I’ve just been watching a film of the Climate Camp taking place up in Edinburgh at the moment, and the main question which it raises is… where the hell is everyone? (The film was on the Climate Camp website but I’ve just gone back to track down a link and can’t find anything, so perhaps they’re thinking something similar? Or maybe it’s just a temporary glitch.) The film shows a dance-off outside the RBS HQ – I saw one article claiming that there were 150 people there, but I’d be surprised if there were 100. The camp itself apparently numbers 500 – and that is substantially down on last year.
This year the whole environment movement has subsided like a pricked balloon. The actions that I’ve been to have been tiny compared with previous years, and Climate Camp itself, usually one of the highlights of the green activist year, looks likely to suffer a similar fate. But why?
I think there are several reasons. In general Copenhagen dealt a death blow to environmental activists. The result itself was catastrophically disappointing for a whole generation of people who were really beginning to believe they could push governments into environmental action. But the actions were disappointing too, although no one has ever admitted it to me; after initial estimates that thousands would be taking part in the big day of action numbers were far smaller. The Danish police were unbelievably brutal but I think they’d count the whole event a success – they scared off activists and made sure that the actions – the one outside the Bella Centre for example – which did take place were flattened. And morale was pretty flattened at the same time.
But there are problems which are specific to Climate Camp too. The location is troublesome; Scotland is a long way to go for many activists, but I don’t think that would be a problem (they went to Copenhagen for god’s sake) if it wasn’t that there have also been a few splits and schisms going on within Climate Camp itself about where to go now which have been racketing on since the beginning of the year. Last year I was critical of Climate Camp’s decision to spend the Blackheath camp “movement building”, a term which I really hate (movements build themselves, and Climate Camp’s influence came from its daring and actions, not because of its theorising). All year long there have been rumblings about whither and wherefore, culminating in the bonkers idea of writing out a political statement of intent. Why, for god’s sake? Surely that narrows everything down? Why not just be what you started out as – a group who were fed up with talking and wanted to take some action?
The result has been lower numbers and less inspiration. The hunt for the climate campaign mojo continues.