Inside the Kingsnorth Climate Camp
Posted by Martin Poulter on 12 August 2008
We’re very grateful to receive this fascinating first-hand account from James Wilkes, responsible for some of the most interesting content to have circulated through doodz-n-chyx in the past. -MLP
I’ve just spent 10 days at Climate Camp in Kent. I went intending to learn about small-scale DIY solar electricity, solar water heating and wind generation. I didn’t care much about the overall camp aims or the political ideas of the camp. I left a very different person.
The stated purpose of the camp was to try to shut down Kingsnorth coal-fired power station, run by e-on, which is responsible for thousands of tons of carbon emissions every day it runs. The power station is due to be de-commisioned (hooray!) but a new coal-fired power station is likely to be built on the site (boo!). This is blatantly insane, as is the idea to build a new runway at Heathrow at a time when we’re trying to cut CO2 emissions.
No-one seems to disagree any more that carbon emissions must be reduced. It’s just that they aren’t going down, they’re going up. All the politician’s waffle, treaties and agreements haven’t done anything to protect our future. A whole lot of people (and that number is growing rapidly) think that we’ve got to use direct action to do something about it. It’s OUR planet and we want to do something to protect it from run-away big business insanity.
The level of humour in the camp and in the actual direct actions themselves was great: pirates on rafts trying to get to the power station. At Legoland (sponsored by e-on) little lego protesters scaled a cooling tower to unfurl a tiny banner while a lego police helicopter flew overhead. Signs on site said “e-on f-off” and (near the urinals) “p-on e-on”. A dozen naked people superglued themselves to a government building.
The camp gathered support as the the week went on and many locals waved friendly support as the march went by or joined us. Locals told us how the area has high rates of asthma and their opposition to the coal-fired power plant. By the end of the camp one local told us that a poll he had done locally gave the camp 50% support. He cited the heavy-handed policing as issue which had affected people’s attitude the most.
When I arrived on Saturday police were walking across site un-hindered, accompanied by protesters and a couple of vans (one of which was a mobile police station IIRC) were parked just inside the entrance. Outside the camp the police were stopping and searching everyone entering or leaving the site. Lots of gear was confiscated including crayons, bolts for the compost toilets, poles for building structures and a board game. On site the atmosphere was reasonably relaxed.
At about 5am on Monday morning police in riot gear tried to storm the site at the rear entrance. From that point on I felt like the site was in a state of seige. No police came on site after that apart from a few groups in riot gear who barged in and then stood around looking useless before just leaving again.
The police I talked to were (with only one exception) in agreement that we must reduce carbon emissions. One officer even agreed that the real crimimal damage (the offence most commonly used to criticise the camp) being commited was by e-on against the entire human race.
In the end our vehicle was stopped 3 times and searched once. I was seached 5 times (once forcibly when I refused a search on the grounds that I thought it was illegal). I caught part of a CS spray in my face when it was used on a camp member in front of me on Monday morning. Police helicopters flew over at all hours of the day, bright lights shone into the camp all night and police in riot gear would pretend to get ready for an attack in the middle of the night (an overall attempt to deprive us of
sleep I guess). 4 police horses rode into the march to the power station, which contained families, kids and pushchairs. It was agreed beforehand that the march could stay outside the power station gates until 1pm. At about 1230 a police helicopter told us to disperse immediately or they would use “horses, dogs and batons”. There was no threat at all from the march. I saw families eating picnics.
What kind of sick individual would threaten a family picnic with violence? We were all appalled.
I also spent a lot of time guarding the back gate of the camp (which was quiet most of the time) and so a lot of time talking to a lot of officers. We had a great laugh with a lot of them. We sang happy birthday to one female officer. One officer from Kent even did an impression of a munchkin from the Wizard of Oz (I literally doubled up laughing) during a coversation about pixies and sprites.
Police officers couldn’t understand how we could live without them. Yet the camp was a safe and amazingly friendly place. I’ve never been anywhere like it. I’m not very confident about talking to complete strangers yet I found I could immediately bond with anyone I spoke to. The site was organised in roughly geographical neighbourhoods. These had meetings using consensus decision making which feed agreements to camp-wide meetings. So I had a say in everything that happened on the camp. I’ve never felt so incredibly empowered in all my life.
People took responsibility for their actions on site. Everyone helped out. There wasn’t even any litter on site. Disputes were mediated and settled. People on site behaved like a responsible adults. I discovered that lots of people are determined to do something about climate change. They know that government are doing nothing to stop climate change. So it’s down to us.
Food on site was absolutely superb. Each neighbourhood cooked and we were free to eat wherever we liked. Food was vegan (it’s hard to keep meat an dairy with no fridges). My highlights were the pakoras from West Side and the vegan chocolate cake from East Side.
The toilets onsite were straw bale urinals and compost shit houses (can’t think of a better phrase there, sorry!) so all the waste gets composted.
The site electricity was run by a crazy combination of solar and wind power. Some of the sound systems and cinemas were run by bicycle generators. Plus there was great acoustic music and stimulating conversation everywhere.
It was a shining example of how we can live a better life with less consumption. Even if we had the choice about changing our ways the it would still be worth the change! But there really isn’t any choice.
I think the police plan was to put people off the camp. It didn’t work. Personally speaking it’s turned me into a determined protester. Protesting this week has been fun. I’ve met at least 50 amazing people who I’ll see again at future protests.
If the new coal-fired power station is given the go-ahead then I’ll be there in March when building starts to protest and disrupt.
And I’ll be back for future climate camps. And so will most of this years climate campers. And more. Many, many more. I hope you’ll come and that you have as good an experience as I’ve had. See you there.