I have to admit it, I hesitated with the decision and had to sleep on it.The urgent call for people to come to the last camp at Combe Haven which they expect to be evicted this coming Monday 28th got an immediate emotional response but not a practical one. This weekend is busy for me. It would be really inconvenient to go this time. It wouldn't only be easy to stay away and hope lots of other people go, but it would probably be sensible. I'm looking forward to a child's birthday party with friends on Sunday. I have an annual visit from an LEA officer on Monday morning to discuss my son's home education. I have paid work Monday evening.
What's happening in the Combe Valley is not sensible, neither is it easy for the people trying to stop it. It's certainly inconvenient to the animals and trees and other inhabitants of the open countryside who stand in it's way.
How will I be able to sit calmly explaining to the woman from the LEA how I'm providing my son with an education, show her his biology book where we've studied photosynthesis and the structure of plants at the very same time that I know in a beautiful part of our countryside, bailiffs and chainsaws are working their hardest to destroy those things, to destroy a vital aspect of this country which I try to teach my son to value, respect and appreciate? Maybe a responsible parent would not be sitting at a table in a meeting which could be postponed and instead be up in the branches of one of those trees or at the very least be on the ground trying to prevent such a crime, to protect those majestic plant structures which perform the life-giving process of photosynthesis, for the generations to come (wildlife generations as well as human)? It's not in the text book I know, but then the most important things rarely are.
Will I enjoy a party, chat, eat cake (amazing as I know it will be!) while a group of dedicated, cold, probably very tired people are urgently calling for help to save their camp, save the last remaining mature oak trees in the area, a call that by next week will most likely be far too late.
How can I go off to work, smile at the customers, earn my money, while not being there to try and stop this country being made another big step poorer. To some people, this may sound overdramatised, like an out of proportion concern, that we're talking about a handful of trees and that given the immense number of problems the world is facing, energy could be better spent elsewhere. I totally agree that the enormity of the issues in crisis which as a global community we are facing can feel overwhelming and that if we look at, for example, rainforest destruction, then these few trees at Combe Haven can seem almost insignificant. But, it is exactly because of both the devastating global and national environmental context we are in, which makes this struggle so vitally important. It's because of the current economic crisis that it's so insane to be resurrecting a roads programme which will divert billions away from the essential services which the infrastructure of our society truly needs. To choose to act locally we can each begin to confront the bigger picture which otherwise can seem unmanageable. To act to save these particular individual trees, to stop this particular road from going ahead, we can help to prevent an avalanche of future environmental destruction across Britain's countryside. I suppose it comes down to what we care about, what we choose to identify with.
If the eviction does not happen after all on Monday will I have cancelled my previous commitments for nothing? No, I don't think so. I obviously want to make the effort for the occasion that would be most effective but each day not evicted is a good thing and while I'm there I can make every second count in giving support to this amazing community. Even if I can't go and live there. Even if I can only give a couple of days.
And next week it may be too late.
So I'm writing this post in haste, knowing that through the writing of it I have come to a decision. Combe Haven has called to me, the oaks, the badgers, that particular little robin, the people. How can I say no?