Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The End Of the Beginning

The most important thing to say right now is that there are still people up in the trees at Combe Haven. Yesterday there were no trees cut down despite the eviction beginning in the morning and continuing all day. Last night the news of the actions of East Sussex County Council was shocking and appalling:

As of 10.30am today the latest news is that the eviction of the camp has started again and work is taking place to get people out of the trees, and the Council is still denying people food and medicine:

Please keep checking the website above or Combe Haven Defenders Facebook and Twitter for updates and get over there to support them if you're able.

My family slid and slopped through the rivers of mud into the camp on Sunday. There was busy activity around the camp all day, not only hosting the visit from the senior delegates from six major environmental groups (RSPB, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, The Wildlife trusts, Campaign for Better Transport and the Campaign to Protect Rural England) but also building defences around the camp and fixing up tree nets, practicing climbing, keeping visitors fed with a seemingly inexhaustible hospitality, etc.

All this was busily going on around my son who buried his head in a new book for most of the day, but insisted he really liked being there at the camp to do so. Quite a few children visited the camp during the day, including one young boy who brought his own harness and did some impressive climbing up in the oaks.
As it got dark, some people left, including my family, and those who were staying ate round the fire and discussed what would happen the following day. I headed to my tent for an early night and stood transfixed for a while looking up at the clear sky and the full moon through the branches.
I didn't get a lot of sleep, partly the cold and partly dreams of falling in mud waking me up with a start and other times thinking I heard people calling only to realise it was owls hooting to each other. People were up early in the morning and preparing their positions. I was still a bit undecided, whether to try and get up a tree or assist with keeping bailiffs out from below. Then someone offered the irresistable opportunity to lock my arm into a block of concrete and Yay! I had a plan. Was I worried? My face does look unintentionally worried sometimes but No! Oh, ok, just a tiny bit...it was a new experience and I'm quite attached to my arm.

Reports of vans arriving confirmed the eviction was going to take place. The defences built up the day before with brambles and wire were helpful in keeping them out for a while, together with some smoke clouding visibility.

Meanwhile at the back of the camp, people were blocking them from coming over the stream, where a couple of metal bridges were brought in. A tractor brought a load of fencing which started going up around the camp.

Some defenders were roughly dragged from the bridge onto the other side of the stream and a man who managed to get back into the camp was arrested and carried off site.

I loved the radical poetry that was recited loudly for all to here from out of the treetops and the way someone was serenading the camp with CNT anarchist songs. I loved the care and kindness shown by people on the ground (before they got evicted) to ensure those who were locked-on were comfortable as possible and had what they needed. I loved the man who built me a wooden seat and the woman who brought me a jumper to pad it with (sorry I still have this jumper and need to get it back to its owner!). I loved the sense of humour of some of those up there who kept spirits high and even halted the work of the pneumatic drilling on our lock-on for a while. I loved my lock-on colleague who made me laugh quite a lot. I loved the tree I was locked beside and whenever police spoke to me I just focussed all my attention on this and then I couldn't hear or see them anymore...
Watching the micro-environment and it's inhabitants going about their daily lives directly in front of my eyes. An ant, a beetle, a tiny spider creeping into a crevice in the bark. The ivy on it's slow climb upwards. I really felt very close to the energy of this tree and felt an immense sadness that within hours or days, all this great body of life and the lives it supports was going to be lost forever, for nothing, for a road that isn't needed, for greedy land-owners like Cambridge University (they're not locals, by the way), for George Osborne's mindless road scheme and for a council which doesn't care about the destruction of the natural environment it is supposed to be responsible for any more than it cares about its residents welfare or for the local land-owners who have had their land forcibly purchased (though apparently still waiting to be fully reimbursed).  
After being carried out of the camp beyond the fencing boundary, we could see everyone who was still up in the trees and on the tripod and knew this was going to certainly go into a second day. Maybe the police and bailiffs would have got more done if they hadn't kept stopping for tea-breaks and to go off and play in their bouncy castle...

 Who knows, but everyone who participated in the resistance won the trees another day.
There's a lot of people, myself included, who have referred to the people living and taking action at Combe Haven as 'heroes', who have said 'well done' and 'brilliant' and 'keep up the good work'. I've said it and had it said to me and I understand this response. It's supportive and is appreciated as such. However, I'm also aware that when we talk like this and use words like 'heroes', we're placing a distance between ourselves and them. As if we're saying that they're doing something we couldn't do. As if we can't all be as strong and remarkable, as brave and committed as these people. I realise we can't all physically get there, we can't all juggle our differing responsibilities to offer the same levels of involvement as everyone else, but most of us can join in practically in some way. Most of us can possibly claim the power to be as heroic as those we congratulate and do something real to make a difference, as well as watching and sharing the updates rolling in on our screens and keeping on sending our important words of support. Our countryside is facing a huge devastating onslaught in the months and years ahead by the £30 billion roadbuilding schemes that are coming. The environmental resistance to this needs to grow to meet it.
I know while I've been focussed on Combe Haven, there's as ever, a whole load of other shit in the world taking place that also requires attention and action. It's up to us to make choices about where we put our energy and do what we feel we can within the web, as it's all connected. Remembering to look after ourselves at the same time! So I'll still be going to work later, taking my son to his guitar class, calling on parents, walking the dog, and because I can't be there today, keep checking and sharing those online news updates. But something I've noticed from participation in direct action camps and actions, not just there at Combe Haven, is that they're places that can not only possibly make change and have a real impact on the world, but they can be really good places to restore my faith in humanity and inspire my spirit with good company and creative visions of what a better world feels like, already here and now, whatever the future holds.  
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