This is the third interview in our regroupment series looking at some of the new groups currently working in the UK and exploring the reasons behind their formation. With the return of direct action against power stations and fuel policies in the news is the time ripe for a return to climate activism? We ask the Climate Justice Collective for their opinion.
Originally published in September 2012.
CJC was formed during the closure of the Climate Camp. Could you explain the reasons behind this move? How have your experiences with Climate Camp influenced CJC?
In 2011 Climate Camp held a week long gathering called ‘Space for Change’ to resolve ongoing discussions around the camp’s political identity, its forms of action and methods of organising. At the gathering, following a great deal of discussion, a decision was made not to organise as Climate Camp in 2011. The gathering released a statement, entitled ‘Metamorphosis’ (http://climatecamp.org.uk/2011-statement), in order to explain the reasoning behind the decision. It says: ‘This closure is intended to allow new tactics, organising methods and processes to emerge … With the skills, networks and trust we have built we will launch new radical experiments to tackle the intertwined ecological, social and economic crises we face.’
The Climate Justice Collective (CJC) was one of the groups that emerged. Of course people involved in Climate Camp also moved on to all sorts of other groups and movements including Frack Off, UK UNCUT, Green and Black Cross, UK Tar Sands Network, the student protests, Occupy, Traveller Solidarity Network and many more.
The discussions around climate camp centered on a number of themes, including ‘anti-capitalism’, ‘radical lobbying’, and how climate activism related to other movements, particularly those focussed on social justice. But there were also issues that anyone involved in non-hierarchical organising will be familiar with, those of power relationships and hidden hierarchies, openness and accountability, some of which were described back in 1970 in the ‘Tyranny of Structurelessness’ (which was met with it’s own critique, ‘The Tyranny of Tyranny’). In forming CJC we aimed to try and learn from the lessons of organising Climate Camp, keeping the good bits and trying not to repeat the mistakes (and in case you are wondering, we are anti-capitalist!).
What are you currently organising around and what is your long term strategy?
CJC is committed to taking action against the root causes of climate change and building towards new models of political and economic organisation, based on sustainability, participatory democracy and social justice. We see ourselves as part of the wider movements for social and ecological justice, and aim to build toward a common future free from exploitation, oppression or environmental devastation.
That may all sound very high-falutin, but we have been experimenting with how to carry this out on a practical level. Some of what we are currently up to was mentioned in a reply to Shift’s write up of the Big Six Bash (Ed note. Article written by Henry Davis, not Shift editorial team); a mass action we organised early in the year targeting the the big 6 UK energy companies (British Gas, EDF, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE).
For example, just over a year ago, ‘Fuel Poverty Action’ formed as a campaign within CJC that is devoting much time to building links with tenants’ and residents’ associations and the communities affected by rising energy prices. Fuel Poverty Action’s ‘Winter Warm-ups’ in January mobilised pensioners, students, anti-cuts groups and environmental campaigners in ten boroughs and cities across the country to take a variety of different forms of action from street theatre, to public flyering, to town hall demonstrations, to energy company occupations.
We are also trying to make links between anti-austerity, climate justice and other ecological movements. Linking different energy struggles together, both in terms of how it is produced and accessed, referred to by some as Energy Justice, is an important area for future work. At the moment we are discussing how we might try and organise a way of creating links between climate justice and austerity on the 20th October when the TUC are planning a march in London.
Does climate change politics still have an important part to play in the anti-capitalist movement? Can it be relevant in a period of austerity?
There is no doubt that the economic crisis and ensuing austerity has drawn a lot of political energy away from climate change and other ecological issues. It’s also true that there are difficulties around linking climate change and anti-austerity, especially when the growth mantra dominates discussion around the response to the economic crisis. But ever increasing economic growth, market economics and neoliberalism are not just a threat to the environment, they also cause great social harm and are behind the current economic crisis.
In a world with ever more extreme weather events, rapidly diminishing arctic ice [NASA recently published a study linking climate change to extreme weather and Arctic sea ice reduction] and worsening climatic feedback loops, ignoring climate change or any of the other global ecological crises, such as biodiversity or the nitrogen cycle [see stockholmresilience.org], simply isn’t an option. If we are to meaningfully address the root causes of all our current crises, ecological and social justice must be seen as complementary and not in competition. Sure it’s not easy, but if it was easy it wouldn’t be a struggle!
If you’re interested in getting involved, or want to chat to us about anything drop us a line [email@example.com]