On the 29th of October last year, sixteen people managed to shut down EdF’s West Burton gas power station. They were motivated by their reading of the evidence that climate change is a serious problem and that building a fleet of new gas power stations without any way of keeping the CO2 produced from getting into the atmosphere is something that we as a society cannot allow to happen. This isn’t a silly fringe view, it’s also the view of the government’s own Committee on Climate Change as well as anyone scientifically literate that isn’t a complete idealogue/dick.
At the end of February, it was revealed that these guys (21 people plus ‘persons unknown’ i.e. anyone else they can link to the campaign) are being sued by EdF in a civil lawsuit for £5,000,000 in (non-existent) damages. This is a blatant attempt to stifle civil disobedience now and in the future and it shows a company which lacks morals, lacks courage and, quite possibly knows which side of history it is on but doesn’t much care about that because there is money to be made.
The Huffington Post has a reasonable article about how this threatens the whole civil disobedience/direct action space in the UK. The energy side of things could have been done better (by me) but it gives a good sense of how direct action is threatened by EdF’s actions.
Something I loved about this No dash for gas protest is how well organised it was, by a smallish group acting as far as I can tell without a great deal of support from the big beasts of direct action like Greenpeace. They knew that scaling the chimneys would get the station shut down and enable them to keep it shut down for a sustained period (about a week in the end). They took advice from engineers and had training in climbing to make their action as safe as possible. It reminded me in many ways of the Drax train protest a few years back where climate activists hijacked a train supplying Western Europe’s largest single source of greenhouse gases and began emptying coal onto the tracks. These guys had worked out the best place to stop the train was over a bridge where they could fix it in place with ropes etc which would damage the bridge if the driver tried to move the train and they followed emergency train stopping procedures (with red flags and the like) so it was again as safe and well planned as possible.
When I’m not thinking about energy and the environment, I like to listen to music and this morning over my breakfast I got round to watching a TED talk by excellent musician, social media phenomenon and sometime 8-ft bride Amanda Palmer who last year set a record for the biggest ever Kickstarter project getting 25,000 people to give here a combined $1,200,000 to make her new album.
I did an MSc in Environmental Technology which now has around 3,000 alumni and that’s just people from one course in one walk of life who are passionately committed to the environment and who would get why these guys from No Dash for Gas did what they did. I know there are others who care about direct action, the right to protest, the anti-competitive behaviour of the big energy companies that want to help these guys.
If EdF win this case and take them to the cleaners, what would it say if we could crowdfund their £5,000,000? I don’t want to give EdF a single penny for what Amy Winehouse once called fuckery but it doesn’t matter. The message would be that enough people care about what these guys did and about what they stand for in the history of protest movements to give free money to my own worst enemy. I’m not religious but I bet Jesus would have done that.
I am No Dash for Gas. And I’ll put my hand in my pocket if EdF win.