Friday, September 20, 2013

five year old eco warrior

 This week I got a Facebook message from an old friend about their five year old.

Today J heard the term 'Eco Warrior'. Discussions ensued and you came up.
Here are our questions:

Are you an Eco Warrior?
Why were you living in the trees near Newbury?
Have you got any pictures of it?
Were you scared?
What happened in the end?
How can a 5 year old be an 'Eco Warrior'?

I replied off the top of my head, but people have said nice things about it so I thought I'd post it here too.

= = = = = = = = =

Hi J,

First up, be glad you've got such interesting parents. Most people's are a lot more boring.

Are you an Eco Warrior?

Yes, I think most people would say I was. But I don't like the phrase 'eco warrior' myself, it makes it sound as if people have some magic power or are special in some way, when really it's just ordinary people who care a lot about saving the trees and who have the time to do something about it.

It's sort of like if your dad was very famous for his music, people would call him a rock star but it would seem like he was showing off if he said it about himself. And, worse for him, it would make him seem a bit special and so remote from other people.

I do like the term 'warrior' for the way that it describes a war that is going on, but I don't feel I'm a warrior in that war; the war is between the endlessly greedy people and the one ecosystem that we all need to stay alive.

But in the end, I accept that "eco warrior" is a quick way for people to describe those of us who do that sort of stuff.

Why were you living in the trees near Newbury?

They were going to cut thousands of trees down to build a big new road. We realised that if we went and built treehouses and stayed up in them, they couldn't cut the trees down. At least, not until they'd climbed up and taken us out one by one, which we knew would take them a lot of time.

By making it more of an effort, it meant people planning to do the same thing elsewhere decided not to bother. It also made people ask us what we were doing and we got them to understand our view.

We got them to see that making more roads means cutting down trees and it encourages people to use their cars more, which is very pollluting. Cars are very useful, but we knew there were other, less damaging ways to move people and things around, such as buses and trains.

Have you got any pictures of it?

Yes I have. Have a look in my Facebook pictures at an album called 'Get A Job You Bunch Of Hippy Scum'.

Were you scared?

Sometimes, but not often. I'm a bit of a wuss at being high up, so learning to climb trees didn't come readily. But I knew it would be worth it and I had my friends to encourage me. I expect you've had something similar when climbing up high or going fast, or doing something new and difficult. But you know it'll be worth it afterwards, and that it will be easier next time. It was like that.

Some people might tell you they never get scared; they're lying. Pretending that you have no fear will get you in all sorts of bother, it's much better to realise you're scared and then decide if it's going to be worth doing something anyway. If you know you're not really in danger then you can make yourself get over it.

Having to charge through lines of police and guards to get to trees was scary sometimes, but I knew they wouldn't really hurt me, and much more than that we knew we were right and they were wrong, so that made us all do it anyway, and I'm glad it did.

What happened in the end?

The road got built and thousands of trees were lost, it was too late to stop that. But we convinced lots of people we were right, and most of the other big roads that were planned never got built. There are beautiful places, such as the water meadows near Salisbury, that you can see today only because our work at Newbury made them decide not to build there.

The few trees I was living in weren't in the exact line of the new road, they were next to it. The builders told us that if we saved them the trouble of coming up to get us then they'd let the trees live.

So those four trees, which are a lot older than me and will hopefully outlive us all, are still there because me and my friends lived in them for a few weeks a long time ago.

And on a personal level, doing good things means you meet good people. At Newbury and other camps like it I made some of the best friends I'll ever have.

How can a 5 year old be an 'Eco Warrior'?

There are many places where this stuff is still going on. At the moment a new industry called fracking, where they get polluting gases out of the ground and poison water, is trying to get started, and people are protesting and blocking it just like at Newbury. Some of the old road schemes have been brought back, and people have been in camps at them too.

It's not really possible for you to go and live in the trees but whenever there's a camp they love people coming and visiting for the day, so maybe your mum and dad would take you to one. Knowing that they have the support of so many people who would like to be there but can't - because of jobs or school or whatever - is what makes people in the camps feel like it's really worth it.

But there is a lot you can do that does a lot of the same job - not using too much stuff, respecting nature - in your day to day life. I think spending time in the garden, growing some of your own food (but making sure there's always a little wild corner for the plants and birds and insects to have to themselves) can give you the right spirit that makes you an eco-warrior at heart whether you're living in the trees or not.

It makes us see that there are things we can do to interact with the natural world in a good way, that make us feel like we're making it better but still let us know that we're not in charge, we are part of things much bigger than us that provide us with what we need.

Monday, September 09, 2013

controlling dissent with mass arrests

On Saturday thousands of people took to the London streets in a counter-demonstration to a march by 500 racist knuckle-draggers of the English Defence League (not to be confused with the real EDL). Sections of the mass rally went outside of the police's designated area. They were kettled (ie surrounded by police and not allowed to leave) for seven hours, then arrested. The police had already hired numerous buses to cart them away.

The police said there had been about 150 arrests. Filling five buses to capacity and driving them away is clearly more than that. Like their habitual underestimation of the size of demonstrations, it's a childish way to discredit the dissent, and yet the media happily parrot it.

On Sunday they finally revised the figure upwards to 286, a figure that tallied with estimates given all along by eyewitnesses. They had been bussed out to Surrey, held for hours, and then all of them released without charge but with police bail conditions


Mass arrest is a tactic that has been developed to stifle protest that is deemed politically undesirable.

In April 2009 Nottinghamshire police arrested all 114 climate activists at a meeting planning to shut down Ratcliffe on Soar coal fired power station. They weren't intending to prosecute a large proportion of them. Only 26 came to court.

Fortunately for the defendants, between their arrest and trial they discovered that one of their number was in fact undercover police officer Mark Kennedy. They asked to see what reports he'd made, as the defence have a right to see evidence that may be helpful to them. Rather than do this, the state dropped the trial of six people, and the earlier convictions of the other 20 were quashed.

In Saturday's context, I can't help wondering if we would even have fascists marching on our streets if the BNP and EDL's rise hadn't been so ably assisted by sending Mark Kennedy and other undercover police officers in to disrupt effective anti-fascist work over the last decade.

But whatever, the Ratcliffe arrests heralded the modern use of mass arrests of dissenting activists. Two years later the Metropolitan Police made a their record mass arrest of an even larger number. Then a year later they broke their record. And now a year after that, on Saturday, they've broken it again.


In March 2011 anti-cuts protesters occupied tax-dodgers Fortnum and Mason. As the video shows, Chief Inspector Clare Clarke was there and told them they were 'sensible and non-violent' and that they would be free to go. Her officers then released them into a pre-arranged kettle outside where an officer said, 'yes, you're free to leave – to the police station. You're going to be arrested.'

All 145 were then arrested and taken away. Many were held for 18 hours and had their phones, clothes and shoes confiscated.

They were the vast majority of those arrested on the entire day's protests, and the Home Secretary told parliament it was a 'message to those who carry out violence'. Between them, the Fortnum's 145 had been responsible for minor damage to an Easter egg.

The police are not distinguishing between protesters on grounds of their propensity for violence, but on their propensity for autonomy and disobedience. If you're active outside of the controlled system of grey politics, and especially if - as with the likes of UK Uncut or Climate Camp - you're really catching on, then you will be clamped down on and mass arrested. Meanwhile, of Saturday's easily corralled fascists, only 14 were arrested.

The 145 Fortnum protesters were given charges, but these were later dropped against the vast majority and only a handful were convicted.


On the evening of last year's Olympics opening ceremony 182 Critical Mass cyclists were pushed off their bikes and kettled by the Met. As this comprehensive eyewitness account with video shows, it was done in a needlessly aggressive manner.

Held for hours in handcuffs - some on buses, some in a windowless bare concrete police garage - until being put in police stations during the night, all but four were released without charge, yet they had their bikes confiscated and, of course, all had bail conditions. Only nine were charged and five convicted. Again, this is not about court cases, it's about stifling protest.

On Saturday 286 people were kettled for hours, arrested for longer, then given restrictive bail conditions, yet none of them have been charged with anything at all.


The Met are taking their 'total policing' slogan very seriously indeed. This is total political policing, pure and simple. It makes anyone who was there reluctant to come back for future protests if they're not up for a night in the cells and finding their way home from another county. It makes their mates hear the story and think it all sounds a bit much to get involved in.

Irrespective of whether you come back, it means the police have already collected names, addresses, fingerprints, DNA, and anything else they can wheedle out of you. Again, this sounds daunting to those you tell it to, and it also allows the police to build their databases and target their surveillance.

Saturday's counter-demo was addressed by Max Levitas, veteran of the Battle of Cable Street 77 years ago. Then as now, fascists were marching on the East end of London. Levitas and his comrades took to the streets to stop them. It was a defining moment in stopping the rise of the far right in the 1930s. They succeeded precisely because they did not not comply with the wishes of the government and police. It's to their proven vision and methods we should turn for inspiration and guidance.