Indigenous movement.

First, to resist the big fossil fuel national battle against Mining on a Large Scale, which is an agressive project that the ecuadorian assembly and government are trying to put forward. We already had a collective public protest and hunger strike at the beggining of the year and another big one coming from all directions of
the country was stopped by the government forces, before people could gather at the capital.

The debate is reaching the press every time but the issue of 'finding a new road for the national economy' is still strong in the general public, including the miners. The Ecuadorian economy, after all our background as an exploited country is trying to reach an independence with the new government -which is, by the way, the most decent we have had in more than 25 years! Now the battle is to make people understand that we have to learn from other countries' experiences.

Second, and with a more optimistic ground is the creation of the first Climate Camp in Ecuador (!!), with Mining as the target. RT-Ecuador ( MC) is meeting almost every week with other groups and activists, to discuss the way to do this. There's desire to kick it out this year(!) which would be an amazing victory, although the greatest difficulty is achieving consensus about how to focus on the target and ,of course, the funding for the camp.

  • MC has already given a talk in the University about the Climate Camp; and in union with 'La Casita del Arbol' activists, a workshop about a foreign project for Mining in all SAmerica (!)
  • We have to thank to our local activists Centre for their support with a space for MC in their venue! Also thanks to the presence of one of our International-Rising Tiders to support the CCamp process!
  • The way of Direct Action in Ecuador, although has been always present (as in all LA), is a hard one, as our legal infrastructure is still too corrupt to give any guarantees to the people that they're gonna receive treatement in accordance with the law, if they're arrested. We still have a USA military base here, (which should be leaving the country in October by Ecuadorian government orders!) which means that CIA still have a comfortable chair around...

Many thanks to all global folks who, with amazing vibes, would like to visit us to give a hand! and our gratitude will be complete if you PLEASE CONSIDER NOT FLYING to our country!

Thank you all.
With Love and Solidarity,


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Climate Lobby’s Nonstop Growth

The number of companies paying lobbyists to engage with the US govornment has spiralled in recent years. The question is, what effect is this having on policy making. Are the solutions which benefit business the best solutions for society as a whole?

An couple of interesting articles on the topic over at the Centre for Public Integrity:

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Help plan an eco village in SW London! Sat 24th May.

You may be aware of the eco-village occupation which is being planned for Saturday June 6th. The idea is to occupy a disused urban site in SW London near Hammersmith and to start an eco-village community based on sustainable methods of living such as vegetable growing, compost toilets the works. If we combine everyone's skills and talents we can make this thing happen. There is a planning meeting on Saturday 24th May at 5PM at 100 Dukes Avenue Chiswick map here

So far contact has been made with Raven's Ait people (Phoenix) who is very up for it as well as the Land Is Our Campaign who have pledged their full support. Also Plane Stupid and other ecological groups have been contacted with very positive feedback from each so it looks like a good turn out is likely. The attached doc is a draft press release- please any make suggestions or alterations you think are neccessary- be cool maybe to have some graphics if anyone feels so inclined. Once the release is all sorted, please can you distribute it to all and sundry and tell everyone you know who would want to know that this thing is going down or up? (depending on which way you look at it 8-)

The land is everybodys.


For immediate release...


In May 1996, 500 The Land is Ours activists occupied 13 acres of derelict land on the banks of the River Thames in Wandsworth, highlighting the misuse of urban land, the lack of provision of affordable housing and the deterioration of the urban environment. That action grew into far more than just a simple landrights action.

A community grew up on the site called Pure Genius!! over the 5½ months that the occupation lasted for.....

Then and now:

"Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars" Martin Luther King.

In the first three months of 2009, nearly 13,000 britons lost their home to reposessions. Now, perhaps more than ever, the ideas of peaceful land reclamation and eco-villages are becoming recognized as the solution to problems such as overcrowding in cities and the destruction of the land due to harmful agricultural practices.

  • Action:

In the spirit of Pure Genius, On June 6th 2009, hundreds of activists will converge on a piece of derelict land close by to Hammersmith in south west London to create an eco-village community based entirely on sustainable technology and construction techniques.

Come and be a part of this eco-village community.

  • Inspired:

This eco-village occupation is inspired by campaigns like The Land is Ours which campaigns peacefully for access to the land, its resources, and the decision-making processes affecting them, for everyone, irrespective of race, gender or age. for more information, please visit:

  • Meetup:

The exact location of the site will be revealed on the day. The meetup point for media is at Waterloo Station (under the clock in the middle of the station) at 10AM on saturday 6th June. Please try to be on time as we don't want to be hanging around all morning.

If you would like to speak to someone regarding the campaign or the occupation, please contact ......... on: . or email:


WELCOME to this URBAN ECO-VILLAGE OCCUPATION. It's a unique action and maybe a bit different from things we've done before. Here's a few practical things you should know.


Somewhere near Hammersmith. The actual site will be revealed just before we get there.


Might not seem like it now, but there is one - honest! We will be setting off together in one - or maybe two or there -groups. If we can't occupy our first site, we have another one to go to, and there are other contingency plans for various things that might go wrong. Wherever you are on the way, there should be people with mobile phones who are in touch with what's going on. If we need to come back here to reorganise and go of again, that won't be a defeat - just adapting to circumstances. If there are too many people for the first train, a group will need to stay behind and catch the next one.


At site 1- our first objective - to walk onto the site. Please get onto the site as quick as you can, then we can shut the gate and we've done it ! If the site gate is blocked and we have to go to site 2, we will need to form up outside site 1 and prepare to travel to site 2 by public transport (a bus ride away).


Let's take 10 mins to look around then have a SITE MEETING. From then on, the people who knew where it was have finished their job and now WE'RE ALL IN CHARGE OF EVERYTHING. No more wannabe field marshals. The important first jobs will be erecting a reception structure near our chosen gate, and leafleting the neighbourhood.


People will be living on at least one side of the site. WHEN WE TAKE OUR SITE, PLEASE CELEBRATE QUIETLY. It's a weekend and the neighbours won't appreciate being blasted out of bed by us. Please consider them in everything you do while we're on site. We're here to gain there support and to work with them to make the local eyesore into a decent place for all of us.


If you are order to leave the site by the police under section 61 of the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act, you may be liable for arrest if you don't do so. Even if the police are wrong in law (which is quite likely) you may still be arrested.


There will be loads of them! A special posse of people has volunteered to "chaperone" the media, show them around, give them press releases and interviews, make sure they don't get too cheeky with cameras, etc. The media posse aren't "leaders" or "spokespeople" any more or less than you are. They're not there to stop you talking to the media if you want - or ignore them if that's what you prefer. Its up to you.

  • KIDS

Site 1 has a feature which could be dangerous to small children (under 6 or 7). You'll see what it is as soon as we arrive. Some of the construction we'll be doing could also be dodgy. IF YOU HAVE SMALL CHILDREN WITH YOU, PLEASE KEEP THEM CLOSE TO YOU. Actually, this site won't be very suitable for small children at first. It'll improve as the week goes on and we're hoping to have a children's day towards the end of the first week.


We haven't got a lot of firewood and worthwhile wood runs are long and difficult in London. Fires could annoy our neighbours. We'll get a kitchen fire going and another gathering one - at least in the evenings. Please try to keep other fires to a minimum and only on parts of the site well away from neighbouring houses or flats.


A special message to all bowel and bladder proprietors: Within an hour of getting in site, we'll have commodious compost bogs rigged up. Another hour or less and we'll have a cunning pisser arranged. Meantime, fi nd a corner of the site to piss in (out of site of neighbours). In case of delays, best place to have your morning dump is here. Now. There won't be anywhere to crap on site until the compost bogs are sorted.

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Build your own wind turbine workshop. Cambridge 5-7 June.

The idea is to build a wind turbine that can be used for Climate camp, EF! and other gatherings and local events, and for participants to acquire the knowledge to build their own turbines.

The cost for the weekend will be a sliding scale between £120-£200, food and
accomadation(camping) included.

V3 are an excellent group who are higly experienced in this field.

*Background to V3 Power:*
We are a DIY renewable energy cooperative, that focus on running courses
teaching people how to build renewable and appropriate technology. The wind
turbines we build are based on a design by Hugh Piggott, more details of which
can be found at <>
More information about V3 power can be found at

*The Wind Turbine:*
The design consists of 3 blades carved from wood, a permanent magnet alternator
consisting of two rotors which are steel disks with permanent magnets on them,
and a stator with hand wound copper coils, all cast in epoxy resin. Everything
is held together on a welded steel mounting. For a weekend course, we will be
building a 2.4m blade diameter, 500W power output turbine, to charge 12V

*Course Structure:*
The course should start on Friday evening, with a lecture giving an
introduction to the wind turbine, and general theory behind wind turbines. For
the following two days, the group will be split into 3 groups, rotating around
3 bases, this way getting an experience in all aspects of the turbine build.
Each session should last 2 hours, with a break inbetween for tea, coffee, lunch
or dinner. The course will culminate on Sunday with the turbine being
assembled on a stand.

*Course Participants*:
We can teach up to 12 people, which results in 4 per group, or 4 per instructor
which results in a good learning environment for the participants.

For further information contact :
markos[at] amy[at]

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Christian Ecology Link Update: AGM, Dirty Coal, Climate March, Climate Rush

1. Event: Operation Noah AGM this Saturday 16th May, 11am - 3-30pm, St Mary's,
Putney Bridge, London SW15 1SN. Guest speaker: Tasmin Omond. RSVP:

2. News: The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition has handed in 85,450 messages to
Ed Miliband to quit dirty coal and say yes to clean, green renewable energy.
Thanking the coalition, Mr. Miliband assured SCC that the Government is
doing the best that it can. We reminded him that the 85,450 messages are to
support the government to make good on its promise to reduce carbon
emissions by 80 by 2050 by rejecting dirty new coal and embracing a
renewable energy future. A big well done everyone - and let's keep going to
March in December

3. Action: The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition has a new resource to help you
engage supporters in your Copenhagen Campaigns and get ready for the big
march on December 5th.

4. Direct Action: A message from Climate Rush: BEGIN THE SUMMER OF PROTEST

On Monday 1st June the UK Parliament returns from recess for the summer
sitting. Climate Rush want to give them a warm welcome and remind them of
the heat they can expect if they continue to ignore climate change. Ed
Miliband (Secretary of State Energy and Climate Change) is in Bonn that
evening, discussing with other 'world leaders' the agenda for the UN Climate
Summit in Copenhagen. Let's give our 'leaders' a taste of the civil
disobedience they can expect if real climate justice fails to materialise.
It is also the first evening of a coal conference at the illustrious
'Chatham House'. Everyone who's anyone, at least in the coal world, will be

We'll begin our bike-ride outside their conference before winding our way
through town. Meet us from 5pm on St James Square, SW1Y 4LE. We'll then move
off at 6pm and take our bikes for a relaxed tour through London. Labour
might think that investing in electric cars is the solution to climate
change but we know that cars using electricity from coal-fired power
stations is yet another red-herring.

Have you ever needed more reason to leave the house, embrace the sunshine
and join the pedal-powered as they move about town? Come along and make your
impact felt.
Best Wishes

Ruth Jarman
Member of CEL Steering Committee

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Richard Briers supports Airplot

Via Greenpeace

We've been busy building an allotment on the Airplot, and today Richard Briers came to help us open it and declare the third runway plans "lunacy".

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Legal action to protect the future from climate change.

The University of Iowa's Centre for Human Rights and the University of Vermont's Environmental Law Centre have jointly started an initiative to seek legal protection for future generations.

The Climate Legacy Initiative (CLI) is devoted to bringing the law of government in line with the laws of nature. Its goal is nothing less than to change the way we think about our world—and the way our laws deal with a world rocked by climate change.

The project has been launched with the publication of a policy paper.

Recalibrating the Law of Humans with the Laws of Nature: Climate Change, Human Rights, and Intergenerational Justice.

Many of the actions taken by industry today can be considered as genuine crimes, the spatial and temporal seperation of cause and effect often stymies action. In terms of principles, however, it is quite clear that the law has a lot to say about the infliction of damages on innocent parties through the persuit of profit, perticularly when the liklihood of this damage is known.

Although the legal system sits within a framework of govornance which has ultimate responsibility for public policy, it can certainly be a useful tool to drive policy if not a practicle means of solving our problems.

  • Climate Change Action has featured previous posts on climate change and the law.

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UK Coal Policy + CCS

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Monday, May 04, 2009

CCS: Can we beat the offer?

We need to reduce the carbon output of of electrcity sector dramatically. Govornment and industry have been convinced that we the people arent going to back down on this point. So the question is: what are the solutions being offered? Nuclear power is on the table and as soon as it becomes economically feasible I'm sure british power companies will dispatch carrier-pigs to deliver the news to the department of energy and climate change. In the mean time, there are new ideas.

Offer #1 Is carbon capture and storage(CCS). Offer #1 promises many of the negatives of standard coal power with some added complications, a reduction in efficiency and a long term waste storage issue. On the positive side it can mitigate climate change at a cost somewhat lower than the construiction of hydrogen powered jet planes.

Offer #2 is a selection of renewables at any proportion up to around 20%. We are told that our highly ordered national grid can deal with a little of our idealism, a minor insurgency of these intermitent and imppractical sources of power can be accepted.

The more perceptive amongst you may have noticed that Offer #2 leaves atleast 80% of our decarbonisation undone. So the question is, can we beat CCS as a solution?

The bar seems to have been set rather low by this question. CCS plants would generally pollute more than coal, would use more water, would have higher capital requirements and more maintaince staff than coal. They would offer but one advantage: less carbon dioxide emitted. The idea that the world is going to move from one inneficient a polluting technology to an even less efficient and more polluting technology that costs more is a little hard to swallow.

From the outset we can name renewables which cause negligible degrees of air and water pollution as well as eliminating water consumption. We then have to look at costs, which for wind can be lower than standard coal already, and which will only go down with production capacity increases. Finally, we are left with intermitancy and the status quo. We have to find a way of dealing with intermitent sources of power. We also need to find a way of convincing people that whilst is it certain that the great majority of our present electricity is derived from fossil fuels it is not certain that even a small minority of our future electricity will be produced that way. This may seem like simple terrain for an overheated argument about CCS but much of it comes down to the presuposition of important bodies that 'coal is going to play an important part in our energy future' and a rising clamour of voices stating that 'incalcation does not amount to a solid argument'.

Coal power is always going to be cheaper than coal power with ccs simply because ccs adds several post combustion stages of transport and storage. No such argument can be made about renewables. Whilst coal-ccs can optimistically offer only power 'almost as cheap as we have now'
renewable energy integrated through a well interconnected smart grid can potentially offer cheaper, more customizable, power whilst brining numerous ancillary benefits.

Basic smart grid technology includes automatic load shedding, real time pricing and alternative contracts for different power qualities. Fridges and air conditioning and heating with smart chips can stop temporarily when the mains frequency changes, reducing strain during what could be dangerous peaks in demand. Pricing can vary with supply and demand on a minute by minute basis, allowing the savvy consumer to reduce electricity bills while saving the electricity companies large summs on deffered infrastructure investments. Large customers may be able to sign up to an ineruptable power supply, if short power cuts do not offer major difficulties large savings could be made in this way; as a pay off the grid company gains a large chunk of load that can be shed at times of peak demand. In the future it may also be possible to have certain crucial equipment on very high quality power, suprassing anything available today, whilst having less time dependent appliances on a standard releability tarrif. These basic demand side management tools can be complimented by various kinds of storage. Fly wheels, flow batteries, ultra-capacitors, compressed air energy storage, pumped storage; the list of storage technologies is extensive. Most of these are suitable only for short term voltage maintainence, not for making up significant gaps in power supply as may result from drops in wind or clouding over. Pumped storage is the exception, but sighting is limited to geologically sound mountainous regions. Compresed air energy storage may be suitable for significant energy provision untill a backup generation facility can be fired up.

If we dont want to fire up backup generation then we have to move from temporal to spatial coping mechanisms. Use of high voltage transmissions lines over large distances can help by both smoothing out the renewable energy resource supplies and by allowing for the inclusion of more distant storage supplies. Although there are numerous challenges to be overcome, it does seem likely that a smart grid system with long range high voltage lines does offer the potential for a cleaner, low carbon electricity system with reduced demand on water resources for less than the cost of coal with carbon capture and storage. So don't forget: 'coal is going to play no part in our energy future'.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Paul Rogers engages in some dangerous talk.

Paul Rogers on OpenDemocracy

The British government has in 2008-09 reacted with notable vigour to a series of non-violent public actions and peaceful demonstrations over climate change. The character of the policing of these events suggests a high degree of national coordination stemming from a deep concern that they could escalate to the point of having a major political impact. Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He has been writing a weekly column on global security on openDemocracy since 26 September 2001

There are many examples of the style of policing that is being applied. In August 2008, intensive and intimidating tactics - including the deployment of riot-squads from other regional forces - were used in policing a camp set up by climate-change protestors near a planned coal-fired power-station in Kent, southeast England. On 1 April 2009, a similarly peaceful climate-change camp in the City of London - close to but separate from the more widely publicised anti-G20 protests - was subject to repeated violence by heavily protected riot-police (see Chris Abbott, "Trapped and beaten by police in Climate Camp", 9 April 2009).

A few days later, a planned demonstration at another power-station near Nottingham in the English midlands on 13 April was halted before it could begin; in the early hours of the morning, 114 alleged activists were arrested, held at police stations overnight and then granted bail subject to stringent conditions. Moreover, many had their houses raided by police while in custody, and their computers, mobile-phones and other equipment impounded. This operation must have involved intensive intelligence-gathering by and coordination of police forces across the country; it was followed by reports of police having worked closely with power-companies, even providing them with intelligence from police sources.

What is striking here is that the authorities are responding with repeated tough action against climate groups that (unlike some other protestors) have a consistent record of peaceful protest - and indeed have in almost all cases an ethic of non-violence, even as they remain determined to raise what they believe is the world's most vital single issue. There appears to be a determined campaign, sanctioned from on high, to deter all but the most committed activists from having anything to do with climate protests.

A political challenge

Why is this? It may on the surface look like just one part of a policing attitude that increasingly regards public protests as a whole as not just troublesome but almost illegitimate. Much of the controversy over the policing of the G20 protests in London might support this view. But this would create a puzzle in that the government's climate-change minister Ed Miliband has argued the need for a vigorous civil-society response to climate change to galvanise officialdom into action.

But it seems more than likely that there is a very different political motive behind what is happening: that the British government led (since June 2007) by Gordon Brown has belatedly woken to the potential of non-violent direct action on the climate issue to damage its reputation and even its prospects for re-election in a contest that must take place by May 2010. In addition to his weekly openDemocracy column, Paul Rogers writes an international security monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group; for details, click here

The political challenge posed by non-violent direct action on climate change has three aspects. The first is that the long tradition of peaceful protest in Britain - preceding even the landmark anti-nuclear mobilisations of the Committee of 100 in the 1960s - has focused mostly on opposition to military policy, but has the potential to influence wider public attitudes. The campaigns directed at military bases - such as the Faslane 365 campaign at Britain's main nuclear-missile base in western Scotland - have had an impact, in Scotland especially, but the authorities can still protect such military facilities from non-violent demonstrators with relatively little difficulty. It is harder, however, to contain the exemplary and symbolic impact of campaigns of this kind.

The second aspect is that this form of protest does have a potential to cause real disruption. The interruption of coal deliveries to Britain's largest power-station at Drax in north Yorkshire in June 2008 and the enforced closure of Stansted airport in December 2008 are involved climate-change activists targeting sites of excessive carbon-emissions. Such actions are significant in that airports, power-stations, the road network and other potential targets are dispersed across the country. Even a few hundred protestors can have a major impact, and greater numbers with the knowledge and analytical skills to identify the key weak points in Britain's economy (especially its energy-distribution systems) could create chaos through a programme of coordinated actions.

The third aspect is the experience of September 2000, when a dispute involving fuel-tanker drivers nearly brought the country to an effective standstill in a matter of days. This was a traumatic episode for the otherwise still relatively popular government of Tony Blair; it understood then that any modern industrial economy is subject to much greater vulnerabilities than had been appreciated.

A river of protest

These factors help explain the government's and the police's strong reaction to the eruption of climate-change protest. It is unlikely to be enough to curb the movement. For it is worth emphasising that non-violent direct action has in the post-1945 era acquired an extraordinary pedigree arising from numerous campaigns in much of the world (see "There are alternatives", 30 March 2006).

From the civil-rights movement in the United States through to "people power" in the Philippines and numerous civil-society initiatives across east-central Europe during the later decades of the cold war, civilian resistance has had the potential to unsettle governments (see April Carter, Howard Clark & Michael Randle, People Power and Protest Since 1945: a Bibliography of Nonviolent Action [Housmans, 2006; Michael Randle, Civil Resistance [Fontana, 1991]; April Carter, Direct Action and Democracy Today [Polity, 2004]).

But if the increasing activism of climate-change protestors can be seen in this historical perspective, it must also cope with the well-resourced and nationally coordinated operation that has evolved to combat it - extending even to violent intimidation to ensure that many potential activists will be persuaded that the personal costs of involvement are just too great.

A generation's task

Will the counter-strategy work? A unique combination of timescales and generational difference suggest an answer: almost certainly not. The impact of climate change is likely to accelerate alarmingly within two decades, yet it requires transformational action within - at most - five years.

Before the economic recession the British government appeared at last to be recognising the scale of the problem. It was, for example, talking of cutting carbon-emissions by 2050 by as much as 80%. This was a clear improvement on previous targets, though still at least three decades too late. In any event, the recession has shifted investment away from low-carbon projects and renewables, just when the opportunity to have an immediate impact is there.

The core reality is that government action is proving to be inadequate to the scale of the problem to the point of wilful neglect. This is becoming steadily more apparent to a new generation of younger activists, many in their early 20s. They perceive that it is their future world that is going to be wrecked by the failure of governments and older generations to act; and they are becoming increasingly angry, frustrated and determined.

The nature of the movement that is evolving is not easy to define. There are various umbrella groups, but in terms of dedicated activists it may so far be numbered in the hundreds or the low thousands at most. A movement that size is, as argued above, sufficient to have an impact - but much more important is that it is certain to grow.

Each month, more evidence points to the accelerating nature of climate change and its potential for global trauma. The emerging evidence that some of the world's major river-systems are starting to dry up is but one example (see Suzanne Goldberg, "Climate change threatens Ganges, Niger, and other mighty rivers", "Threat to food and water as mighty rivers dry up", Guardian, 22 April 2009). In parallel with such evidence, the number of activists grows. In these circumstances, police violence may actually turn out to be counterproductive: it may deter some people but will make others much more unyielding and willing to act in the belief that their cause is right, whatever the personal cost.

The real worry for the British (and other) governments in these circumstances is how soon the protesters will realise just how vulnerable an advanced, integrated and highly organised state really is to intelligent non-violent disruption. The blunt truth is that it probably could not maintain control. Even aside from all the arguments that governments in countries such as Britain should be far more radical in their response to climate change, a political reality may be emerging here that civil action could well force the government to act. This might even be one of those rare occasions where everyday but resolute citizens have a lasting impact on the great issue of our time.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Climate Scientists Tell Coal Companies to Take Responsibility


LEIGH SALES: Six of the nation's leading climate change scientists have written to the coal industry, telling them to shut down power stations and take responsibility for the damage coal burning does to the environment.

The scientists say the industry has the power to make a difference because it's the largest contributor to the nation's greenhouse gases.

The letter calls for coal-fired power stations to be closed in the near future, and for any new ones to have zero emissions.

DAVID KAROLY, UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE: We're not arguing that they will necessarily listen, but this issue of liability will be a growing concern in the future. Perhaps they've been able to hide from that issue of liability because of mixed messages.

We're trying to make it very clear that there is a liability and a responsibility associated with ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases.
PDF of the letter.

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