A (Bal)combe over for the #climate “movement”

What do comb-overs do? They give the person who has done them the sense that they have hidden their baldness. They also actually highlight that baldness to anyone who is paying more than the slightest attention. In his desperate quest for attention (and influence?), Dwight Towers takes cheap shots at the heroic eco-warriors encamped in Balcombe.

We’ve been here before, and by the time the shit really hits the fan we will have been here a few more times. Capitalists plan something nefarious and (long-term) suicidal. A rag-tag bunch of activists/celebrities/locals upset about it put their bodies on the line. Police “facilitate” the protest. Politicians, mostly, waffle.

frackingbbcMeanwhile, journalists who give cowards and fools a bad name buzz around incessantly, regurgitating what they are told by Official Sources. Rest, repeat…

The “No Dash for Gas” crew had been planning a protest camp in Nottinghamshire. A couple of weeks ago they decided (rightly – see disclaimer) to move it to Balcombe, where a Big Energy Company is exploring for oil, and may “frack.”

It’s silly season, and the protest/demonstration isn’t happening that far from London, so naturally the media is all over it. Let’s party again like it’s 2008

Why the reaction?
Fracking (rather than climate change more generally) has the worrying potential to get “environmentalists” and “ordinary” people in Middle England to learn about/from each other. And when that has happened in the past – with roads protests and genetically-modified organisms – it has ended with costly delays and decreased power for our Lords and Masters. It’s not something they like, generally.
If you tha boss, you do not EVER want your slaves being able to talk the same language to each other… So, best to demonise, try to shape the ideological battlespace before the battle gets under way.
This can be done by;

  • putting up enormous fences (message: activists are dangerous)
  • the company scaling back operations (message: company is responsible, doing what the police suggest)
  • over-egging numbers who will turn up and then reporting the “gap” (message: activists not so popular after all)
  • highlighting the “cost” of the operation (message: activists are costing YOU money).

They presumably teach all this stuff on day one of “State-Corporate Hegemony for Beginners,” run jointly at Eton and New Scotland Yard.

What next?
‘Recovery without learning’, as Gillian Tett says of the financial sector. In the doldrums since, well 2008 (no-one speaks of the 2009 climate camp as a success, or Copenhagen. Nobody speaks at all of the Scottish Play), the climate campers have been out of the spotlight for a while (the gutsy West Barton occupation excepted).
There will be declarations of “victory” no matter what happens, from both sides.
nodashfacebookThe protestors will say “we are winning. We stopped them drilling” (and in smaller print/under their breaths) they will say “for a while” and “we got loads of media coverage/retweets.” This is how success is measured, after all.
The police and Cuadrilla will say that they have “respected the right to protest.” Unless it threatens to become effective, of course. In which case… (see below)

The media caravan will move on. Conference season is, after all, almost upon us.
Environmentalism/climate change may briefly make it back onto the bottom of the shopping-list-of-demands style of the Judean Convention of the Left Popular Unity People’s Assembly Front.
There is a real risk of “up-like-a-rocket-down-like-a-stick,” with groups burning “brightly” and out, in the absence of a strategy (moral outrage does not constitute a strategy).  And even if “fracking” were delayed (in the same way that roads building and GM were “stopped”), unless the “climate movement” gets a lot smarter, the victory would be a Pyrrhic one. *

What is to be done?

  • Movement-building. Which is local, energy-intensive, soul-destroying. And rarely has much to do with mobilising.
  • Properly designed and implemented internal meetings
  • Properly designed and executed public meetings that allow meeting rather than listening passively
  • Proper short-term goals
  • Proper local short term-goals that include SMART goals around “capacity-building”
  • Proper ways to encourage legitimate peripheral participation

I speak from a very critical distance; very critical and very physically distant… So I am not misunderstood, here are some disclaimers and proclaimers

  • First and foremost, I am not disputing the passion or commitment of the “No Dash for Gas” people (disclaimer to disclaimer.; I know some of them and liked some of them).
  • I am NOT saying that the locals in Balcombe or elsewhere are “NIMBYs.”
  • I am NOT saying people shouldn’t express solidarity. I question though, what the most effective solidarity is – travelling hundreds of miles to be hassled by the police (there are local police will hassle you if you ask nicely).
  • I am NOT saying it was the “wrong” decision to move the camp from West Barton to Balcombe (though the disparate numbers at the two venues would have given some right-wing hacks fodder for their attacks).
  • When I talk about Pyrrhic victories, that’s in the broader context of all our victories being Pyrrhic.  The species is toast.  We might have sorted out “our” problems if we had taken them seriously in the 1970s and 1980s.  Now?  Not so much.

So what am I saying (if you’ve been paying attention through the article, then skip)


  • Social change is a marathon not a sprint. This sort of “mobilisation” is not necessarily going to movement-build.  It may actually make it more difficult.
  • Movement-building is very very hard, and probably, sadly, done person-by-person.  And by and large we seem only able to connect with other people with disposable time and income.  Which excludes rather a large proportion of t’population…

Other reading:
Derek Wall

Controversial urine extraction method given go-ahead by government.

What if the protests actually interfered, in the medium term, with Cuadrilla’s profits/activities? From somewhere on facebook

So Cuadrilla have been advised by West Sussex Police to stop drilling at Balcombe until the protest dies down and goes away…… The Anti Fracking Movement is not going to fade away until the Frackers ” Frack Off out the UK and the rest of the world ” if that’s what the Police really meant.

l suspect that the ConDems and their Police will simply enact Eric Pickles legislation on Control of Travellers as l posted on here last week .
This gives Councils and the Police powers to break up and prosecute so-called unlawful camps , protests , squats etc………
The Police are doing what they did during the Miners strike and the Wapping Dispute ..They are using bully boy tactics to break the protests , backed up by laws designed for completely different circumstances ……or were they Actually designed as an all-encompassing act just to get thru Parliament ……


About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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3 Responses to A (Bal)combe over for the #climate “movement”

  1. Sarah Irving says:

    That comb-over photo is truly repugnant.

    Good piece though.

  2. Luvva Loofah says:

    “we got loads of media coverage/retweets.” reminds me of Jensen’s Environmentalists Version of Star Wars (setting aside controversy around Jensen, this is hilarious and good critique. Adapt from US context and could apply to Reclaim the Power and most of ‘our movement’ in the UK. http://submedia.tv/endciv/2009/09/10/star-wars/

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