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We are heading for our third Utopia now, an anarchist school in Merida, southern Spain and I still haven’t written anything (beyond notes) about our second one, Landmatters or much about our first The camp for Climate Action. Its taken time to get into the rhythm of things and the work-pleasure load, but now last we have more time to write.

The van is parked on the top of a hill beside a colossal sculpture of a shepherd, Monumento El Pastor. Towering bright white beside a pock marked rock face somewhere between …… and Burgos in central Spain. this 27 tonnes of stone was carved to honour the heroism of a shepherd struck by lighting. It looks more military than pastoral and was opened in the presence of General Franco, archbishops and numerous officials in 1961. Perhaps it’s a useful reminder to us of the narrow gap between the celebration of pastoral idylls and fascism.

Green and Black is not just the colour of green anarchist flags flying above the tents at the Climate Camp, it is also two colours that have historically merged dangerously during times of social crisis with quite different meanings. The rise of German National Socialism in the early 30’s rode on the back of a romantic youth movement of the 1920’s. The Volkish movement , despite it’s proto- hippie deep ecology politics was easily turned towards profound nationalism and gradually towards genocidal racism by Nazi activists.

As a result, Europe’s first and largest green Utopia was designed in jack boots. A massive expansion of organic farms took place as part of the Lebensrum, millions of trees were planted besides the worlds first motorways and Hitler’s vegetarianism came with deep green paganism. Whilst the SS were running homeopathic herb farms, the ovens roared in Treblinka.

Today we can see the right lining up everywhere to turn the soft hand of ecology into a gauntlet of power. The first UK party after the green party to have a page on their website about the Peak oil crisis was the British National Party. And when the conservative party changed their logo from an Olympian burning torch to an English oak tree, it was clear that the battle for planetary survival must always be hand in hand with one against authoritarianism.

Late one evening, when I was living in Argentina in the aftermath of the economic collapse and grassroots uprisings, I took a taxi ride through Buenos Aires. The acrid smell of stale alcohol wafted towards the back seat from the heavily moustached mouth of the driver. The taxi was driving at breakneck speeds down the wide avenues and lurching from side to side. I held on tight, the driver was clearly drunk. In my broken Spanish I asked him about his take on the countries meltdown, “What this country needs” he shouted “ is a man with balls” he took both his hands of the steering wheel to holding them cupped as if to show me the exact size of the aforementioned balls. “ A man with real balls” he continued “just like Franco.” I held my breath and held on tight as the taxi careered into another curb, dying in the back of a drunken Argentinean fascist’s upturned taxi was not how I thought my life was meant to end.

Authoritarianism always finds followers during crisis. The combinations of climate chaos, peak oil and financial turmoil that are on the ever encroaching horizon, will lead to a time when green fascism could very likely return as a succour to a society completely out of kilter. The work we have to do is clear, whilst resisting capitalisms suicidal drive towards metldown and creating a just ecological society, we have to create models of collective anti-authoritarian societies that provide as much sense of security as authority has. The Camp for Climate action provided a wonderful living breathing example of exactly this.

———–

One of the may reasons we chose the Camp for Climate Action, as our first example was so that we could locate Utopian practices within resistance. So many Utopian visions have been strangled within the world of fiction or perverted by fascism. The desire for the perfect world is a lot easier to be left to the simple pleasures of the imagination rather than risk being distorted by the complexities of reality, and becoming another grand blueprint for a totalitarian society. Initially chosen by Thomas More to mean “Nowhere”, perhaps an ironic acceptance of the impossibility of actualising his 16th century blueprint, Utopia has increasingly become inseparable from the notion of perfection.

But the desire for perfection, inevitably leads to horror. Whether in the global imposition of a theoretically ‘perfect’ yet practically genocidal neoliberalism, or the individuals fantasy body annihilating trauma of anorexia, the path of perfection is always paved with terror. Perhaps the last thing the world needs is more Utopian visions, but if the dystopian despair of the present social and ecological crisis makes us unable to imagine a radically different world, the only choice might be one of Utopia or oblivion.

Maybe like the word anarchism, Utopias true meaning has been deformed by histories darker shadows. The cloak and the bomb have eradicated the history of love, collectivity, and non-violence of anarchism in the same way that Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler’s jack boots have squashed Utopias hopes and dreams. Perhaps we need to transform the word, as the contemporary Marxist philosopher Emmanuel Wallerstein did in his book Utopistics: Or, Historical Choices of the Twenty-first Century. By “utopistics”, Wallerstein means what most of us would call our “preferred future” as opposed to an ideal one perfect one. But new words rarely have the weight of ones that boast nearly 500 years of usage. So we should stick to the word, but work hard to radically redefine it.

As radical cultural theorist, Rebecca Solnit writes in Hope in the Dark, we are looking for a “A better world Yes, a perfect world Never”. The Utopias that interest us are those which reject perfection in the face of the natural impermanence of life, they are the ones that celebrate the fact that the only constant is change, and that to strive for perfection on a planet where everything is evolving and in flux, is like trying to freeze the flow of time.

If the 20th Century was the century of the big, perhaps as activist novelist Arundhati Roy suggests, the 21st will be that of the small. The best thing to do with the big blueprint Utopias whose blood still seeps from the pages of our history books, is to rip them up and compost them. Now the challenge is to think of Utopia as something small scale whilst at the same time having the potential to revolutionise society.

The end of the last century saw the development of science, politics and technologies where the small, the interconnected and interdependence became more prominent. The increasing understanding of ecology and networks led to a celebration within social movements of diversity and context specific alternatives, rather than singular global solutions. It is within this way of thinking that we are searching for Utopia.

Those who have tried to create smaller scale consciously imperfect micro-Utopias, tend to be seen by mainstream society as escapists dropouts who withdraw from the complexities of engaging with and transforming society. Many of the small scale projects we will be visiting are attempting to challenge this view. They believe that resistance is as much saying yes as no.

We want our project to critique these binary oppositions, between fiction and fabrication, micro and macro, concrete and imagined. We want to explore those who are creating micro-Utopias that are neither permanent nor perfect, but profoundly present, actual and embedded in the places and times within which they live. Most importantly we want to understand how building micro-utopias can be a larger act of resistance, whose extraordinary ability to transform the imagined into the material, is an encouragement to all of us to make the frightening leap from the impossible into the tangible.

The title Paths through Utopias is peppered with plurals and the emphasis is on process, through, not to – journey not destination. Perhaps the Utopias of the future, if we get that far, will be manifold microcosms, prism like mirrors which reflect the past and the present, without capturing them. Mirrors whose prisms are held up to disorientate us from dystopian despair, with their stunning multiplicity. If the Utopian images of the past century were those of row upon row of identically dressed Maoists all holding up a little red book, perhaps this centuries images will be a sea of different dancing bodies, all holding different shaped prisms and mirrors in their hands, tiny reflectors projecting a million crystal clear chinks of a future towards us, a future that was previously unimaginable.

We aren’t managing to keep up with this blog. As always we’ve been a bit too ambitious – the plan was to drive across Europe for 7 months, visit 12 utopian communities, write a book in English and French, shoot a utopian road movie set in the future, file a monthly newspaper column and whilst doing all this – write a blog. Hmm – that’s quite a lot of work for two people!

A bit of an irony seeing that one of the defining qualities of many Utopias is less work and more pleasure. The 19th century artist activist William Morris, in his vision of a 21st century green stateless Thames Valley, put a hyphen between the two words: “work-pleasure”. In the utopian novel News From Nowhere he describes a new way of working where things that were needed were produced with the same excellence, pleasure and attention to beauty that art  is in our society.  Or rather, as one of the Utopian inhabitants says “what used to be called art, but which has no name amongst us now, because it has become a necessary part of the labour of every man who produces.”

Art, life, work, pleasure all remain deeply divided for most people in our society of separation, and perhaps Isa and I’s challenge during this journey is to find a way to  “work-pleasure” without “burn-out”!

Après la traversée de la Manche qui, symboliquement me donne l’impression que le périple commence vraiment, nous faisons une pause chez mes parents. Les retours en France sont toujours (et je  crois de plus en plus) source de plaisir : le bonheur de retrouver cette indicible impression d’être dans « son » pays… La familiarité des paysages, des odeurs, des mots sur les murs… Tout cela me rappelle à quel point je me sens française, sans pour autant défendre une attitude chauviniste (que j’abhorre), sans fierté particulière, juste le régal de se sentir appartenir à quelque chose que l’on aime.

 

Vrai bonheur, dans la même veine, de revenir chez mes parents et mon frère. Une certaine forme d’Utopie personnelle que l’endroit où l’on se sait aimé de manière inconditionnelle, où l’on sait que quoi qu’il arrive, quelles que soient les circonstances, on sera toujours attendu, bienvenu, écouté, choyé, aidé.. sans aucune attente en retour.

Je suis bien convaincue que si je suis partie vivre à l’étranger, si j’ai toujours eu l’âme voyageuse c’est bien parce que je savais au plus profond de moi que j’avais quelque part où toujours je pouvais revenir. La stabilité que m’a procurée et me procure toujours cet amour sans limite de la part de mes parents et de mon frère est aussi ce qui me permet de pouvoir m’investir à ce point dans cette course à l’Utopie, à chercher un futur plus beau, plus juste, moins destructeur… C’est une fondation qui n’a pas de prix.

 

De plus, les valeurs que je porte, respecte et veux défendre – celles, entre autres, de justice, générosité, dignité – elles ne viennent évidemment pas de nulle part. Je les ai apprises et vues appliquer toute ma vie au sein même de ma famille. Et c’est aussi cela qui me donne l’énergie nécessaire pour aller me battre afin de les voir appliquer autant que possible.

 

Nous repartons donc après 5 jours au Mans, ressourcés, pleins d’énergie et d’émotions. Un aperçu d’une autre petite Utopie nous a été offert par Les Romanouchis, dont la vitalité, la générosité, le talent et l’humour me renforcent dans l’idée que nous avons de quoi construire cet avenir radieux. Il suffit de trouver un moyen pour que ce soit ces énergies là qui s’expriment et travaillent plutôt que l’égoïsme et la cupidité ambiantes qu’on nous vend comme la « nature humaine ». Je ne crois pas à cette notion. Moi je pense que quasiment tout est question de contexte et de circonstances, et que si l’opportunité se présente, la majorité des gens préfèreront la collaboration, le partage et la prise de responsabilités plutôt que la compétition qui pousse à marcher sur la tête des autres pour monter vers une vie d’insatisfactions, plutôt que le stress permanent.

 

Notre prochaine étape est l’école anarchiste Paideia à Merida au sud ouest de l’Espagne. Après une pause bordelaise (encore un joli exemple de bonheur familial) nous traversons le Pays Basque et ses paysages stupéfiants. Les flans de montagne luxuriants semblent vouloir offrir tous les verts mis à disposition par la nature tandis que les vallées se cachent en creux pour mieux préserver leur fraîcheur. Je ne peux pas m’empêcher de penser que je comprends mieux l’attachement féroce des Basques à leur pays : comment peut-il en être autrement avec un paysage pareil. Maigre début d’une analyse politique, j’en ai bien conscience, mais tout de même !

Le passage du Mont Urkiola nous mènent abruptement à l’autre visage castillan : aridité et poussière, quartiers industriels qui m’apparaissent comme des spécimens assez frappants de ce que notre société peut offrir de dystopique. Des villes de béton qui semblent dépeuplées et n’ont qu’à offrir des lignées de pylônes électriques ou de hangars sans âmes…

Bien entendu il est facile de cracher sur la société industrielle et tous ses défauts alors que dans bien des aspects de ma vie je profite de ce qu’elle m’apporte (j’en connais qui aurait vite fait de me rappeler que j’ecris ce blog sur un ordinateur qui n’a pas poussé sur un arbre, dans un camping car pas non plus sorti d’une ferme bio)… Pourtant je veux croire qu’il est possible de vivre sans revenir à l’âge de pierre ni sans continuer à détruire tous les écosystèmes dans lesquels nous avons à vivre. On doit pouvoir survivre sans avoir à continuer à construire zones industrielles comme celles de Burgos ou de Valladolid… voire même à faire sans elles !

Arrivée à Landmatters

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Les paysages du Devonshire sont d’une beauté envoûtante : vallées et collines verduriantes où coulent des ruisseaux chantant offrent un panorama idyllique après la frénésie du Camp pour l’Action Climatique enchaînée avec la frénésie des derniers jours Londoniens précédant notre périple.

Nous sommes en soif de calme, de nature, de choses simples et l’arrivée à Landmatters sous un soleil radieux ressemble à s’y méprendre à l’entrée au paradis ! Après quelques kilomètres de voies uniques sinueuses bordées de haies typiquement hautes de plusieurs mètres qui nous donnent quelques émotions, nous passons le somptueux portail de bois gravé des mots « Landmatters Co-Op Permaculture Project ».

Landmatters est un jeu de mots qui résume magnifiquement la philosophie du lieu : cela signifie à la fois « les choses de la terre » et « la terre est importante ». Rooh, l’une des fondatrices de la co-opérative, nous explique que pour elle ce nom va même plus loin car il incorpore « matter » (mère en latin): la Terre mère nourricière, mère enseignante, mère protectrice, à aimer et à respecter est une notion qui fait sens ici.

Nous garons donc notre camion au bas du chemin escarpé qui grimpe au premier champ de l’immense terrain du projet (20 hectares) et sommes déjà époustouflés par la beauté du lieu. La vue sur la vallée est splendide : les bois s’étendent le long des champs dont les couleurs couvrent toute la gamme des couleurs naturelles tandis que les haies font garder une dimension humaine au paysage et lui donnent un aspect « carte postale » charmant !

Une jolie balade de 5mns (dynamique car bien en pente !) mène au champ où vivent les 10 personnes du collectif. Ce qui me frappe d’entrée c’est à quel point tous les signes de présence humaine sur le site se fondent de manière naturelle avec l’environnement. Les habitations comprennent une yourte mongolienne, une cabane circulaire faite de rondins PHOTO et 6 « benders », les tentes traditionnelles de forestiers, faites de longues branches souples (le plus souvent du noisetier) et recouvertes de bâches. PHOTO Avec leurs formes organiques et leur couleur kaki, ces benders ressemblent à de petites collines au milieu d’un grand jardin. Ces extérieurs apparemment rudimentaires ne préparent pas du tout à la surprise lorsque l’on pénètre dans ces logis rustiques : la plupart sont chaleureux, agréables, plus que confortables et surtout superbement personnalisés. On s’attend à des cabanes glaciales et humides et on entre dans, ici une caverne d’Ali Baba, là dans un appartement (presque) hi-tech avec, à côté du poêle à bois, des platines de DJ et du matériel vidéo pro !

C’est que Landmatters n’est pas un lieu pour se retirer du monde. Au contraire. Tous les membres du collectif insistent régulièrement sur ce point : si l’une des ambitions du groupe est de devenir autosuffisant en nourriture et en énergie, il n’est pas question d’en faire un projet isolationniste ni un retour au primitivisme.

Permaculture

En tout état de cause, Landmatters n’est basé sur aucun dogme théorique, politique ou religieux. Le seul cadre de référence commun est celui donné par les préceptes de la permaculture. La permaculture, dont le terme renvoie à « agriculture permanente » et « culture permanente », est un processus de design écologique dont le but premier est la soutenabilité et l’intégration harmonieuse des humains et de l’environnement en dépassant la notion cartésienne de la séparation des humains et de la nature.

Ses principes fondateurs sont simples et percutants, et en font un projet bien plus politique que purement agricole :

soin de la Terre

soin des gens

partage équitable

La permaculture prend la nature comme modèle, tente d’imiter au mieux ses principes, ses modes de fonctionnement et d’organisation, afin d’apprendre la capacité qu’ils ont à se régénérer et à être soutenable. S’inspirant des écosystèmes naturels, et en essayant notamment de reproduire leur diversité, stabilité et résilience, la permaculture pense le design en terme de « systèmes » dont tous les éléments sont d’égale importance et nécessairement interdépendants.

Un projet de permaculture doit donc dès le départ intégrer les éléments conceptuels, matériels et stratégiques appropriés. Penser de manière holistique est ainsi un précepte fondamental. Tout projet agricole devra ainsi considérer l’habitat, les systèmes d’irrigation, le transport, etc mais aussi les structures invisibles telles que les systèmes juridiques et financiers ainsi que le développement de réseau sociaux de soutien.

Les thèmes qui gouvernent la permaculture la rendent adéquate à des secteurs bien plus variés que la seule agriculture. L’un des experts britanniques de la permaculture, Patrick Whitefield, explique ainsi que pour lui, la permaculture est « un système de design holistique basé sur des principes éthiques applicable, entre autres, au développement soutenable, aux prises de décision, la santé, à la médecine, aux medias et à l’action directe ».

Cette vision holistique est l’un des arguments récurrents des membres de Landmatters pour expliquer pourquoi ils y sont si attachés.

Lorsque l’on commence à s’intéresser un peu plus en détail à la permaculture, on est souvent frappé par deux choses : tout d’abord les règles qui la dirige apparaissent surtout comme du bon sens appliqué (ce qu’elles sont !). en second lieu c’est à quel point ce bon sens là est perdu dans la société dans laquelle nous vivons (où nous avons tellement tendance à ne pas penser aux conséquences de nos actes) et combien penser ainsi de manière holistique demande d’efforts. Nous sommes tellement habitués à tout analyser de manière fragmentée, en séparant bien les choses en catégories, en disciplines, en cases dans lesquelles il faut faire rentrer même les éléments les plus récalcitrants… que s’attaquer à un projet en essayant d’en considérer toutes les dimensions et surtout toutes les différentes façons dont ces éléments interagissent n’est pas du tout chose aisée. Bien entendu au cœur de la permaculture est un autre principe rejeté par notre société industrielle de consommation : prendre son temps et observer. Pas par paresse, mais pour se donner le temps de contempler la manière dont les choses évoluent.

Kristian Buss

I’m starring into a plate of lukewarm spaghetti, unsure whether my stomach is still under the skin of my belly or has taken up residence amongst the chopped up pieces of red roasted tomato. I’m starving but can’t eat a thing. Any appetite has been obliterated by anxiety. Rarely have I been so nervous. We are in an insipid pizzeria on the northern edge of Heathrow airport, behind us planes are taking off into the night sky, in front of us lies certain adventure. I never thought our Utopian Journey would begin somewhere like this.


It’s Saturday night, a dozen of us are pretending to celebrate a birthday party. A table has been booked, under the pseudonym – Abbey Hoffman, but it’s all a front. For activists, normally unable to disguise ourselves as smart, we are quite convincing tonight in our jackets and dresses. The illusion is made complete by a large bunch of lilies that we have given to “the birthday girl’ and that now sit in the middle of the long table. White lilies, white for innocence.

Many of us have been working a whole year for this moment. The next few hours will determine whether it was all worth it. None of us sitting here desperately pretending to party know how it’s all going to unfold, but all of us are focused on the same goal, taking the site for the climate camp tonight.

***

The day began with four of us huddled around the morning papers speaking in hushed tones in an east London park. The entire process of the climate camp organising has been some of the most open, truly horizontal and democratic processes I’ve ever been involved in. The monthly gatherings were open to all and every decision was made by consensus, several hundred people were part of this unique process. Working groups were set up for everything from organising the camp food to media relations, medics to compost toilet building. Anyone could be part of a working group, but there was one that had to be closed, the “land group”.

For a year a handful of trusted yet unknown people had scoured the UK looking for a suitable piece of land to hold the climate camp on. For security reasons this group had to be clandestine, so that the police could not have prior notice to the exact location of the climate camp and prevent it setting up. In June the “land group” had presented a thorough briefing paper to the gathering detailing six possible locations. Ranging from oil refineries to the construction site of a new coal fired power station, each place had pros and cons listed and detailed strategic reasons why they were suitable locations for this year’s camp. After an extraordinarily difficult 12 hours of debate trying to decide a favoured location (link to isa) the gathering of 80 people found consensus on Heathrow airport. It was an incredibly audacious choice, some called it “the crazy option” but in our hearts many of us sitting in that circle collectively making the decision, knew that change only happens when social movements have the courage to be audacious. History has never been made by the timid.

Although the general location was public, in fact the day we released it to the press the front page of London’s evening standard declared “Eco-warriors plan massive disruption at Heathrow”, the specific site had to be kept secret till the last possible moment. A few weeks ago, police had recommended that we “cancelled the camp, much to the derision of our police liason working group. They certainly didn’t want it to happen and this morning’s front page headline of the Guardian Newspaper warned that terrorism laws were going to be used against us. (Link article) But none of this was going to deter anybody.

Lying in the park reading the Guardian on a sunny Saturday morning in this part of London was far from suspicious activity, “Only 3 people know where the camp is going to be held” began the the article. We giggled. Under our newspaper lay large scale maps of the site, which we would uncover whenever the coast was clear of dog walkers. This was the first time Isa and I had met members of the land group, and this meeting was so that we could brief a wider group of people who will take the site that night. The secret was going to be spread bit by bit over the next twelve hours to a hundred and fifty people who were going to descend on the site from dozens of different directions all perfectly coordinated so that they arrived before the police noticed anything. It was a stunningly ambitious plan. The camp is due to open to the public on Tuesday, but it takes days to set up a temporary eco-village to cater for 1000 people, so we have to take the land a few days before hand. We imagine the police know this and expect it to happen that weekend, news was already coming through that numerous police vans were circling the area.

***

Next stop a children’s nursery class room in West London. Booked under the auspices of the imaginary “West London Orienteering Club” this is the location for a final big group briefing. It’s two o’clock in the afternoon, we are expecting about 50 people to turn up, bit by bit they trickle in. The time and place has been spread entirely by word of mouth, no emails or phone calls have mentioned it. As a result no one knows how many actually got the message and will turn up, but our nerves are assuaged as more and more folk arrive. As they enter the brightly painted room with its miniature tables and chairs, the security ritual takes place, – check all mobile phones are turned off and batteries taken out (preferably before they left home so as to not have any electronic foot print of the location). This year several climate actions have been busted before they even took place, resulting in pre-emptive arrests and house raids. We are praying that this time there have been no leaks or stray rumours.

There’s a pub on the corner of the road leading to the nursery. People drinking at the tables outside have been wondering why all afternoon there’s been a steady stream of people laden down with large rucksacks making their way to a nursery. “Are you going to a protest?” they ask. As the hour for taking the site nears, the paranoia rises. Are these plain clothed cops pretending to be drinkers? Do they already know about this briefing? Have we been rumbled? Unfortunately not many of the participants had been told about the Orienteering Club cover, and so a variety of responses are offered “No, we’re going to a festival” or “ of course not, It’s a camping convention.”

By late afternoon the same drinkers are still putting back the pints and the mixture of sun and strong larger seems to suggest that even if they are cops, they are unlikely to be much use following us tonight.

***

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The briefing begins. “Welcome to operation Roaring Monkey “ everyone laughs, the nervous tension releases a bit, “The police’s operation has been codenamed Hargood, we are already winning on the imagination front. Tonight we are going to make something we have been imagining a reality. Tonight we are going to take the site for the climate camp, determinedly and its with a lot of fun. They tried to stop us with the injunction, they are trying to criminalise us with the use of terror laws, but our resolve hasn’t been bruised and whatever happens, tomorrow morning we are going to be sitting together in a field having breakfast at the climate camp.”

What follows is an explanation of the communications tactic which will be used. I won’t describe it here for the cops to learn from, but it involved a story of how pirate ships organise themselves in battle, a plastic bag full of dozen’s of “clean” mobile phones, a pile of photocopied maps and splitting into different groups of around 10 people each.

Some groups will approach the land via a park, where they will stop off for a “picnic” and then go on a long walk through thick undergrowth and across streams that have already been bridged in preparation for tonight’s jaunt. Others will take public transport or cycle. Some will hide in the back of white vans with drivers dressed as builders, complete with football shirts, a copy of the Sun on the dash board and plaster dust in their hair. And us, well we are the Pizzeria gang.

Then comes the first logistical cock up. The van that should have arrived to take everyone’s rucksacks hasn’t turned up. There is no way we can all carry our camping gear, any hope at disguise will evaporate immediately. A fresh faced young man comes to the rescue. “My mum’s house is just up the road, we can store them there, she’s gone away for the weekend” “That’s over 50 rucksacks and tents. Are you sure?” responds one of the facilitators “Well we haven’t got much choice have we” he smiles “ by the time she gets back home tomorrow morning, we will have either taken the land and managed to get our stuff delivered there in a van or we will be sleeping off the experiment in police cells. In which case she will have other things to worry about.”

Dotted across London there are at least four simultaneous meetings like this taking place. At the moment its easy to blend into this vast city of concrete and crowds, but soon a hundred and fifty of us will converge on open fields, a stones throw from one of the world’s busiest airports, with police on high alert swarming the area. It all seems totally insane, but sitting on these tiny fragile chairs, looking at the children’s scribbled drawings of lollipop trees and smiling suns, it dawns on me that this is an entirely appropriate place to prepare for this adventure and what else would I be doing at this time and place, anyway. After all, if more people don’t put their bodies on the line to try and stop our society careering into catastrophic climate change, it’s the children who spend their days playing in this classroom who are going to suffer the consequences. It’s not insane, this is the only sensible thing to do in this psychotic society.

***

The adrenaline is peeking. It feels as if someone is peeling off my skin. My body has become a hypersensitive mass of raw flesh weighed down by a mess of heavily knotted guts. Eye balls can’t stay still, they dart around searching for danger. We’re on the underground, the train is deafening as its sharp metallic rattle screeches through the tunnels tearing to the edges of the city. Our group has broken down into independent couples for the first leg of the journey. We’ve been doing all the things to make sure we are not being followed – jumping onto the trains at the last minute just as the doors close, walking to the wrong platform and then doubling back on ourselves – but it still feels as if everyone sitting in the carriage is starring at us. I keep looking down at my trousers, are my flies undone? Did I spill food down my shirt? Why is everyone starring? Why do we stand out so much? The guy in the white t-shirt who I’m sure is looking us up and down is reading the Guardian, “please don’t read the front page” I hear myself wishing…

Calm down… Try to remember to breath … Breath in… count… 1,2,3… breath out… 4,5,6… they aren’t looking at us…they really aren’t…

Last week my son Jack and I saw an animal show in a wildlife park entitled “The Wolfman”, featuring a man who had brought up and lived with a pack of wolves. Before the show began and the hungry wolves entered the fenced enclosure, he took a series of deep breaths and explained to the audience that wolves can sense the fast beating anxious heart of a human from ten miles away. Maybe everyone on this train is able to sense the fact that my heart is rapidly rising into my throat and we haven’t even got to the airport yet.

A drink in a suburban pub and a taxi ride later and our group converges on the Pizzeria. Our booked table is right at the front, next to and in full view of the large plate glass windows. Police vans are cruising up and down the street outside – bugger… Quick, think of an excuse why we need the tables at the back of the restaurant. ..No, that will seem even more suspicious. Just sit down, relax, and make sure those of us in the group who are “known” faces sit with our backs to the window. Remember – this is a birthday party!

We order food and try to talk together about anything except the climate camp, or politics, or resistance, or ecological meltdown or anything that might be overheard by the clientele many of whom are wearing ID tags around their necks, which suggests they work at the airport. Mary sitting opposite me mentions that a car has drawn up outside – “ Two bulky guys are sitting in it, they seem to be waiting for something and are drinking coffee from a flask” she whispers “I’m sure they are plain clothes cops. One of them just wound down his window to talk to the passing police van.”

We are stuck here until we get a phone call that tells us that Operation Roaring Monkey is on green light at which point we leave the restaurant, walk up the street 30 metres and then over a fence into a field and head north until we get to the site. That’s the plan anyway. How we walk straight past the plain clothes cops and jump over a fence without them noticing is another matter.

Food is eaten by those whose stomachs aren’t tied in knots. Coffee is ordered. Then it begins. Time Slows right down, to a torturous ticking trickle as we wait for the call that will give us the go ahead. We ask for the bill. Still no call. The restaurant is beginning to empty now. I go to the toilets about four times, to check the phone and to empty the stress from my bowels. No call. The tables are being cleared and the smell of bleach wafts across the room as the staff finish cleaning the kitchens.

The plain clothes are still outside and we are the only customers left. I hold the phone tight in my hand, wishing it to ring. There is nowhere to go, this pizzeria is on the edges of the deadzone which is Heathrow Airport, we walk out of here and there are no pubs, café’s nothing, nowhere to hide and wait. The waitress asks us to pay up. We try to spend as much time working out the bill as possible. Then the lights start to be switched off. Why isn’t the phone ringing? Has everyone been arrested? The police vans are still cruising up and down the street, no sirens or anything, at least that must mean they still don’t know we are slowly converging on the site.

Then at last the phone rings. A voice shouts “GO”. Out of sheer miracle the plain clothes have moved their car. We stand up and try not to run out of the restaurant door. Turn right, keep moving. Don’t look back. Walk, don’t run. Up the road, not far to go. No police van’s, phew. Keep looking straight ahead. There’s the fence. Jump over. Single file through the field. The crops are woody bean plants, as high as our shoulders and brushing our faces. It feels like walking through a shrunken forest, we try to make the least possible noise, but the crunch of foot onto dry crispy branch erupts into the darkness. Keep going north. Can’t see anything ahead. We stop and double check the map, we must be nearly there. I keep expecting to see blue flashing lights whizzing past in the distance, or the search light of a police helicopter scanning the ground. Nothing. It’s so quiet, eerily quiet, feels to easy.

Through never ending crops, then over another fence and we are on a footpath. According to the maps we must be so close now. We strain our eyes towards the horizon. Then they appear out of the darkness. Grey figures up ahead, a dozen or more, ghostly. A few white vans moving. Must be cops, but no blue lights. Are we there ?

David points ahead, “look – tripods” his face erupts into a cracking smile “it’s us!”Sure enough soaring into the night sky are the tell tale silhouettes of two tripod structures, with agile acrobatic figures clambering about on them. Designed to put activists out of reach from cops to claim land or roads during actions, they are hall marks of the UK direct action scene.

We break into a run. We reach the safety of the crowd, see so many faces, smiles, eyes beaming so much happiness. We took the land and there isn’t as single cop in sight! I look up into the sky and see a meteor scratch the blackness. We did it!

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Within seconds a large flat bed lorry arrives, marquees are quickly unloaded. Everyone is busy, head lamps and torch beams sweeping the area, planks and poles being carried. All the time more people appear out of the darkness from every corner of the field. The crowd grows and everyone is waiting for the police to arrive, but still no sign of them. A makeshift fence marking out the site is rigged up and ‘section 6’ squatter notices attached to it. Oliver, an archaeologist, is helping mark out the plan of the camp with large rolls of tape. Eva and friends have brought in a large lock on barrel and have locked themselves to it under the tripods. The media team sit in a circle and start to write a press release and make phone calls to announce the good news. As if by magic three marquees rise up like the sails of phantom ships flapping in the night sky.

After half an hour dozens of police vans appear down the lane that borders the field. A commanding officer appears, surrounded by the Forward Intelligence Team with their incessant flash photography and beaming torches. He walks along the footpath on the edge of our marked site and in an attempt at asserting authority says “ I am asking you on behalf of the Landowner to leave the site.”Most people too busy building the camp to even notice him, but the few who have come to greet him simply laugh and he walks back to the vans.

Within hours the police have stopped letting any of our vehicles into the lane, which means the rucksacks stored in the unknowing mum’s house never arrived. So for many it was a cold night without sleeping bags or tents, but it didn’t seem to matter, not tonight. And in one of the marquees a giant collective bed was improvised, made out of one of the long folded canvas sides. It held twenty very tired people, cosily cuddled up together, sleeping off an adventure and perhaps dreaming of another one.
Kristian Buss

« Oh la la, mais qu’avons-nous fait ??? » Cette question généralement énoncée sur un ton à la fois blagueur et légèrement paniqué, combien de fois l’ai-je entendue et moi-même prononcée au cours de ces 3 derniers mois ?

Retour sur image : juin 2007, Londres. Environ 80 personnes convaincues que le réchauffement climatique est bien la menace la plus pesante et la plus urgente à laquelle l’humanité ait jamais fait face se sont rassemblées. Unies dans leur conviction que le système capitaliste dans lequel nous vivons est une cause majeure de ce problème et dans leur profonde méfiance envers gouvernements et multinationales, ces militants de tous bords et de tous âges (bien que les trentenaires dominent) ont un week-end pour choisir où ils organiseront le prochain Camp pour l’Action Climatique (pour une explication des objectifs voir ici)…

Après une journée et demie de discussions épuisantes et fascinantes, une décision est prise : nous allons nous confronter à l’un des aéroports les plus importants du monde. Oui nous allons à Heathrow!!

De tous ceux impliqués dans l’organisation du camp (probablement une centaine au total), personne n’est dupe : cet objectif est pour le moins ambitieux, voire complètement dément. Le gouvernement et les multinationales telles que BAA (propriétaires de l’aéroport) ou les compagnies aériennes n’ont aucun intérêt à ce que les liens entre l’aviation et le changement climatique devienne vérité commune. L’enjeu est bien là : montrer qu’il est parfaitement impossible de réconcilier le nombre de vols actuel et les cibles de réductions d’émissions de carbone… et par conséquent signaler que la politique d’expansion des aéroports promue si agressivement par BAA et le gouvernement britannique est tout simplement criminelle. Il en va de notre chance de survie…

Et ce discours n’est pas le bienvenu chez ceux qui tentent désespérément de nous convaincre que tout va bien, que la crise écologique ambiante peut tout à fait se régler simplement en achetant quelques produits « verts », en changeant les ampoules du salon et peut-être en mettant sur pied un marché de crédits de carbone… Bref en faisant confiance à ceux qui ont créé le problème en premier lieu et surtout pas en s’attaquant aux sources d’émissions les plus évidentes telles que l’aviation.

Nous devons donc batailler sur tous les fronts : construire un message cohérent et convaincant ; nous assurer que nous pouvons effectivement monter le camp et donc acheminer tout le matériel nécessaire près d’une destination qui doit rester secrète jusqu’au dernier moment (impossible d’obtenir permission pour un site lorsque l’on promet de l’action directe !) ; répondre aux coups sous la ceinture tels que l’injonction exigée par BAA ; et bien sûr ne pas perdre foi dans le fait que nous allons réussir… Que nous allons prendre les autorités par surprise et squatter un champ à quelques centaines de mètres de l’aéroport, que nous allons mettre en place une structure pour fournir nourriture et toilettes sèches accommodant jusqu’à 1500 personnes, ainsi qu’un programme de plus 100 ateliers sur tous les thèmes attenant au changement climatique, que nous allons organiser une journée d’action de masse pour empêcher ces « criminels du climat » de continuer leurs activités irresponsables… Tout cela en moins de 3 mois, avec un budget dérisoire, alors que la majorité d’entre nous a déjà un emploi… D’où les moments de panique récurrents « Oh la la, mais qu’est ce qui nous a pris de vouloir nous colleter à Heathrow ? »…

Et bien sans aucun doute, la chance sourit aux intrépides ! Le Camp pour l’Action Climatique s’est révélé être tout ce que j’espérais et même bien plus…

Nous avons réussi à prendre les autorités par surprise et squatté un champ à l’endroit même où BAA voudrait construire cette 3ème piste combattue avec tant d’ardeur par les résidents des villages avoisinants. Le résultat a sans doute produit un décor assez surréel : à une heure du centre de cette mégalopole qu’est Londres, à 800 mètres à peine des bureaux de BAA et des jumbos jets décollant et atterrissant sans répit, nous avons monté plus d’une vingtaine de chapiteaux organisés en « quartiers » chacun autour d’une cuisine régionale, construit autant de toilettes sèches et urinoirs écologiques (sur meules de foin), produit suffisamment d’électricité à partir de panneaux solaires et d’éoliennes pour charger les dizaines de téléphones portables et d’ordinateurs nécessaires au fonctionnement des équipes légales, médias et Indymedia (une dizaine d’ordinateurs mis à la disposition des campeurs pour que chacun puisse écrire sa propre version des événements mise en ligne immédiatement).

Et c’est bien là la magie du camp : un mélange détonnant d’éléments apparemment incongrus… Urbanité et attachement profond à la terre, post-modernité et esprit « luddite », résistance et alternative, colère et joie de vivre, jeunes et vieux, pratique et intellect… Pour, au final, aboutir à l’une des expériences humaines les plus profondes qui m’ait été donné de vivre. Dans cette société consumériste et atomisée, il est si rare de vivre au jour le jour une véritable expérience de collaboration sans ego, sans autre rémunération que la satisfaction de participer et de voir un projet si audacieux prendre forme à force d’imagination et de co-opération.

Alors que bien des medias se sont acharnés à essayer de nous présenter comme de dangereux fauteurs de trouble dont les intentions ne pouvaient être que néfastes et les motivations douteuses, moi j’ai découvert une multitude d’individus aux talents divers, dont le but premier est véritablement de stopper la destruction de la planète et l’oppression qui en résulte pour une grande majorité du monde. Nous ne nous excusons pas de vouloir faire de l’action directe. Nous le revendiquons : derrière cette notion si rapidement assimilée à la violence (ce qui est réellement un scandale lorsque la très majorité des actions directes prises dans le monde sont non-violentes alors que les multinationales polluent, détruisent et assassinent impunément), nous voulons démontrer qu’il est possible pour tout un chacun de se prendre en main. Pour moi cela revient à dire à la fois : je vais empêcher ce que je retrouve intolérable de prendre place (plutôt que de continuer à demander à ceux qui m’ignorent d’arrêter) et par là même je fais une proposition. Dans le cas du Camp pour l’Action Climatique, squatter un champ pour y créer un exemple temporaire de mode de vie soutenable à l’endroit même où certains veulent bulldozer des villages entiers, c’est dire : voici ce que nous voulons et ce que nous sommes prêts à faire pour vous empêcher de mener votre projet à bien. Faire le siège du quartier général de BAA pendant 24 heures durant, c’est dire « nous ne voulons pas que vous travailliez à ce projet, nous nous mettons donc en travers de votre chemin pour vous en empêcher».

Mais cela va bien au-delà. Car chaque élément du camp a été une affirmation différente des mille façons par lesquelles on peut travailler ensemble, rendre les tâches ingrates plaisantes en les répartissant entre tous, en n’assignant personne à ce qu’ils/elles ne voulaient pas faire, en partageant connaissances et compétences. En quelques jours, le camp se monte en évitant judicieusement tous les bâtons lancés dans nos roues pour nous faire échouer. Des chapiteaux entiers, des tonnes de bois, de bouffe, de paille sont déchargées et acheminées sur le site à la main car la police nous interdit de faire rentrer les véhicules. Rien ne semble pouvoir arrêter l’énergie collective. Rien ne l’arrêtera au cours des 10 jours passés sur le site.

Nous aurons au final atteint tous les buts que nous nous étions fixés : plus de 100 ateliers auront eu lieu (sur les questions scientifiques, politiques et pratiques liées au changement climatique) ; un véritable exemple d’écologie en action aura été fournie dans les conditions les difficiles ; plus de 15 actions contre les diverses multinationales et représentants du gouvernement auront pris place, sans violence ; nous aurons redonné espoir et énergie aux résidents se battant pour garder leurs villages intacts ; nous aurons vécu une véritable expérience collective loin du consumérisme et de l’égoïsme régnant… Si cela n’est un bel exemple d’Utopie…