A climatic disorder? Class, coal and climate change - John Cunningham

Climate Camper

At last November’s NUM convened conference, trade unionists and Climate Campers were invited to debate the explosive cocktail of (clean) coal, class and climate change. John Cunningham reports on the frustrating attempts to find a middle ground.

Submitted by Red Marriott on January 20, 2009

Source; http://www.metamute.org/node

This year’s camp at Kingsnorth in Kent against the opening of a new coal fired power station produced a range of predictable responses, from the inanity of the Guardian's suggestion that it was yet another alternative lifestyle festival, to the over zealous attentions of the security state. One of the more interesting responses was from long standing anarchist activist and ex-National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) official Dave Douglass. In a polemic against the camp, he addressed the anti-coal bias of the Climate Campers alongside a perceived lack of class analysis within the camp and the wider green movement. There is undoubtedly a feel good anti-capitalism implicit in much of the discourse around climate camp that can exclude any consideration of class in favour of blandly utopian sentiment. For instance, in the Climate Camp Newspaper statements such as ‘Sometimes it feels as though our world is coloured in sadness. And you just want to be somewhere else…’ (i) read less like a detournement of advertising copy than a self help approach to political activism, the ‘middle class voice’ that Douglass characteristically claimed Climate Camp spoke in.

At the time I was relieved that, against the fluffy anti-capitalism of much of the camp’s official discourse, Douglass introduced the perspective of those who may not have ‘somewhere else’ to go, locked into jobs and communities that a politics of exodus cannot easily address. The yearly anti-climate change road-show attempts to offer a response to climate change that would destabilise business as usual, suggesting at least nominally anti-capitalist alternatives. However, its model of protest camp and sustainable community gleaned from the post-Seattle summit protests can seem too abstracted from everyday life to break the general perception that climate change exists ‘out there’, to be dealt with by super-heroes such as Al Gore. Its model of sustainability can also appear as a holiday in scarcity to the casual observer. The intervention by Douglass was a dose of messy actuality. The camp’s response was to invite Douglass to address it, and he turned up with ex-NUM president, ‘Old King Coal’ himself, Arthur Scargill in tow. The Newcastle based conference, Class, Climate Change and Clean Coal – the Climate Campers and the Unions, sponsored by the NUM, the RMT and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), arose out of this dialogue.

This is a sad and confusing conjuncture of forces.(ii)
– Dave Douglass

At least the intersection of labour and environmentalism in the Douglass/ NUM/ Climate Camp exchange punctured a certain spectacle of climate change: the accumulation of catastrophic images, millennial eco-fear and eco-friendly consumerism that can induce occasional dread and the desire to assume the crash position. The class tensions around Climate Camp seemed like a clash of cultures between a traditional ‘mass worker’ form of trade unionism and a diffuse network of activists whose politics ranged from pale green reformism to red and black anti-capitalism. In fairness to Climate Camp, they ran workshops on class and emphasised a ‘just transition’ in the official booklet’s dialogue with workers in carbon-based industries. This is the notion that a transition can be made to a non-carbon based economy that does not penalise the poor or workers in carbon based industries such as coal miners. It is an argument for responses to climate change that place social justice at the forefront of any structural shift in the economy. While it is often posited as a decentralised, autonomous response, it can also be part of a social democratic state-led one, as Paul Chatterton’s argument later in the conference for a ‘green new deal’ was to make clear.

While Douglass’ intervention was welcome it also threatened to reduce a complex series of questions around class and climate change to the singular question of ‘more prole than thou’. There’s an admirable tenacity to the perpetuation of proletarian culture in the face of defeat and expropriation: many of the current pit banners at the miners’ Durham Big Meeting gala are from defunct pits, less postmodern nostalgia than an assertion of community. However, this can harden into a closed identity as can the activist milieu around Climate Camp, with its own cultural and discursive forms and marginal counter-cultures that mean little to those outside.

I hoped that the conference would reveal something in common beyond a shared preference for renewable energy and being anti-nuclear, points all the delegates made. The main point of contention in terms of energy policy was clean coal, based on carbon dioxide capture and storage, but the conjunction of more anti-capitalist elements from Climate Camp with the representatives of old school trade unionism also suggested other fault lines both cultural and political.(iii)

Following the great tradition of working class radicals, the meeting was held in the Bridge Hotel pub in Newcastle, close to the industrial grandeur of the Tyne bridge and adjacent to the contemporary bubble of regeneration, cultural capital and service driven consumerism that is Newcastle today. A combination of NUM veterans, miners, trade unionists, eco-punks, socialists and maybe even one or two members of the general public attended the meeting. The conference delegates – NUM spokesmen, Climate Campers and a lone RMT spokesman – occupied a low wooden podium. Seated three at a time behind a desk, they sometimes gave the impression of a quarrelsome stalinist tribunal. After a brief introduction by Keith Whittaker of the NUM, Dave Douglass presented the keynote speech.

The Earth disnae give a bugger.
– Dave Douglass

Douglass came across as humorous, thoughtful and angry, equally at home in both NUM and Climate Camp circles. In comparison to the other miners delegates his presentation was discursive and wide ranging. He admitted the human impact on climate change, but emphasised its natural movement, believing that natural factors are more likely to wipe out humanity, or even asteroids from space. In this he was ducking the issue since the issue is not so much whether climate change is ‘natural’ or ‘man made’ as the effect of a particular social relation, capitalism, on the way humanity interacts with the environment.(iv)

He was on stronger ground when he argued that there was a reification of climate change that came out of a green view of nature: ‘As a painted landscape pantomime at the Theatre Royal.’ Nature, rather than being an abstraction, was always linked to the productive activity of humanity, the Earth as a ‘dead crust’ rather than some Gaia like entity. For myself, viewing the earth as a ‘dead crust’ ends up as much of a reification as environmentalist visions of Gaia. The productive activity that links humanity with nature is never simply exerted upon something inert – a ‘dead crust’ is as much of an abstraction as Gaia, both remaining within the logic of capital. The necessity was to address climate change from the perspective of the poor and exploited. Capitalism was incapable of doing so, but some trade unions like the NUM and IWW had this perspective. Renewables were fine but not wind farms, partly because they desecrated open spaces. He called for fair trade coal as a way of both invigorating the UK coal industry and addressing exploitation abroad. Douglass also emphasised the running down of the UK mining industry for political reasons, accusing the green movement of complicity with this process.

Environmentalism and Climate Camp undoubtedly attract a lot of green mystical cretinism, but Douglass’ ire was misdirected in terms of the environmentalists present, all being scrupulously materialist in their thinking on climate change. Stressing the natural cycle of climate change meant that Douglass actually made more of Nature than they did.

Douglass also introduced a topic that other NUM speakers emphasised: the industrial working class, in this case miners, have an inherent political perspective and class consciousness lacking in the service industries. It’s certainly impossible to imagine mass pickets of Pret A Manger workers confronting cops, although that would be quite an event. But it’s equally impossible to (re)posit the mass worker as the vanguard of class consciousness, since the conditions for that kind of organisation no longer exist in the UK. Context changes all, and it is sobering to realise that whereas 10,000 miners confronted cops at Orgreave in 1984, there are now around 5,000 miners in total. A workerist ideology introduces nostalgia rather than facing the reality of disseminated struggles against capitalism that elements of Climate Camp arise out of.

Other NUM delegates were more narrowly focused upon clean coal as a technological solution to climate change, the continued viability of carbon-based industry and the future of mining communities. Scargill’s presentation followed the oratorical model of old style trade unionism, with Arthur standing up and lots of gesticulation and pointing. Speaking loudly he could have been addressing the Durham Big Meeting. He made a well researched, belligerent case for the continued relevance of coal to energy policy, packing his speech with statistics and questioning the emphasis upon coal as a cause of global warming, a point echoed by other NUM speakers. Scargill went on for twice the 20 minutes allotted, in true leftist style, with everyone from the chairman onwards probably too overawed/ exhausted to intervene. Scargill left soon after.

All of the Climate Campers were at pains to emphasise that they were not hostile to mining communities and were aware of the intrinsic relationship between climate change, class exploitation and capitalism. They also all underlined that they were not ‘official’ representatives of Climate Camp. This was undoubtedly one of the lines that separated the trade unionists from the Climate Campers, the union officials having a much more unproblematic relation to being a representative of the working classes. The Climate Campers were definitely from the more anti-capitalist wing and it might have been interesting had someone from a more single-issue perspective been present. Paul Chatterton, activist and Leeds University academic, gave a well reasoned presentation about the need for a ‘just transition’. After underlining the importance of avoiding a climate change ‘tipping point’ of a four degrees rise, he emphasised that environmentally based politics were ultimately against ‘mindless, ceaseless growth’ in the form of neoliberal capitalism. ‘Just transition’ would share out the costs of climate change equally, through a ‘green new deal’, ecological Keynesianism creating a ‘green collar economy’. This would amount to the re-nationalisation of energy production and a rejection of the market.

I must admit that the concept of a ‘green new deal’ makes me want to strangle the planet with a couple of spare plastic bags. It’s the realist corollary to the utopian elements of Climate Camp, but such an uncritical acceptance of a social democratic solution ignores the problem that capitalist social relations would still remain in place. It would be compatible with the development of an authoritarian, biopolitical state, obsessed with the administration of life. It is quite easy to imagine a dystopian ‘green new deal’ that continued the valorisation of capital alongside a work-ethic based morality all too conducive to the more sanctimonious elements of environmentalism. Chatterton did mention that a ‘green new deal’ might lead to less work and more holidays, a rare acknowledgement that climate change might not necessitate new regimes of scarcity. There is in this a trace of what was missing in the conference, a sense of possibility not embedded in soft focus ‘somewhere else’ utopianism but in an immanent engagement with capital’s apparatus of capture. However, a ‘green new deal’ is unlikely to deliver the kind of simultaneous refusal of scarcity and production that might begin to construct a genuine anti-capitalist response to the exigencies of climate change. It hardly amounts to a critique of wage labour.

Ian Lavery, President of the NUM, underlined the gulf between the NUM and Climate Campers through his refusal to engage with Paul Chatterton’s case for ‘just transition’. Remarking dismissively that he was in the bar during Chatterton’s talk, apparently what was needed was a ‘just transition’ to clean coal. Throughout the conference the NUM’s concentration upon clean coal raised questions about the contradiction of trade unions being not only a bureaucratic appendage to the marketing of labour but also a possible focal point for resistance and the reproduction of communities tied to a particular industry. Lavery’s work ethic was committed to coal rather than a green collar economy. He left shortly afterwards in his big car to go to another meeting. Oh, the life of the full time official.

The focus on new technologies as a general fix for climate change always threatens to introduce a Hollywood blockbuster narrative: ‘And then there was clean coal...’ While the viability of clean coal is in doubt, any present development of it is reliant upon capital being able to extract value from it.(v) The same would go for the development of renewables. It is unlikely that an exclusive focus on technology can really challenge the relation between climate change and the reproduction of capitalism.

David Guy, President of the North East area of the NUM, made a restrained and dignified argument for the viability of the North East Coalfield and spoke with some melancholy of the effects of the post-1984 strike on what used to be the ‘left wing juggernaut’ of the trade union movement. He pointed out that six months after the strike in 1985, and again in 1987, miners were back out on strike. A good reminder of how the memory of past struggle informs the present dilemma of the NUM, mining and ex-mining communities.

The next Climate Camper was Paul Morrozo, who made the connection between climate change and hurricane Katrina, pointing out that it was the precarious poor who suffered while the rich escaped, as demonstrated by the wholesale privatisation and gentrification of New Orleans. He also pointed out that climate change would put a squeeze on capitalism’s attempts to avoid financial crisis and, I would add, its attempts to address climate change. More workers control was essential to combat climate change. He was willing to countenance mining if carbon capture was developed as a transitional measure, but argued that it was still in an experimental phase; the state and E.on were both lying about Kingsnorth’s potential for carbon capture. Ultimately, if resources continue to be extracted, ‘we’re toast’.

Morrozo’s contribution was constantly interrupted by the chairman, NUM official Dave Hopper, resplendent in both red shirt and red tie in case we didn’t get the message. Hopper seemed to take great offence at any anti-coal argument, cutting in at one point with ‘Put one of those windmills on your head and walk around with it’. This might have been funny to him but most objected strongly, especially when he seemed to have a fit after being heckled by a woman. At this point he resigned to be replaced by Dave Douglass. This was one of the few points at which a residual animosity surfaced, the atmosphere generally being more constructive.

The RMT regional secretary Stan Herschel spoke on the influence of the road lobby and the confluence of interests in business that work against environmentally sustainable energy resources and the trade union movement. At this point I must admit my mind was drifting towards a pint and my own most sustainable way home.

The last speaker was Kevin Bland of Green Anarchism, who talked about the class nature of climate change as the poor carry the cost, a point NUM delegates had also made. He was against the continued mining of coal and questioned the environmental credentials of carbon capture. Open cast mining was unacceptable and a form of revenge on mining communities. His description of the work done by local environmental groups against opencast suggested to me a much more investigative and open process than much of the Climate Camp activists’ grandstanding, since it involved the self-organisation of communities. Class emerged as less of an abstraction here than in other eco-activists’ presentations. He was also surprisingly sympathetic to Douglass’ class analysis of Climate Camp, describing many supporters as weekend hippies but stressed that many did not fit this description. There was a suggestion by an NUM delegate that the union might be prepared to pursue an anti-opencast collaboration with environmentalists, as it had with ‘No Opencast’ in the 1990s.(vi) There was also a lot of general debate between the various presentations, my favourite contribution being a sort of ode to coal as alchemical material by a retired miner, thanking it for the gift of class struggle.

The conference often threatened to become nothing but the conjunction of two forms of reformism – trade unionism and environmentalism – disputing the response to climate change rather than providing a challenge to the commodification of the world that both climate change and capital are predicated upon. Both trade unionists and activists discussed climate change and class as though they were only connected when the poor, or a particular segment of the working class, were victims of disaster or a shift in production, necessitating the intervention of a union or activist community.

Beyond the stereotypes of pit helmets and dreadlocks the central questions the conference raised for me are how to formulate a response to climate change capable of resisting capital’s own one – given that capitalism loves a good catastrophe from which to extract value. Is there an inherent connection between capital, disaster and labour? In 1951, Italian ultra-leftist Amadeo Bordiga drew on Marx’s concept of ‘dead labour’ (past labour solidified in the infrastructure it has produced) to demonstrate why capitalism is ‘the masterful development of an economy based on disasters’.(vii) In his words,

To exploit living labour, capital must destroy dead labour which is still useful. Loving to suck young warm blood it kills corpses.(viii)

His point was that capital thrived on disaster because it provided the opportunity to extract more surplus value from living labour through production. Bordiga suggests in this the way that disaster, capital and labour are imbricated – class and labour rather than being a factor to consider in the disaster of climate change are central to it. Climate change often seems to be the product of two inhuman agencies, nature and capitalism, but it’s unlikely that a return to trade union forms of organisation, even ‘one big union’, could produce the necessary oppositional force to counter this. Despite the tensions within the conference, I felt it was constructive in beginning to open a dialogue around this issue: what forms of class composition and organisation might arise within a climate change paradigm dominated by an increasingly authoritarian state and capital’s need to prosper?


John Cunningham lives in London and is still looking for a way out.

The Labour Movement Conference ‘Class, Climate Change and Clean Coal – the Climate Campers and the Unions’ was held at the Bridge Hotel in Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1 November 2008

i] Climate Camp Newspaper, August 2008 – copies can be obtained at, [email protected]

ii] Dave Douglass, Climate Camp report, http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/08/407011.html

iii] See Techno-Fixes: A critical guide to climate change technologies, Corporate Watch report, 2008 pp.35-39, for more on carbon storage, http:// www.corporatewatch.org

iv] Will Barnes, ‘Capital Climes’, Mute vol 2 #5, 2007, http://www.metamute.org/en/Capital-Climes

v] ‘Techno-fixes’, op.cit.

vi] See Do Or Die, issue 7, pp.23-32, for details on this campaign, http://www.eco-action.org/dod/no7/23-32.html

vii] ‘Murdering the Dead’, Amadeo Bordiga, p.31, Antagonism Press, 2000.

viii] Ibid, p.36.



14 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by AIW on November 20, 2009

This is the presentation given by a climate/environmental activist to the Conference

Class, coal and climate change conference.
Sat 1st November , Bridge Hotel, Newcastle upon Tyne.

This conference was organised by the N.U.M and the I.W.W in conjunction with the R.M.T in response to the camp for climate action.
Speakers included: Arthur Scargill (Hon President N.U.M)
Dave Douglass ( I.W.W activist )
Paul Chatterton ( Leeds Uni )
David Guy ( N.U.M regional official)
Environmental/Climate change activists
This speech was given by a climate camper NOT a spokesperson for the camp for climate action.

Before I start I would like to make a quick point although I am here to say why we should not use coal to produce electric,
I and the majority of people within the green movement have total respect and admiration for what the miners and the communities have fought for and achieved in particular the courage and dignity shown during the great strikes of the 1970/80’s.

There is now is general acceptance among the scientific community that the phenomena called ‘climate change’ is real and happening. It is also accepted that the process is being accelerated by human activity. The debate has moved away from climate denial. Of course the Earth does have natural cycles of heating and cooling but the burning of fossil fuels, livestock production, waste disposal and deforestation have compounded the heating process; many scientists have concluded that that this will lead to unpredictable and severe weather patterns that will cause disastrous social conditions for Humanity. (I think the phase global warming is misleading and unhelpful)
It’s a complex picture and the uses of fossil fuels aren’t entirely to blame. The exploitation of other species for livestock production and industrial agriculture produce’s vast amounts of methane a so called greenhouse gas which is a major contributory to the climate change process.
However the main contribution to the greenhouse gases comes from the combustion of Oil, Gas and coal. Assuming the scientists are correct the need to tackle climate change can not be underestimated. Time is not on our side, but marching against us. As a species we must take urgent and collective action to avert the disastrous consequences of the climate changing for the worse.
No other generation has the weight of the future rested so heavily on the present.
Coal has had a big part to play in the situation that we find ourselves in, the burning of coal has in part led to the current climate crises and continues to do so.
As per usual the current labour government has set targets and made grand pledges but is guilty of complete inaction as is big business, both consistently put profit before people and planet. In terms of moving toward a low carbon society the government has so far failed. We continue to burn coal unabated to produce electricity and so we contribute to our own demise.
Coal + C.C.S + Opencast mining.
The bogeyman of the climate change movement is E-on and the kingsnorth power station in Kent where the recent camp for climate action was held. A new kingsnorth would emit the same amount of CO2 as the thirty least polluting countries combined and would destroy any chance that we have of persuading India and China to stop building coal fired power stations. If Kingsnorth is rebuilt it will pave the way for a new generation of coal fired power stations this simply can’t happen considering the accepted science.
E-on are proposing to utilise carbon, capture and storage( C.C.S ) technology at Kingnorth. Despite the claims of the energy giants Carbon, capture and storage is an unproven technology that is yet to be used on a global industrial scale, three or four test plants globally is not scientifically conclusive and proves nothing , to base the next forty years energy production policy on a yet unproven technology is surely folly.
Because C.C.S is in the early stages of it’s development the efficiency levels are very low only removing 20-35% of the greenhouse gases produced whilst lowering the total efficiency of the power station. This efficiency level is simply not high enough this would still leave coal as one of the dirtiest methods of producing electricity.
Timeline estimates vary as to when C.C.S will become available, the best guesses so far are 2015-2030. E-on wants to begin constructing the new kingsnorth around 2014 and has admitted that the C.C.S will have to be retrofitted, Again in light of the scientific advice this would not be quick enough to halt climate change.
We must not allow a new generation of coal fired power stations to be built because we’ve put our faith in a technology that may not mature or arrive to late stop climatic feedback systems.
One of my personal concerns regarding C.C.S is the cost of development which will inevitably be passed on to the consumer at a time when fuel bills are already riding high, those on a low income, pensioners and people that are already in fuel poverty will feel the pinch in their fuel bill. The finance used to develop C.C.S would be much better invested in mature and sustainable renewable technologies. Renewable technologies leave behind very little waste unlike nuclear or carbon sequestration techniques which need the waste to be into long term storage, experience has taught us that most dump and disposal systems have a tendency to leak.
To some extent carbon sequestration technology should be welcomed and when it has been proven on a global industrial scale it could help many dirty carbon based industries clean up their act during the transition to a low carbon society.

There is currently thirty applications to extract coal in the U:K fourteen of these are in Northumbria and Co. Durham alone, all the applications are to surface mine or opencast.
I think it would be useful for progression of the debate for the N.U.M to clarify it’s position on opencasting, during my preparation for this conference I looked extensively on the N.U.M website and rang several national and area officials but couldn’t get a clear answer on the N.U.M position. As there are so few deep mines left and no plans to revive deep mining practice I Think the N.U.M should put a clear statement on it’s webpage regarding it’s position on opencast mining.
*see end notes*
For me and many other folk opencast mining is vandalism the scale of destruction of a modern opencast operation is obscene. How U:k coal, miller argent and the banks group can use phases such as sustainable and environmentally sensitive when referring to opencast is beyond me. A look over an opencast site leaves no doubt as to the environmental destruction of such an operation.
The local communities that live next to such sites are forced to face damage to their local environment, heavy plant moving though their villages bringing noise and dust. House prices are lowered and any tourism in the area is diminished. At the end of the operation the so-called developers build a Mickey Mouse nature reserve and add a few extra footpaths. You can re-plant the tree’s but you can’t replace the forest it’s just not that simple.
Some of our climate camp group has been spending time with the residents of Consett, Leadgate and Dipton in Co. Durham a traditionally working class area abandoned by the Tories and capitalists during the 1980’s.
Recently the residents took us on a guided walk over a site that U:K coal plan to opencast, the guide that lead the walk a local historian was amazingly well informed and the son of a mining family. He showed us the old bell mining sites, the entrances to drift mines, the honeycombing left after making coke and the old wagon ways used to transport the coal. In addition he explained the political and social aspects of mining over the last few hundred years, this site at Bradley/Billingside woods is part of the fabric of mining heritage in the North east.
We then went on to look at the flora and fauna in the area, nesting sites of red kites, the pond where crested newts have made their home, the badger sets in among ancient holly copse and the woodland that provides habitat for the nearly extinct red squirrels.
U:K coal has stated that the mining history and the unique wildlife is of no significance!
The building blocks of a proud industrial heritage and the loss of habitat to three species that are on the brink of extinction and the damage to the wider ecology is of No Significance!
The disturbance to the local residents is of no significance to U:K coal.
It would seem to me that the only thing of significance to U:K coal, Banks group and Millar argent is profits for the fat cats on the board and it’s shareholders, they certainly don’t care about miners, local communities, wildlife or the fact that their profit driven actions will contribute to climate change.
Personally I hope that the people which profit from these opencasting schemes choke on the money!
The supposedly democratic planning process is also being undermined.
In the recent planning application for a new Banks group site close to Cramlington, Northumberland county council ( N.C.C) correctly rejected refused the application as the proposed site is located within an opencast constraint area, the ironically named communities minister at the time Hazel Blears stepped in and overruled N.C.C.
I believe that the planning application for the Smalley site was also rejected by Derbyshire county council, again it was overruled by central government.
What is the point of a planning process at all if the government is consistently overruling county councils.
I don’t know why the government and industry has such an obsession for opencasting, personally I think it’s a mixture of economics and political vengeance for the miners insurrection the 1990’s. Whatever the reason opencast mining is an unacceptable practice.
In the build up to the recent(2008) climate camp a small but very vocal group accused the climate camp of attacking the working class by criticising coal.
The truth is that it is the ruling capitalist class in their pursuit of the neo-liberal policies of the state that have consistently and continually attacked the working class. Not the climate camp.
At a time of crises for the planets ecology and human inhabitants the ruling capitalist class seeks to make a profit from climate change, the use of unsustainable bio-fuels, nuclear energy, offsetting schemes and sending troops to fight for fossil fuels, these are assaults on the human species and our ecology that only the ruling class will profit from whilst the working class of the world( the majority of which don’t live in England) will suffer because of the irresponsible actions of the capitalists.
Ecology is a class issue as our ecology fundamentally underpins our existence. Our ecology is under sustained assault from rapacious and dominating social systems these systems are maintained and fostered by human elites, general ignorance, apathy and fear.
We rapidly need a new social system and we need to protect the old systems which balance with our wider ecology.
Another voice of concern at the climate camp was the effect that the no new coal stance taken by the camp would have on the freight rail industry and the perceived loss of jobs within that industry, this analysis is clearly incorrect. It is more than fair comment to say that the environmental movement has championed rail as a form of freight and personal transport consistently for a number of years. The use of rail for personal transport is currently at an all time high this is due to a number of factors, one of the major contributory factors has been the green lobby for public transport, indeed the use of rail is a very real and immediate solution to the crises of climate change. The green movement will continue to lobby for a better publicly owned sustainable transport system.
Having attended all three climate camps I think that Dave Douglass class analysis isn’t to far short of the mark, yes there are a good few middle class uni kids and plenty of weekend hippies that want to dip into alternative culture, worst still is the political vampires and journalists that have jumped on the green bandwagon to enhance their careers, But the majority of the people that attend the camps are just normal day to day folk that are genuinely concerned about the future. It is certainly not the lions den which Dave described in his report to the N.U.M.
The climate camp is a movement that is still in its infancy it was birth in the 1990s reclaim the streets/anti-road protests movement (which incidentally re invigorated the anti-capitalist movement).
Admittedly the camp has been slow to recognise the worker class position however, the unions have been involved in all three camps, during the second camp people went and supported striking workers from Heathrow, but by the time the third camp was organised a proposal for a just transition had been published, there was a lot more union activity at the camp and the workers climate action group attempted to engage the workers at the power station (though the police didn’t allow this).
Hopefully this will star to bring the workers and the environmentalists closer to agreement on the many complicated issues that affect our future lives.
To be honest (with the exception of the royals) I’m not that concerned which class you’re from, I’m interested in what your doing and the changes your making. After all shouldn’t all social movements be welcoming regardless of your background.
The climate camp is getting out there confronting the institutions of power, resisting capitalism and saying no to authoritarian control. It is a movement built on participary democracy and consensus decision making whilst working, eating and playing communally.
I hope that we can agree that this side of the climate change movement is healthy, alive and to be welcomed.
I want to thank the NUM, the IWW and in particular Dave Douglass for organising this debate and I hope we can move away from the childish and provocative statements that have been posted on forums and websites like Indymedia or magazines such as Shift.
Some of the vicious and sectarian comments I have read recently have truly saddened me.
Today’s honest, open and intelligent adult debate should move us toward common ground and I feel there are points of agreement already.
- That there is no place for Nuclear power, civil or military.

- That carbon sequestration technology is to be welcomed when proved on a global industrial scale.

- That workers, environmentalists, community activists and academics need to find common ground and get organised to build a sustainable future.

- That the UK must lead the way in clean and sustainable energy production that would create tens of thousands of green jobs.

- That the way the state deals with mass protest movements, strikes or insurrection is not acceptable.

- And most importantly of all to bring about new social system, which brings an end to the domination of capitalism that exploits people and planet.

*end note*
During the debate the N.U.M stated that they are against opencast mining. A clear statement is still needed on their website.

Please feel free to reproduce any part of this document. It’s @nti copyright.
Thanks to the anonymous author of the pamphlet insurrectionary ecology. I have clearly used a couple of paragraphs from your amazing booklet.
I also gleaned some of the facts/stats from the Greenpeace website.

Web: www.toonclimatecamp.blogspot.com
E-mail: [email protected]

PLEASE help stop the needless destruction of Bradley/billingside woods. Check out www.pontvalley.net and sign the petition.

Report back from Newcastle Climate Action

Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Report: Class,climate change and coal conference
The debate was well attended and very well organised.
Dave Douglass(former num & iww ) spoke first about the environment and 'clean' coal place within the environment,As expected Dave spoke clearly and passionately for coal , though at one point he came close to stating that climate change was not being accelerated by human activity!

Next to speak was Arthur Scargill. Mr Scargill gave a robust defence of coal and spoke strongly against other forms of environmental degradation especially nuclear power.His speech was well balanced and factual.It was a pleasure to hear Mr Scargill talk,but he was not the charismatic speaker of the 1980's it felt a bit like an after dinner circuit speaker, not the iconic figure we are used too.(mr Scargill chose to go over his allotted time and not to remain for the debate)

Dr Paul Chatterton from Leeds uni followed mr Scargill,(it should be noted that paul and all the speakers from the green movement stated that they were NOT spokesperson from the climate camp) Dr Chatterton gave his reasons for not using coal as a power source, giving clear and factual evidence on climate change and the social conditions in other countries without health and safety laws or unions to help protect the workers.

The president of the N.U.M Ian lavery followed Paul chatterton. Mr lavery delivered a loud and uncompromising speech in defence of coal mining and the combustion of coal,his presentation was laddish,bhol-shy and at points mildly sexist.The accuracy of his facts were also questioned from the floor(from a parsons engineer that helped build Drax)

The chair of the meeting then opened the floor up for debate,at this point it became clear that there was a diverse mix of people attending the debate. Questions came forward from environmental activists,union officials,anarchists and socialists.After a bit healthy debate there was a break for lunch.

After lunch there was a change to the chairperson of the meeting.

Davie Guy a long respected union official spoke gently about C.C.S technology,he was very clear and factual in his presentation.He also spoke with sadness about the current state of the unions within the U:K. One of many points of agreement was opposition to open cast mining and to dirtier coal burning technologies.

Paul Morrozo followed Mr Guy, Paul spoke in particular about the Proposed new power station at Kingsnorth and it's effect on climate change. During Pauls presentation the 'chair' of the meeting continually cut in and added comments.Mr Morrozo Patience was remarkable.The chair then cut paul 10 mins short stating that we were short on time, The chair then used this opportunity to give his opinion on the supposedly naive arguments of the green movement.The 'chair' David Hopper an N.U.M official was challenged by one of the other invited speakers and asked to chair the meeting properly,many people from the floor also asked Mr Hopper not to abuse his position,one of the people from the floor that challenged Mr Hooper was female Mr Hoopers reply was clearly sexist this lead to a furious response, in particular from the anarchists.Mr Hopper chose to resign the position of chair without apology.

After order had been resumed it was the turn of the R.M.T unfortunately Bob Crowe couldn't make it so a regional official of thr R.M.T spoke about the prospects of moving coal by train(apologies for not knowing the speakers name)

The final speaker Kevin Bland spoke on local issues in particular opencast mining and the urgent need to defend our natural environment, Kevin spoke in depth about ecology being a class issue and gave a strong anti-capitalist analysis of environmental degradation.

The chair then opened the debate to the floor,again there was healthy constructive debate.

Overall it was a good event that brought out many positives,there is common ground between grass roots environmentalists and the energy workers.Hopefully the two groups can continue to engage and work together.
The anarchist film collective filmed the days events they hope to make a short film around the debate.
Thanks to the NUM for organising this event and in particular Dave Douglass for his efforts.