The #Heathrow13 will ‘almost inevitably’ be sent to prison on 24 February for occupying the northern runway of Heathrow airport. They took this action, which led to 25 flights being cancelled, to protest against the building of a third runway at Heathrow airport, as recommended by the Davis Commission less than a fortnight previously. The fact is, we can’t build any new runways in the face of climate change. It’s that simple.
In going to jail, the #Heathrow13 will be the first climate activists in the UK to be given a custodial sentence. Given the seriousness that a prison sentence implies, it would be easy to let this scare us from taking the necessary action that our movements need. That would be a mistake, for now is the time for exactly the opposite. Now is the time to escalate things and given the amount of outrage towards this sentencing, as well as the love and support that is being shown to Plane Stupid, it seems like there is a real possibility of such an escalation.
Escalation, as it happens, is already the theme of the year. Since last year, groups around the world have been calling for 2016 to be the year we take down the fossil fuel industry. Mobilisations in Paris against the COP21 were designed and framed as a movement-building stepping stone towards escalation in 2016. Days, weeks and a whole year of action have already been called for and it’s likely that tens of thousands of people will take part, following the successes of Ende Gelände in Germany last year and the mobilisations in Paris.
If we are really serious about taking down the fossil fuel industry, we surely have to expect people to go to prison – a lot of people. There are nearly 1,500 oil and gas companies globally and the industry is valued at around $5 trillion. That equates to a whole lot of power, for instance in lobbying, which has resulted in the ineffective deals on climate for 21 years. Beyond this, fossil fuels are the lifeblood of the global economy. Fossil-fuel based products are in every aspect of our lives: from energy and transport to agriculture and medicine.
Without a drastic shift in the way the world works, when fossil-fuels stop, almost everything stops. This is why governments around the world are so willing to go to war at the cost of countless lives, why the Canadian government is willing to destroy an area the size of England to extract poor quality oil from the tar sands. Well-meaning campaigns for divestment in the fossil fuel industry aren’t going to be able to stop this (though what they do offer is eroding the ‘social licence’ of such activities).
Fossil fuels, though, aren’t the only thing we’re up against. We’re facing a complete change in worldview, a total cultural reversal. Beyond fossil fuels, we must talk about the fetish of growth. Perpetual economic growth is impossible on a finite planet, as it requires more and more inputs and produces more and more waste. Yet, the assumption that this is possible underpins our entire economic system. Growth is an unquestioned good in itself, that even the mainstream ‘left’ has yet to question. On top of this, the worldview we must challenge is one based on hierarchy: one that places rich white men at the top and paves the way for the exploitation of women, people of colour and nature.
Given that the scale of the issue is so complex and so interconnected it could seem like an impossible task. As Naomi Klein so clearly states, if we are to avoid climate chaos, we need to ‘change everything’. Conversely, as the root causes of the crisis we face are so interconnected, to change everything we can start anywhere.
It is vital, in fact, that we don’t compartmentalise our struggles and that we see that seemingly different issues are actually intrinsically connected. To change everything, it doesn’t mean we should just focus on aviation or fossil fuels, but join the dots between issues such as housing, gender, race, inequality, indigenous rights, animal rights and more, and how they all tie into the culture that rewards ecological destruction. Environmentalists should therefore show real solidarity to the important work being done in these areas, from Black Lives Matter and Idle No More to the fight against gentrification and social cleansing of so many cities.
We can look to inspiring struggles around the world from the Kurdish struggle in Rojava to the 22 years of the Zapatistas’ revolution. Both these examples show that resistance has two aspects: fighting to stop what we are against, while simultaneously building a new world.
With the scale of the challenge we face being so huge, it’s vital that we find common ways to work together and support one another. Thankfully, the beginnings of such structures are forming.
In the coming year there will be many opportunities to get involved. On the ecological side of things there will a global week of action in May under the banner of ‘Break Free’, which will include a second Ende Gelände coal mine action in Germany. Following the success of last year, the UK Earth First Gathering is likely to be even bigger this summer. The Climate Games were a success in Paris with over 124 teams and 214 actions happening in just 48 hours, and they too have promised to be part of the escalation in April this year. Reclaim the Power is calling for a year of decentralised action under the name of ‘Groundswell’, which aims to offer trainings and facilitate the formation of affinity groups. These initiatives offer opportunities for us to come together, build networks of solidarity, build relationships of love and trust.
The #Heathrow13 have given us an example of what a high-profile, effective action can look like, as well as showing us the inevitable repression that the state will impose on those who dare to fight for a better world. Many people have been outraged by this and are looking for ways to support these activists. One way that people can support them is to get active. Alone, their action and actions like it will fail – but together, we’re unstoppable. Here’s to 2016, the year we turn back the tide!
Labour's 1983 election campaign has long been used to say it is impossible for a leader like Jeremy Corbyn to win any election from the left. Alex Nunns digs out the truth
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform