Putting People Before Profit

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Putting People Before Profit

From tomorrow, Climate Camp will highlight how disastrous the financial system is for us all. We must rediscover the eco-system

by
Alistair Alexander

At noon tomorrow thousands of activists will swoop on London for this summer's Climate Camp. Following the death of Ian Tomlinson at G20 and subsequent outrage at the policing at Kingsnorth, we're assured we'll be greeted with "community-style" policing.

So then, no intimidation by using blanket stop-and-search powers to confiscate dangerous items, like string and soap; no psychological warfare of low-flying helicopters to disrupt sleep patterns; no midnight raids of overwhelming force to confiscate board games; and, presumably, no shock-and-awe baton and shield charges on protesters with their hands up, chanting "This is not a riot".

As for many years policing of protests has taken place under the virulent sprawl of anti-terror legislation (a trend which, of course, began long before 9/11), it should be no surprise that a "war on terror" mindset has typified police tactics. And it has had predictably violent – and tragic – results.

Clearly, there are deeper forces in play here than just protecting and serving the public. Reports suggest close co-ordination between the police, the security agencies and the corporations that protesters target. At Kingsnorth the police were planning their strategy with E.ON. And, clearly, the energy companies have a network of moles reporting to them and the police. So when we're promised community policing, you'll forgive us if we remain sceptical.

These links between the state and corporations partly explain why we're coming to London. In the last 20 years, we've seen the emergence of a carbon-industrial complex; an interconnected web of political and corporate interests, whose profits are dependent on herding us over the precipice into the chasm of climate chaos.

Consider our previous targets: Drax Group's stockmarket valuation of £1.7bn is almost wholly dependent on its eponymous power station, Britain's largest carbon emitter; E.ON, a German corporate behemoth, is investing billions in new coal power stations, whether or not Carbon Capture and Storage technology is ever really feasible. There's Heathrow, owned by a Spanish oligarch and financed by highly leveraged bridging loans, cooked up in the City.

But it's not just for financing big energy that we're focusing on London. As the epicentre of global finance, the City is overwhelmingly responsible for spearheading our delusional economic model of limitless growth and wealth accumulation, all driven by manic debt-fuelled consumption.

It's a model that serves the bankers exceptionally well – all the more so since being bailed out to the tune of £25,000 by every person in the UK, while still holding on to their bonuses. But, for most of Britain, it has led to massive inequality, a collapse in quality of life and huge debts that will take decades to clear.

Financial capitalism has been as disastrous for the planet as it has been for the rest of us. Growth is inextricably linked to energy consumption – no economist has plausibly explained a way to "decouple" them – so this model that has led to economic meltdown is also leading to climate meltdown.

Capitalism might be a busted flush, but still the City plans to impose market solutions on us to tackle climate change. As markets got us into this mess, it's impressively perverse to believe they can somehow get us out of it. There is no market price for de-carbonising the planet; it's simply something we have to do, whatever the cost.

Climate campers understand that if we are to make the transition to a zero-carbon society (and lets not quibble here – a 50% cut simply won't cut it) then it must be a "just transition", in other words a transition that puts people before profit; communities before corporate power.

If we are ever to dismantle the carbon economy, we must wrench ourselves from this financial system and re-root ourselves in our eco-system. As the bankers desperately try to rebuild global capitalism from the wreckage of the crunch, the Climate Camp will be in the City to imagine a different future; a future that belongs to all of us.

Alistair Alexander is a website producer and activist

Share This Article

More in: