Wednesday, 26 August 2009

100 Days and Counting

With just 100 days to go until the start of the COP15 climate talks in Copenhagen, this year's Climate Camp was finally established this afternoon on London's Blackheath, site of many a revolutionary meeting over the centuries.

Several "swoop groups" assembled at significant points around London including the headquarters of Shell, the Bank of England and Stockwell Underground station.

I waited with the Stockwell "Blue" group as we all waited to hear of the final location for the camp. As noon came and went with no mass text received, news came in that other groups were on the move around London in an effort to create confusion over the site of the camp. Finally, after two hours of waiting, the message arrived and we headed from Stockwell to Greenwich station before walking up to Blackheath where the signature tripods were already up and the Herras fencing was almost complete.

With a commanding view of Canary Wharf, one of London's key financial hubs, the site will now serve as a base for a week of workshops, talks and actions. The climate at the camp this afternoon was one of well-organised and efficient activity - site maps became districts as tents, work spaces and composting toilets were assembled and tested. Bath tubs and kitchen sinks stood stranded, awaiting plumbing.

Something was missing - conspicuous by its absence. Policing. By the time I left the camp before this evening's 6pm media curfew, I'd seen about 10 police officers around the edge of the camp as well as couple of patrol cars. Even the late appearance of a police helicopter went almost unnoticed as it hovered about a mile to the east of the camp.

"This is so much easier than last year" a woman commented as she wheeled her bike around the zig-zag entrance barriers. A reference to the airport security style stop-and-search points operated by Kent Police at 2008's Kingsnorth camp. Her amazement was met by a cheeky "I can frisk you if you like!" from a fellow climate camper waiting at the gate.

The Met's soft policing policy appears to be playing out although today's statements about "letting the camp set up" peacefully still leave questions and doubts about how policing might change in the next seven days. How will the police respond if direct actions are launched from the camp?

With Climate Camp 2009 just a single 202 bus journey away from me this year and my recent camping plans for the Yorkshire Dales cut short by overflowing campsites, I'm tempted to join the camp and find out more about the plans for Copenhagen. Only 99 days to go now and early talks appear to have stalled over the developed nations' reluctance to act first.