Lindsay was the main organiser for the conference and was to be my host later when I returned to Bristol. She was flushed and a little stressed but full of a deep warmth when we met. You could tell she was really present when she spoke to you, despite all the things she must have been having to sort out.
The workshops and seminars included strategy, movement building, alternative economics, communication climate change, and the upcoming COP climate talks in Paris. There was also mention of a terrifying proposed trade agreement called TTIP that I didn’t emotionally take in at the time. When you reach out and look at the bigger picture it can be a huge relief. It can also tell you more things that you need to come to terms with. To hear the size and strength of other groups that were working on the problems was wonderful. To be able to discuss strategy together. One discussion that gave me a thrill was that of joint future actions for 38 degrees, 350 and Avaaz. A physical action involving these three groups sounded amazing.
Both 38 degrees and Avaaz had campaigned online only at this point. At the time of writing Avaaz has around forty million members. In the five years since it was launch it has become the most powerful online activist network in the world. 38 degrees is a UK online campaigning group with over 2.5 million members.
350.org is an worldwide climate change movement that calls for people to stop investmenting in fossil fuels. It was started in the USA by environmentalist Bill McKibben and his students. When you reduce or remove your investments from something it is known as divestment.
There was a great deal of understanding during the day, a shared desire to come together for our shared purpose. Many of us talked about making the movement visible to each other. Just how many of us are there?! How many others like us want to act on climate change. We all wondered.
Many discussions were about solidarity – how to support others and recognise that their purpose and struggle is also ours. In reading about political change I had learnt that significant change is usually preceded by a coming together of diverse struggles which had previously seemed unrelated. It sounded so good to my ears.
I met up with Sheila, an activist film maker, who was to be my host that night in London. As Sheila says, she’s often ‘the only brown face in the room’ when she goes to environmental meetings and obviously wants that to change.
The first time I saw Sheila she was interviewing Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, during an anti-fracking sit-in at Balcombe. I was stood behind them on a chair doing legal observing. During the course of my four hours of observation I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone speak more sense than Caroline Lucas did, about women’s rights, our society and environment. After the interview Sheila decided to sit down with Caroline and the others who were protesting. Bright signs, banners, colourful outfits and political chanting were all around us. Some people were drumming and playing music.
Caroline Lucas’ son, Theo, arrived from another protest against the fracking site and sat down next to his mother. He was the first one they took.