Welcome to La ZAD

The ZAD (Zone A Defendre or Zone to Defend) in France is variously described as an occupation, a no-go area of radical militants, a resistance community, and the proposed second airport for Nantes.  During my first visit to La ZAD I explored some of the reasons that people have made this beautiful place their home.

Cycling or driving into La ZAD you may be unaware that you have entered it but after a time you may come to a signpost which no longer has a place name, but instead has ‘ZAD’ spray painted pointing in each direction. Or you may come across a road with artistic barricades, a burnt out car with plants growing through it, or damaged tarmac. Whilst now, all is peaceful farmland, gardens and communities of hand-built houses, it’s clear that something big happened here a few years ago. If you want to orientate yourself and begin to explore this special place, the best place to start is La Rolandiere.

ZAD map

 

The approximately 1600 Ha of the zone is a place of creativity and independence, of living on the margins and finding a way to make it work. People build knowing that in the future the police and airport will try to tear it down, to build an airport next to another one which is only at 30% capacity. Some of the farms use machinery whilst others use only hand tools. Some choose the way they live for ideological reasons and others out of necessity. Police don’t visit the zone, but there seems little or no crime – people leave their doors unlocked and one woman told me that social disputes are discussed quickly (and at length). You won’t find a supermarket, but you can still buy your food. You can buy local vegetables, bread made with flour from La ZAD, or patisseries made with butter from the zone. If you need clothes you can go to one of the ‘free shops’ or ‘swap shops’ where unwanted clothes and objects have been carefully hung and stacked, waiting to be found by a new owner. On a Friday you can read La ZAD news about what’s been happening and upcoming events, and attend the no-market. The no-market is where people donate things and other people pay what they feel for them. The money is then used as a community fund. One of the functions of the weekly resident’s meeting is to decide on the spending of the community fund.

Each weekly resident’s meeting is attended by around 50 residents and can take anything from one hour to four, including times of silence. “I hated them at first,” Koen from Rolandiere told me, “I was really frustrated, but now I really like them. You have to get used to it, it’s a very different meeting style, it can feel very slow and like nothing has been decided. But it is important. The silences give space for people who would not normally speak to say something. And decisions can be revoked later in extreme cases if people were not present.”

To finish the week off, after building, farming or making, you can find residents swimming in the large beautiful lake (it is warm and wonderful, I checked) and playing on the salvaged pedal-lo. Yep, don’t ask, I have NO idea how they got that one.

I’ll be posting more blogs about La ZAD over the next few months as I revisit, but in the meantime you can find out more from their website.

What’s happening at the COP21?

Want to connect with the biggest climate meetings and demonstration of our time? The 21st UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP21) is a focal point for people from around the world to gather. The talks begin on the 30th of November and finish on the 11th of December but grassroots events are already happening and will continue after the talks. Here’s a look at what’s coming up.

On Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th in all major cities across the world are the climate marches. If you want to organise your own local demonstration a good place to start is 350.org.

The Climate Games, the “world’s largest disobedient action adventure game” runs from the 30th of November to the 13th of December. Before that, teams need to anonymously register and pick a target. You can play anywhere in the world especially for the opening round on the 30th of November and teams will win points for their actions. Here is an excellent toolbox for disobedient actions to give you inspiration and more information.

In Paris you can find out more about the dozens of workshops, gatherings and talks on the website of Coalition Climat 21, the French-led coalition of over a hundred different groups. On the 5th and 6th of December the Peoples Climate Summit will have the largest concentration of events, just to the east of Paris in Montreuil. Between the 7th and 11th of December the Climate Action Zone will help people to form groups and to prepare to take actions against those worsening climate change.

climategamesAs well as the games, on the 12th of December in Paris there will be the largest European civil disobedience on climate change in history. This will include a ‘red lines’ action where streets will be blocked with inflatable red lines that represent the ecological ‘red lines’ that should not be crossed. After the summit groups will return home with their new skills and friendships to prepare for a actions in spring 2016 against major global warming gas emitters.

If you’d like to go to Paris you can arrange your own transport or Reclaim the Power have organised coaches. In Paris there will be free ‘crash space’ organised by Reclaim the Power for which you will need to bring a sleeping mat and bag. If you would like to arrange your own accommodation we suggest you are quick! If you would like to cycle there you can book your place (including accomodation) with Time to Cycle.

In the words of the Climate Games, get ready to make your move!

Countdown to Buzz Tour documentary

In twoScreenshot from Buzztour tape 10.avi - 5 days you can watch the one hour film for free online, download and share. Please help us create a buzz around its release by sharing it widely. The film has been screened in fifteen towns and cities around the country as well as at The Green Gathering, receiving great reviews.

Inspiring and uplifting…the film has really given me a lot to think about…thank you so much for sharing your wonderful journey…some documentaries can leave you feeling depressed but I felt so positive and inspired afterwards, thank you!

The film represents a sampling of the amazing people and projects encountered during the Buzz Tour. For the full story, you can use the free resources on this website or you can buy the book online. Both the book and the film focus not on what obstacles lay ahead of us, but on how we can overcome them together. The kindness and hard work of people all over the country made the journey possible. Ten different companions walked on the tour with an hour of silence each day, living off donations, and some of their video diaries are also in the film. Screenshot from Buzztour tape 4.0.avi - 7Over the course of five weeks I had the tough task of whittling the twelve hours of footage from the walk down to one. We interviewed over ninety people and there was hardly a village I walked through where someone was not doing something wonderful. Jade Neville kindly edited the final footage together, Formidable Vegetable Sound System donated their music for use in the film and it was filmed on a camera loaned by Insight Share.

I look forward to being able to finally share it with you.

Screenshot from Buzztour tape 11.avi - 2 Screenshot from Buzztour tape 10.avi - 10  Screenshot from Buzztour tape 9.avi - 1 Screenshot from Buzztour tape 4.0heath.avi - 1

 

Climate ethics and justice for Exxon

This week were further revelations of the shocking extent to which Exxon executives knew about the severity of climate change as early as the 1970’s but orchestrated a campaign of climate denial to deliberately delay action on climate change in favour of their own profits.

n this great video for Philosophy lecturer Mark Jago’s blog, Two Wolves, I explain what I believe are some of the key points for understanding the ethics of climate change.

Such gross unethical behaviour as that of Exxon pulls immediately at our sense of justice, yet no law exists currently to bring those responsible fully to justice. Exxon may well be prosecuted for racketeering but our justice system has yet to catch up with this despicable climate crime. The campaign to make ecocide a criminal offence is one way we can move forward. It will be by our efforts that the law is made to catch up with the ethics of climate change.

prosecute_exxon_1200

A hive of possibilities in Manchester

b5mNext to a canal in Manchester is a five story building, converted from a mill, where lots of different environmentally minded organisations live. It’s called Bridge 5 Mill, it”s run by MERCi and it’s a hive of possibilities. I’d like to share with you a little of the story of this building and a couple of the groups who use it, from hydrogen fuel to peace campaigns.

Back in 1995 two friends in their twenties dreamed of making a sustainability hub for Manchester.  After 6 months of consultation, gathering a team, and years of searching they succeeded in finding a building and gaining funding, purchasing the building in 1999. The old mill was renovated using trainees and volunteers as part of courses using reclaimed and recycled materials and won an award for it’s energy efficiency. It now has offices, conference space and a garden. Tenants include the International Coalition to ban uranium weapons, Black Environment Network, as well as bee keeping cooperative soap makers Three Bees, and Planet Hydrogen.acfdcd_5d91d7dcaf9743fd8657f26f0d1819d1.jpg_srz_p_435_301_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz I interviewed Tom from Three Bees last year and a year on they are now planning to add soap making courses to their services.

With hydrogen we can store renewable energy by separating water into hydrogen and oxygen. When you want electricity they can recombine to form water again. Mike from Planet Hydrogen kindly demonstrated a hydrogen cell in action for me in a transparent container so we could watch the gases form.

Over the years spaces like MERCi provide so many positive groups with the basics they need to function. When a town has such a hub for a long time you can almost forget the importance of it. Once it’s built, everything slows down, it stops being so exciting, the four walls become a new norm. But most towns have no such space where groups can meet, grow and collaborate. It’s hard to imagine all the meetings, all the events, all the projects that have happened in that building so far. To speed up the social change we wish to see, one of the first things we need is to take care of the basics, to shelter these groups and give them a home. Long may MERCi continue to do so.

Commitment

11694856_686503238149131_5169455722930957152_nA climate change and justice activist, and a wonderful friend, Mel is inspiring in many ways, but it’s her commitment I’d most like to tell you about. Mel came on the first two days of the tour. But it was supposed to be four. When she told me that sorry, she was going to have to change plans, I knew better than to ask why.

6616948-3x4-340x453-2Two days later I heard she was one of thirteen people arrested at Heathrow airport for blocking the runway in protest of the proposed airport expansion. The group of friends from Plane Stupid put up a tripod and fencing on the runway and locked themselves on to it to protest the airport commission’s recommendation that Heathrow expand.

The UK has made a commitment to it’s people, to other nations, and to all future generations that it will reduce it’s carbon emissions. If Heathrow expands we will break that commitment.

There are citizens who believe that that we must keep our word, and they are committed to ensuring that we do.Plane-Stupid-direct-action-Heathrow259321

 

Ethical investment – divestment

A cancer research charity would not invest in tobacco, it would be unethical. A peace group would not invest in arms. Where you put your money is where you put power, so if we want to create a healthy future we can’t invest in unhealthy things.

Money is a bit like energy, it’s only doing something when it’s flowing, so organisations and banks are constantly investing, and some of that money is going to fund the expansion of fossil fuel drilling. Even if we spend all day campaigning against climate change, our money may be quietly funding climate change. The process of removing money from unethical investments is called divestment.

The campaign for fossil fuel divestment worldwide is Fossil Free, and there are campaigns all over the UK. I spoke with Al about her work on the Fossil Free Oxfordshire campaign.

In Oxford on the 31st of May will be a rally to call for the City Council, the County Council and the universities to divest.

 

 

Walk and Lush fundraiser this week in Oxford

This weekend the kind people at Oxford’s Lush store on Cornmarket Street are throwing the Buzz Tour a Charity Pot Party fundraiser! The store’s manager James Atherton explains.

All the weekend’s sales from their Charity Pot’s will be donated to The Buzz Tour! We’ll be at the store until 1pm on Saturday so you can come and ask us more about the tour.

Then at 1pm we’ll be leaving on our second practice walk and you are welcome to come with us! If you want to walk for a few hours, just turn up but if you’d like to walk the whole weekend let us know in advance to help us plan. 🙂

 

Latest climate change report released

The latest report from the IPCC (Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change) is out.

The summary can be viewed here.

Key points raised are the threat to human life and the widespread consequences that will effect everyone on the planet. We are in this boat together, and it is sinking. The message is loud and clear that business as usual will kill us.

It is time for culture change not climate change.

If you are taking action, share your experiences with us. If you’d like to join with others to help you act we’d love to help. There are solutions everywhere we look. Our generation has a closing window of opportunity to protect life.