Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Climate Camp

I am considering going to the Climate Camp in Heathrow. The scheduled workshops sound terrific, and I need a short break away from London. What could be better than some fresh air, good organic camp food, 1,800 policemen to make you feel safe and an airplane taking off over your head every 50 seconds.

Yesterday Downing Street warned the protesters that any disruption to the airport's operation will be 'unacceptable'. If there is a point in these protests it is exactly this: soliciting such statements, which show the reality behind the smooth talking. In moments of crisis the real determining forces are unmasked, priorities and power relations become clear. This is important.

Climate change is caused by human actions, mostly the flaring of fossil fuels. This is something the current British Prime Minister and his predecessor have talked endlessly about, but they never termed these human actions 'unacceptable'. The criminal waste and pollution can and should go on, even if it leads to an environmental holocaust. The only thing that is unacceptable is the disruption of the economic machine responsible for climate change. Heathrow airport is a real place and a symbol for the frenzied movement on which global capitalism thrives. The baggage carousel cannot afford to slow down. Instead, we hear delirious promises of technological solutions, regulation, carbon trading and offsetting, whatever. Just keep the party going.

The camp's declared aim is to stop the building of a third runway, which would expand the number or flights going through Heathrow considerably. For the runway to be built, an entire village would have to be evicted and concreted over, and the media is now turning to cover its struggle. Yesterday they showed it as a postcard of England: the elderly couple and their small well-kept garden; the local pub owner, with his melancholic, understated resolve. Such pictures are easy for viewers to understand and empathise with: they make visible and real the consequences of Heathrow's expansion. Understand, empathise, and move on: progress demands sacrifices. What the media does not and in many ways cannot show, is the real yet invisible link between the ever-more frequent famines, droughts, floods, and the kerosene fuel burnt in Heathrow.

Fossil fuels are an absolute essential to the way we live today, and so much vested interest depends on this order of things that no level of empaty or awareness will bring the necessary change. The rapid depletion of energy sources in the coming decade will be the first step towards transition, but not without a struggle. On the way there, more and more people will realize the unacceptable price of the way we live.

No comments: