Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

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Science in London: The 2016 scientific society talks in London blog post

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Climate Camp - Blackheath / Lewisham / Greenwich residents' meeting

Thanks to the Blackheath Bugle's blog I found out that there was to be a public meeting to discuss the recent Climate Camp (Camp for Climate Action) which was held on part of the heath, between Lewisham and Blackheath, over the end-of-August Bank holiday weekend and beyond. I loved having the camp in my back garden, it was like a little slice of Glastonbury - but much tidier and quieter.

Helen, from the camp, was the facilitator - she brought lovely cakes - and James was another camper there to hear our views and answer our questions. Beyond that there were another seven people in the room from New Cross, Lewisham, Blackheath, Greenwich etc.

Generally I hate things that involve sitting in a horseshoe shape and having to 'go round the room and introduce' yourself - but I started enjoying myself when Helen explained how we would use our hands to indicate when we wanted to make a point, correct another's point, make a proposal and show our agreement. I'd heard about this sort of thing going on at the camp and it's a lot less daft than it sounds actually.

Everyone there was in general favour of the aims of the camp and the way that they had conducted themselves on the heath (we didn't really discuss the direct action that took place in various parts of the city).

One lady, Anne, had had some serious concerns about the timing of the camp as it coincided with migratory movement of birds (we have some fantastic birdlife in Blackheath, including a fine bunch of Canada geese). She highlighted that the birds were less able to feed on the insects living underground (presumably larvae and I'm aware that the chafer beetles that swarm around the heath on summer evenings spend plenty of larval time below ground) and that having pitched so many tents would kill off some of these insects.

I've no way of assessing if this is true or not - I can see how the birds would have to go elsewhere for their food, apparently that part of the heath is quite the thoroughfare for migrating birds between August and October - there is a lovely pond there too, one of several in the area. Perhaps having canvas over you for a week might well kill you off if you're an insect larva too!

She also highlighted an indirect problem. In being labelled as a protest (possibly more by the newspapers than the campers themselves) the police response would inevitably be a certain level of surveillance - she suggested that the campers do some homework about police classification of camps, protests etc.

Apparently the surveillance involved some sort of police sonar which interfered with the activities of the local bat population and in the week that the camp was in residence she found two dead bats on visiting the area. I've no idea what the normal death rate is for bats, or if there's any causal relationship between the police signals and bats having difficulty in navigating (or just being deafened perhaps - she said that she has some recording equipment which was 'off scale' during the period of surveillance). I think the police ensconced themselves in the Cadet Training Centre on Wat Tyler Road!

I asked her if the weekend revellers on the rest of the heath, and the Fair, have much impact on wildlife - apparently mostly positive, which surprised me. The muck from the heath does get cleared up fairly quickly, similarly the edible detritus doesn't get a chance to hang around and is probably welcomed by the local wildlife. The location of the fair doesn't have much of an impact and there are no tents - so it might seem as if the camp scored a bit of an own goal there in terms of sensitivity to wildlife.

My (mild) concern was seeing loads of long grasses / 'weeds' (see comments here) being used as decoration, there were quite a lot of bundles lying around and I wasn't keen on the idea of people having ripped them out for that purpose - however it seems that the council had apparently removed them (and the wrong ones too) and left them there, so might as well use them I suppose.

In writing about this in detail it might sound like there was a great deal of bleating. In fact it was overwhelmingly positive - it's just that I made notes here as there were some perspectives I'd not heard before and I found it interesting.

We all agreed that we liked having the camper folk around who were keen to share a variety of 'do it yourself' skills - and the wind turbine workshop was particularly popular - as well as the talks and debates. Some of us in the room (me!) would rather like Blackheath to be covered in wind turbines but having read a little more into 'acoustic ecology' it might be actually a miserable noisy experience.

This area of South London seems to be a bit of a hub for local green activities such as Transition Towns (one in Lewisham and Westcombe Park) and we had a chat about whether or not there would be any added value, beyond Climate Camp being better known than Transition Towns, in having a specific climate sub-group - and certainly no benefit in duplicating what others are doing.

We have local societies whose focus isn't specifically green activism, but who care about local amenities - a number of these had been supportive of the camp's aims but annoyed, on behalf of the wildlife, at the location and timing of the camp. There was a bit of discussion on how to get everyone back on friendly terms.

The group suggested a regular, perhaps monthly, meeting in Greenwich. There was some chatter about moving the meeting place around - ie going to people, but I think that's still being considered. We've all signed up our email addresses to hear more.

I mentioned that I'd heard about the whole camp 'thing' solely from my being online, following the Bugle's blog and hearing via Twitter about some of the events as they took place in London. My suggestions largely involved 'more online things' - I know we've all shared our email addresses with the camp reps but I'd have been keen to share them within the group as well.
Perhaps they'll read this and get in touch :D

No pictures of the actual meeting but here are some leaves in Greenwich Park...

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