Every place has a history, stories told about it by different people to different ends. West Burton Power station is no exception.
Last October 21 activists scaled the tower of the gas-fired power station, one of up to 40 new sites scheduled for construction around the UK. By occupying the tower and shutting down production for a week, they didn’t just succeed in preventing 2371 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions (equivalent to taking 465 cars off the road for a year), they also told a different story about the UK’s energy future. They were dispelling the myth that investing in fossil fuels is the only way to ‘keep the lights on’, They were taking a stand against the relationship between the government and the Big Six energy companies, where business sets the agenda and get tax breaks for shale gas extraction; and against rising energy bills caused by dependence on expensive gas imports.
When EDF, the owner of West Burton power station, slapped a £5m civil suit on the occupiers, it was a sign that activists were talking about things they were not supposed to talk about – they had to be silenced.
But the tale did not end there. The 64,000 people who signed a petition opposing the civil suit made sure that the story of West Burton did not have a happy ending for EDF – they showed that people do want to have an open, noisy discussion about climate change, fuel poverty and social justice. That is exactly why, on 16th August, we are heading back to West Burton, to hold four days of workshops, skill shares and civil disobedience. We are going to Reclaim the Power by learning and doing for ourselves.
Why is it so important to claim West Burton and its history at this moment? Because the voices of people who want to see climate and social justice in this lifetime, are in danger of being drowned out by the lobbyists buying influence at Westminster. We are told that there is no alternative to fossil fuels – even though Britain could be carbon neutral by 2030 with no detrimental impact on quality of life. We are told that the government, just like EDF, are ‘committed’ to tackling climate change – even though the 30 new proposed power stations would be allowed to emit nine times the amount of carbon recommended by the Government’s Committee on Climate Change, and the dash for gas is illegal under the Climate Change Act. We are told that shale gas will drive down household energy bills – even though extraction is so costly that energy companies need to ensure higher prices so they can break even.
Right now, community groups around the world are coming together and recognising that the time for action has come. The Lock the Gate Alliance in Australia, who oppose coal seam gas extraction through civil disobedience, the Shard climbers, those who took to the streets after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the US; the old solutions aren’t working, and people are finding the answers in themselves and in their communities.
But Reclaim the Power is about much more than sending a message to our energy companies and the politicians. We will join together to create an inspiring, open space to share practical skills, and forge links between groups campaigning nationally and globally on a range of issue. Reclaim the Power is set to be the biggest act of mass civil disobedience this summer, so come and learn from the old hands, stand tall with the new and bring the power of your own action to contribute!
STOP PRESS! Reclaim the Power will now join the anti-fracking protests in Balcombe, West Sussex. The decision to move from West Burton is in response to the call for support from the community in Balcombe, a community on the front lines of the Dash for Gas.
Find out more on the website http://www.nodashforgas.org.uk/ and read on to find out why we’re making the move:
Action Camp, 16-21st August, Balcombe, West Sussex. Organised by No Dash For Gas, supported by Campaign against Climate Change
Poster for Reclaim the Power; Pedal Power with Transition Heathrow at Hayes Carnival, 2013