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Climate caravan: turning the world upside down

St Mary's Church, Putney, 28th July, 2008

Written by Katie Webster

As Climate Camp swiftly approaches in three days, I thought it was about time to follow suit with Amelia and get in the spirit of things. So off I trundled on Monday to Putney to get myself educated by the Climate Caravan crew. Having set off on their 60 mile extravaganza on Saturday 27th July from Heathrow, these dedicated souls are in the middle of their journey powered by bike and foot. With their mission of promoting awareness of Climate Camp and rallying troops for a week of workshops finishing with the final destination of Kent to start the Climate Camp ball rolling on Sunday 3rd.

The Climate Caravan crew in the beginning of the journey

An eclectic range of wheels

Paddy on his choice of vessel

Paddy was not alone in his eccentric choice of transport

Having shamefully taken public transport, hopping from pavement to pavement like an audition for the late rabbit from Alice In Wonderland, I eventually stumbled through the doors of St Mary’s Church. Breaking into a sticky summer evening perspiration, feeling slightly bashful about my choice of transport, I had hoped to find a bunch of drained and equally sweaty folks. Yet, even though the vast majority had cycled and walked there, I couldn’t have been further from the truth. As I crept through rows of occupied chairs attempting to keep a low profile (it’s a myth that the fashionable arrive late) I caught welcoming smiles of fresh faced, bubbly chaps.

With their mission of promoting awareness of power station protest in Kingsworth, Mondays theme of “Turning the world upside down,” gathered high profile speakers from across the country to consider how we can make the transition to a truly sustainable society.

Living out of a suit case on various friends floors with a life style currently centered on convenience (until Friday when I get the keys to my new flat), its no surprise that I felt slightly out of place when Dr. Paul Chatterton of Leeds University spoke of his sentiments on how we as a society jump at the chance to follow the next trend (perhaps I’ll cancel that upgrade on my contract phone) which is a huge obstacle in tackling the climate issues we face today.

Simon Okotie of London Citizens opened his proposal with reflections on Buddhist community in Bethnal Green. With their carbon footprint substituting half of the average Londoner, it is clear that their stab at bike sharing has had successful impact on green living. Concluding his argument, Simon closed with the thought it’s ourselves which need to be turned upside down and inside out, to find our hearts in order to gain a sense of connection worldwide. In his eyes, the key here is community living.

Somewhat shadowing Simon’s value system Lelia Deen’s ideas, tagged under The World Development Movement involve leading by example and redefining our best interests on a global level starting in the community. Common ground was shared with Andrew Siams of the New Economics Foundation in that we, the last generation that can, are encouraged to revive the anarchy those of us struggling with wrinkles witnessed during the 70′s. The suggestion was to tackle the biggest polluters, starting with crushing carbon emissions with the New Green Deal.

Andy Goldring of the Permaculture Association raised two points; soil and government. With permaculture isolating the easiest root to sustainable productivity, minimising work and wastage along the way, Andy describes soil as our trump card; a way of working with nature, without damaging the future productivity and potentially improving the health of the land thus widening our eco-system. Andy’s first suggestion revolves around aiding farmers to enhance biodiversity by heightening the ecological function of soils.

In stressing the importance of setting goals for the campaign, the final point put forward involved being realistic about our government and the actions they are taking part in. I had never visualised the state of current affairs in such a clear light until this evening. Taking inspiration from ideas in holistic management, Andy cuts to the chase and labels our governments current agenda as short term. From this point he encourages the audience to break down the possibilities of this agenda into 3; what quality of life do we aspire to, what forms of production do we wish to meet and what resources do we need in place to achieve? Closing his suggestions with the idea government is too important to leave to governments, I join in the applause with hope that this change is possible, that there are a bunch of focused and committed people like you and me who want to make difference, before it is too late.

To close our evening of debates members of the public are invited to make comments on the guest speakers proposals. Arms wave in the air and opinions are voiced, yet all seems to revolve around the same idea. Hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, it is imperative we unite to ensure change can happen. The political heirachy which looms above us is not pulling the stops, and just as Putney witnessed in 1647, we must unite as a collective to inspire anarchy, sustainability and a difference. The first step for me will be joining in at Climate Camp and brushing up on my green knowledge.

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