I have been meaning to write this post for ages, as it’s been a couple of weeks now since Climate Camp. But somehow life got in the way, and I didn’t know exactly what I would write. My mind has been turning over the experience, over and over, and I think it is starting a thought process that may take a while to unravel.
It was my first Climate Camp and it fit quite neatly into my preconceptions and expectations – decisions made by consensus, workshops on various issues, ceilidh nights and police. All present and correct. But there were some unexpected bits as well.
I am not sure I heard the words “climate change” more than once during the time I was there. This wasn’t because of any scary “he-who-must-not-be-named” Harry Potter thing, but because I think for many of the activists there, it truly wasn’t at the forefront of their minds. What they were thinking about and talking about, was anti-capitalism. System change, not climate change.
A couple of years ago I would never have identified with an anti-capitalist or anarchist label. I remember going on a march at the European Social Forum back in 2008 and I was truly intimidated by the anarchist “Black Bloc”, all wearing balaclavas with their fists in the air. I still would be. The aggression and the general feeling of being “anti” anything without proposing an alternative turned me off. Plus, capitalism is the only social structure I have ever known, I didn’t really understand so much what it was possible to change, and why. I knew I wanted a kinder, fairer version of capitalism than the one we have now (I had read Jonathan Porrit’s Capitalism as if the Earth Matters) and felt pretty satisfied in my vision of the future.
However a few months back, I was invited to a lecture given by the social theorist and geographer Professor David Harvey at LSE. IT WAS AMAZING. I sat enthralled for an hour, listening to an incredibly well-reasoned argument drawn from his book, The Enigma of Capital, about why capitalism can never work. Please watch the very accessible animated video of one of his talks at the RSA below to hear it from the man himself!
I announced to everyone the next day that I was anti-capitalist. I talked to anyone who was moderately interested about it. I made it an ambition to learn more about it, and about capitalism too, pre-Thatcher to see what the deal was.
So, as you can see, I ended up coming to Climate Camp on a fairly similar political page as everyone else. Except for the whole climate change thing. Right now, I agree with David Harvey and I hope that we can work towards a system that is fairer for everyone. I felt that most at Climate Camp were fixed on that goal and were prepared for a struggle that would take their whole lives, and beyond, to achieve. But in terms of climate change, we just don’t have that time.
So the dilemma I feel that we’re faced with is this – my gut feeling is that, given the short time frame, we need to work with the current system and do everything we can to mitigate the effects of climate change in the next 5-10 years.
But. What if that sets us on a trajectory that we can’t pull back from? What if working with the system, and allocating everything a price – our air, our trees, our water, our land – is just about the worst idea we could ever have had, and legitimising it now means that we’re forever stuck with it?
It feels like we have to choose between two evils – a society that is less impacted by climate change but deeply unequal, or one that is more equal in the long-term but has had to see a great deal of suffering to get there.
Am I wrong? I hope so.
I would love to hear your thoughts!