on Climate Action Camps – Sept 2009

Over the past few years Climate Action Camps have sprung up around Europe and around the world.  Taking inspiration from the 2006 UK Camp for Climate Action, the camps tend to bring together the aims education, sustainability, direct action and movement.  This summer EYFA got involved with the first Dutch-Belgian Climate Action Camp and this newsletter is a look back on it.  You can also find links on the various other camps that took place this summer at the bottom of the newsletter.

Dutch-Belgian Climate Action Camp 

Early in the morning of August 1 2009 around one hundred activists from Belgium and the Netherlands suddenly turned up at an empty field near Berendrecht Belgium, 2 kilometers from the Dutch border, and next to Antwerp's biggest coal transport hub. The empty field was quickly occupied, with tents, compost toilets, a watersystem and kitchen all constructed before daybreak.  By August 3rd, alternative energy installations, a kids space, a first aid tent, welcome tent, media bus, legal team, workshop tents and composting systems were also up and running.  Welcome to the the first Dutch-Belgian Climate Action Camp.  

During the week approximately 400 people attended the camp, including a large 'anti-national' barrio/neighbourhood made up of people from all over Europe and beyond, and a colourful and active kids barrio.  More than fifty workshops took place, five big actions were organised, the camp acted as an example of sustainable living, and all the camp infrastructure was kept running through collective effort and consensus decisions made by the whole camp.  Most of all, the camp and the occupation of the nearby coal terminal inspired people to take action - towards the COP15 in Copenhagen this December, and beyond.


During the week more than 50 workshops where held, allowing people to learn about and share information and skills on the politics, alternatives, solutions and dilemas around climate change and the UN Climate Talks in Copenhagen.  From practical 'DIY' workshops on making your own rocket stoves, to theoretical workshops on 'green capitalism,' and panel discussions on 'movement building and strategy,' there was something for everyone.  The program also emphasised trainings, on everything from planning an action or forming affinity groups, to learning facilitation skills.  And of course, the program wouldn't be complete without some evening entertainment and post-action celebrations.  

Sustainable Living

The climate camp was also an example of sustainable living. We showed that it is possible, and encouraged people to experiment with and work towards living comfortable, low-impact lives. 

All the electricity used for lights, music, computers and projectors was produced by solar cells, windmills and pedal generators on site.  Many of the building materials were scavenged or reused.  Recycling and composting systems were put in place from the first days, and functioned well throughout the camp.  We experimented with a greywater system, and the 10 compost toilets prevented the wastage of a huge amout of water, whilst supplying a nearby organic farmer with manure. 

The camp kitchen supplied 400 people with vegan and organic food.  A vegan diet requires one fifth of the energy needed to produce a meat-based diet, and less than half of the energy required for a vegetarian diet, whilst organic food is grown without oil-based pesticides and nitrogen fertilsers.

And in the end, the camp site was left cleaner than we found it, to the great suprise of the neighbourhood. This small, sustainable ecovillage was a great contrast to what was visible on the other side of the canal: the smoke stacks of petrochemical factories and a nuclear reactor. The camp was about reducing our energy consumption, rediscovering communities, rebuilding trust and localising our everyday lives – all key to sustainability.
Photos of daily camp life (Indymedia.be):
Camp Organisational Structure and Decision Making

TheClimate Action Camp was self-organised and DIY – everyone was encouraged to help with the day-to-day running of the camp and to take part in decision-making.  Indeed, the camp was organised around the idea that when we get rid of leaders and distribute power amongst ourselves, we are able to take back control of our lives.  

One method for sharing responsibility and power used at the camp was consensus decision-making.  From the first stages of planning through to taking down the camp, decisions were made in open meetings where everyone had the right to contribute and to be heard.  By using consensus decision-making everyone's views are heard and the group tries to find a solution that addresses everyones concerns and desires.  The result is greater understanding between different individuals and groups, and usually a better decision because everyone has thought carefully and considered the possible alternatives, and hoepfully everyone who takes part in the making of the decision feels that they had a stake in it and therefore a stake in implementing it.

During the camp decisions took place during camp plenaries (ie action planning) and daily site meetings (ie implementing new systems for security or toilets or changing the daily schedule). The daily site meetings involved individuals from various working groups ('work' based groups open to anyone to join which took responsibility for various aspects of the camp's operation, for example mediation, water, kitchen and medics) and and individual from each barrio ('neighbourhoods' where campers slept, often based on affinities such as where people were from or a certain identity, ie the queer barrio).  These individual representatives changed on a daily basis, with the site meeting acting as a 'spokes council' where each spoke or representative communicates the point of view of their barrio and feeds back communication or decisions to their group.    

But of course self-organising is not just about meetings. Doing It Yourself means that if you see something needs doing, you don’t ask “who is responsible?,” but just get on with making it happen! And as the camp went on, this system worked remarkably well, with everyone getting stuck in and making things work.
This is What a Climate Action Camp looks like (video from Indymedia.be): http://www.indymedia.be/en/node/34384 Actions Action trainings took place daily during the camp, and several actions where organized with the camp as their base. This started on the first day with a small occupation of the office of Delta, a Dutch energy company that has announced plans to build a new nuclear reactor. Later in the week, a battalion of the clown army launched an attack on Doel, the nuclear reactor near Antwerp, and about 50 people went to the St.Anna Forrest, just outside Antwerp to warn people that it is threatened by the construction of a new part of the ringroad and the megalomanic Lange Wapper Bridge. On August 6th a supermarket in Antwerp was surprised by a group of people closing down the meat section, and informing people about the link between meat and climate change. As the week went on, more and more people were involved in an open and democratic process to make the plans for Friday's mass action. The aim was to close down the Antwerp Bulk Terminal (ABT), and to openly annouce it in advance. The ABT supplies most of the coal plants in Belgium, and some in the Netherlands and Germany with coal imported form the US, Colombia and South Africa. Eight megatons of coal leaves the ABT every year on boats and in trains. What started as a rough proposal for the mass action was worked out in plenary meetings by everyone who wanted to be involved. Eventually, a framework was created where a number of different affinity groups could make their own plans as one part of the bigger action. The affinity groups were supported with a legal team, training and the media team of the camp. This way about 200 people could not only join the action, but decide how it was going to look like from the start. For many of the people involved it was their first big direct action. On the Friday morning several small groups entered the ABT site much earlier than the suprised police forces were expecting, chaining themselves to rails and conveyor belts. The police and the company running ABT threatened the activists with a court order, claiming that each person blocking the site would be fined 10,000 – 20,000 euros per hour. Most groups retreated and tred to block the huge terrain somewhere else, thereby sending a coal boat and a coal train away. By the time the first small groups had to give up their action, two large groups left the camp, and started making their way through the woods towards the ABT. Meanwhile, the “kids block,” constisting of about 50 kids and parents, left the camp on the front side. The larger groups managed to enter the terrain and occupy it for a couple of hours, before riot police pushed them off the terrain. During the action about 11 people where arrested. Action against Lange Wapper bridge in Antwerp: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYwyWhpcPIg Action against meat industry: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-e1Z-TOEeY Clown action against nuclear energy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzUWhrT2KFA Clown action against nuclear energy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Cp0qJPdrZg ATV video on the direct action against coal hub ABT: http://www.atv.be/v3/newsdetail.aspx?mid=&id=13254 More video of the coal terminal blockade: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZ3z8gDKukg&feature=related Towards Copenhagen and Beyond... The camp and the mass action laid the basis for a strong mobilization towards the COP15 in Copenhagen this December, where massive actions are planned to stop the ineffective, capitalist solutions to the climate crisis, advocated by governments and corporations ( see more at www.climate-justice-action.org). Mobilisation groups from both Belgium and the Netherlands formed at the camp, and are now busy organising people at home to get involved. Perhaps the biggest result of the camp was to inspire action; in Copenhagen, at home, and in the coming years. For many it was their first experience with direct action, leaving them with a taste for more. The camp also functioned as a great networking meeting, linking up people to fight the climate crisis, to share ideas and to come up with new ideas. People are already thinking about ideas for a camp next year... More Links From the Camp Video of indymedia.be about the first three days of the climate action camp: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDVEm8QbRcY NOS video on the climate action camp: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwyR0jwsLvY Links from other Climate Camps Climate Camp Australia http://www.climatecamp.org.au/ Climate Camp Cymru (Wales):


Climate Camp Denmark
Climate Camp France


Climate Camp Ireland


Climate Camp New Zealand


Climate Camp Scotland


Climate Camp South Australia


Climate Camp UK


Other Action Camps

Reclaim the Fields – Via Campesina


Ecological Camp Against Coal – Ukraine