Monday 20 August 2007

Heathrow Climate Camp Success

Yesterday's Climate Change demonstrations against the expansion of Heathrow airport were an overwhelming success. For years in my area, which includes Heathrow, we have undertaken the hard slog of using all the usual means possible to prevent airport expansion and draw attention to the implications for our community, including petitions to Parliament, delegations to Ministers and Number 10, and a number of demonstrations.

Over the last decade there has been an awakening amongst local campaigners that airport expansion has a much wider impact on our environnment than on just a local neighbourhood and that the very future of our planet is being put at risk. The Climate Camp was the embodiment of the concept of acting locally but thinking globally.

The Camp and its demonstrations yesterday have put our issue on the world's media map. For virtually a month this issue has dominated the headlines in way our past campaigning has never before been able to achieve. The debate on the environmental impact of aviation has at long last begun in earnest. We are at that point in the debate that was reached over the car twenty years ago. The debate has begun and for that we should be grateful for the contribution made over the last week by the Climate Change Camp protestors.

The next stage in that debate will be the introduction of the forthcoming Climate Change Bill into Parliament in the next Parliamentary session. From the statements by Gordon Brown and various ministers there is little confidence that the Bill will be sufficiently radical to meet the urgency of the threat of climate change. The recent attempts by the Government not only to cover up its failure on promoting renewable energy but to undermine the limited measures introduced by local councils do not bode well for the seriousness of the Government's approach.

Over the coming weeks I will be doing all I can to assist in bringing together the broad based lobby that will be needed if we are to achieve amendments to the Climate Change Bill that reflect the urgency of our environmental crisis. No further expansion of Heathrow would be a simple and effective amendment.

More generally the Climate Camp protest has been just a further example of direct action and political activity which is based upon individuals and groups reasserting their ability to effect change and gain a voice beyond what many believe are discredited and increasingly undemmocractic traditional politics. There appears to be a social movement of protest asserting its coming into existence.

Traditional political structures are not seen as working for people and so activity is breaking out in a wide range of different forms ranging from a resurgence of industrial disputes to an increasing willingness to take direct action to have one's voice heard. Often ignored or sneered at by the traditional media direct and unfettered forms of communication are rapidly being developed and used freely and effectively. On issue by issue people can now judge whether and how to support a particular campaign in solidarity. Fluctuating coalitions are therefore being formed on an issue by issue basis.

The Left needs to recognise what's happening and get in the debate.