I must confess that it has taken me awhile to sit down and attempt to tackle the greatness that was Climate Camp, side effects shop partly because it totally knackered me out and partly because I don’t want to misreport anything and there is so much to say that I am not sure where to start… so I guess I will start at the beginning, and maybe I will end at the point where I got arrested. But you’ll have to read on to find out all about that! And apologies if it may take you awhile! I’ve discovered so many photos that I want to put out there that this is going to be a mammoth affair…
the site at dusk
Just to recap, Climate Camp this year was on the Hoo Peninsula, within sighting distance of the vast chimneys of Kingsnorth coal-fired power station, the site where megalith energy company E.On are planning to build a whacking great new power station starting next year. If this power station is built it will be one of seven or eight new coal-fired power stations that our great government is planning to roll out across the UK. If this is allowed to happen there is no way on earth that we will ever meet our CO2 emissions targets as agreed internationally, and we will never be able to continue berating the likes of China and India for continuing to build coal-fired power stations. It would be a severe case of pot calling the kettle black – so, for the future of life as we know it, we can’t allow a new Kingsnorth to happen.
I’ve obviously been heavily involved in the set up of at least one small part of the camp this year, namely the London Neighbourhood. With the help of the fabulous Leona Clarke (I can’t big her up enough – every art director loves to work with an illustrator who just so gets what they want, and delivers with such amazing accuracy, speed and good will) I produced the posters and flyers that soon appeared all over much of London inviting people to come join our little community at Climate Camp, and then I also put together a songbook so that the peeps on camp could sing and have fun together.
Leona Clarke’s amazing poster intended to invite Londoners to visit Climate Camp
checking out the songbooks!
This was done at the very last minute before I left for camp and the 300 books that I persuaded my lovely printers Principal Colour to print for free (sample comment to me “have you heard of the phrase ‘more front than Brighton Beach Amelia?’” – what, me?!) were delivered by a bemused courier to the roundabout above camp as we were under siege from several dozen obnoxious riot police (are there any other kind?) It had been noted that a brother of one of the guys who works at Principal Colour works for the Kent Police so maybe he could have given me the books but we decided that was probably a baaaaad idea. My lovely intern Emma Hamshare also made four beautiful yellow aprons that were inspired by the concept of an escaped coalmine canary and were worn through the week by a variety of motley London cooks.
London neighbourhood cooks in Emma’s coalmine canary design aprons
But as usual I digress… on the Sunday I couldn’t wait to get away from dirty old London to the utopian pastures of the Hoo peninsula, and with backpack aloft I met my ex boyfriend Dave on the train out to Strood. Already I was meeting familiar faces at the station and by the time we disembarked the place was positively thronging with happy looking people, some of whom I knew already from my many Climate Camp related missions. Catching the bus with two adventurous school girls and Guy Shrubsole, we found our way to the police check point for the first of many searches and pink slips.
waiting to be searched in the police pen
To say that this felt incredibly uncalled for is to totally underemphasize the amount of pressure this constant ill-treatment put us though.
Dave surrounded by friendly cops
Luckily I winged my way through the searches with belongings fully intact – not so many others. One great video made by VisionOn TV on camp showed a multitude of not so lucky folk detailing the ridiculous things that they had confiscated… kid’s crayons, tent poles, bolts to complete the compost loos, a brolley. The list went on and on. And as we stood there we watched helplessly as they impounded a large truck bearing one of our much needed wind turbines. Oh the insanity.
And oh the joy on entering the Climate Camp site – much bigger and more sloping than last year, it was still in a state of preparation so our compatriots were mightily pleased by the sudden influx of bodies for the official start of camp. Needless to say that everything was behind due to the police antics that had taken place in the days previous to our arrival. Thanks, again.
the welcome flags
My first evening was spent watching Team America in the peddle powered cinema in the Scotland neighbourhood – I hadn’t seen it before, and whilst certainly a one trick pony it suddenly dawned on me where my friends were getting “i’m so ronry” catchphrases from, and I enjoyed the crack. All seemed so lovely and pleasant; we even had a beautiful full rainbow appear over the whole camp that framed Kingsnorth a treat – but I had a niggling feeling that this was the calm before the storm, and boy was I right.
the rainbow over happy campers
5am, Monday morning, and what was to become the first of many dawn wake up calls. Psychological warfare had commenced – we’ll fuck their minds up with lack of sleep if nothing else. Let me remind you that we pitched up in Kent as PEACEFUL protestors, with no plan to use violence of any kind. Awoken by the frantic alarm calls of those who had been on duty at the topmost gate and were now racing through the fields to rally the troops, I hopped out of my pyjamas (not so many other people), grabbed my camera and ran to help out. It’s quite something to be confronted with so many hostile men whilst still half asleep in your bedclothes, but this is exactly what happened.
a nice way to wake up NOT
Many aggressive policemen and a clearly scared-out-of-her-wits police woman, all wielding batons and grimaces in the beautiful morning half light.
cold and still in pyjamas and half asleep
police at dawn
it all seems so polite
Much has been made of police brutality so I won’t go into it in too much detail again – all I will mention is that we sang, and we put our hands in the air when they charged us with pepper spray and chanted “there is no riot, this is a peaceful protest” and we engaged some of the more genuine cops.
sitting politely and singing
but we apparently need full shield riot police
coming in strong for no reason
and we had our hands in the air as they pepper sprayed us
hands in the air, peaceful people
atop the van that was apparently “abandoned” and the reason police came on site
And here are some videos to show you what happened.
you can probably hear that I wasn’t very impressed by this whole episode. I should probably not get so annoyed when I am taking a video and don’t know how to edit it so apologies for the voiceover. still, you’ve got to admit I had a point. and you’ve got to remember we had done NOTHING wrong.
so we sang action songs with the riot cops, and they loved it
Most of Monday got sidelined with the whole ordeal. Fortunately it was a beautiful day, thoughtful protesters made vats of tea and porridge and hand delivered them to the people protecting our site, continuing to do so at mealtime intervals throughout the week, and we managed to hold a few of the planned workshops alongside the police lines so as not to completely lose sight of the reason we were all assembled in the Hoo, to listen and talk and inspire each other towards a better future.
delivering porridge to protesters on the front line
We even held an impromptu session where anyone could stand up and talk about why they felt it was so important to be at Climate Camp, which was incredibly moving, conducted as it was in front of the riot police lines.
one particularly passionate individual explains why he has come to Climate Camp, but the lady riot cop just wants to dance
a Scandinavian friend tells us why he has travelled by boat and train to join us
protesters sit peacefully in front of the police line in the sun
Then by afternoon the police had decided to try and raid the camp from the bottom gate and it quickly became apparent that our site was almost too big to try and control.
the wall of riot police advancing onto site from below
As I passed the riot police who were standing awkward and out of place on our great grassy main parade whilst protesters tried to reason with them “we don’t need you, there is no riot!” I found my friends Kat and Plane Stupid founder Joss lain out on the ground shrugging their shoulders, as if to say, what the hell can we do now?!
Kat and Joss take a break during the police raid – clearly a major riot going on here!
During this stand off I not only had to pinch (or briefly borrow) a bike and trailer from Bicycology to get the songbooks from way off site, passing bike and trailer over the barracaded main gate, but a number of news journalists made it onto the site, thereby ensuring that most of the photos used for the remainder of the week were of well, whatever it was you most probably saw: protesters lined against police. And so the story goes on, onesided as ever.
Fortunately things never got as heated again, at least not on our site during the week leading up to the main day of direct action. But for most of the week we had to trundle up to the roundabout half a mile away to fetch all the camp food, which was often late as were the ensuing meals.
delivering mounds of veg by hand to the main gate
We managed to survive without onsite police presence for the rest of my time on Climate Camp – that despite their daily pleas to allow multiple police units on permanent patrol. I think this was a significant victory – Kent police may have argued that we needed police patrols for our own safety, but the only thing that people needed protection from was the police themselves – absolutely the only aggressive force to be found in the vicinity.
And so we remained a harmonious autonomous community. I am sure my friend Jamie won’t mind me quoting him at this point, because I think he summed it up really well in an email he sent around our mailing list last week. “I’ve never seen a group of people use consensus in such an efficient way. It was like an ant colony. Nor a group of people stand up to police with such non-violent conviction. They were getting full on battered by shield and stick and they just stood / sat there with hands in the air. It was like Gandhi.”
my gorgeous girlfriends bask in the sunshine. jeez I know some hotties!
By Tuesday the workshops were all running smoothly, and I was running around in my usual impression of a headless chicken, attending neighbourhood meetings, site meetings and the like. Workshops will each be addressed in blogs of their own, but suffice to say that as usual I learnt so much, and felt immensely inspired and priveleged to be in the company of so many amazing people. The afforementioned Jamie had put together a fantastic roster of evening entertainment with Mark, and on Tuesday night, following some typically fraught issues with the manager of my band, Cutashine put on a rollicking good celidh for about 600 people. Climate Camp celidhs are amongst my most memorable, probably because everyone is just so damn up for it! and I love an up for it audience, it makes my job (as caller) so much more fun.
Christina, our lovely scottish fiddler
a wobbly shot of everyone dancing, taken from the stage!
my interns enjoy the celidh
I got a bit drunk that night, and posthumously discovered that although vegan food is very tasty when cooked by someone knowledgeable, and also great for losing weight, it is also rubbish for drinking on…. never mind. Before bedtime I discovered, to my joy, that there were people spontaneously dancing at the police lines at the top gate. It’s what I dreamed would happen! I had time for a bit of sleep before getting up to attend the neighbourhood meeting at 8.30am as usual.
singing in the London neighbourhood tent in the wee hours
with friends, unwinding at the end of a long day
singing in the queue for food in the London tent
I ventured out of camp on Wedsnesday to try and buy some papers for the media-starved over-worked media peeps, (the brilliant news that some activists had targeted the E.On sponsored model Kingsnorth at Legoland was about the most we knew of the outside world), but went the wrong way and having disappeared for literally thirty seconds around a corner out of site of the cops I was subjected to a particularly nasty pink slip search.
the over-stretched media team
my pile of pink slips – note my estimated age, 45!!!! are they having a laugh, or possibly just trying to piss me off because I wouldn’t give them my details? (this was written by the officers who went onto arrest me for nothing at all)
intern Mel on a borrowed Bicycology bike
tripods erected to prevent the police from gaining easy access to the site
It was probably around this point that I realised that for my stress levels and sanity I should just stay put on the site and not subject myself to such treatment if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. That evening the brilliant poet and activist Ben Mellor did an impromptu session at the Bicycology stand as we watched the most incredible thunder and lightening storm roll in from the horizon. Check him out if you get a chance, it was really very special.
Ben Mellor powered by Bicycology. he’s hot!
Then we had a fabulous Latin American evening with full on dancing courtesy of London stalwart Sam, and then after a session of out of tune singing in the London tent it was early to bed.
learning to dance with some amazing outfits
Bolivian dancers in the main tent later on – lovin those neon costumes!
By Thursday it felt as though the atmosphere on camp was starting to change, as people started to work on their various Saturday actions. The feeling of excitement was palpable, and a full week of very little contact with the cops had made people relaxed and happy.
my interns. I’m so happy they came down to camp too!
planning an action…
relaxing in the London neighbourhood
the London neighbourhood
my mate Matt chopping wood for the rocket stoves to heat water for a constant supply of tea and coffee
the wonderful Lily manning the rocket stoves
Activism is the raison d’etre of sprawling collective Seize the Day, so of course they came down to play at Climate Camp. After a somewhat muted start, not helped by the children and sedate types that hogged the floor in front of the stage and prevented most people from getting down to dance, the evening finally took off, and I went a bit mental – sorry to those kids whose view I blocked but it had to be done. Afterwards we attempted some singing around the fire near the London neighbourhood but I had to retire quickly as yet again I realised that I was pissed after one and half cans of Strongbow!
singing around the fire
checking in the handbook for the next workshop
By Friday I had decided to do the honourable thing and volunteer for the strawbale toilet changing run, which was as smelly as promised, and particularly unpleasant when dealing with the strawbales that people had pooped on or dropped their bogroll on (both no-nos. Poos go into wheelie bins with sawdust, and henceforth to a very happy farmer who grows amazing potatoes from the rich compost) But boy did I feel righteous for volunteering!
Rose on the strawbale toilet duty!
a lovely CLEAN strawbale toilet. aren’t we clever?!
I also did some time on the front gate, singing with Jess Gold, and making up songs to welcome new campers just arriving for the main action and wishing a fond goodbye to happy campers heading off for individual actions across the peninsula. This was to come back to haunt me, alas.
singing on the front gate
okay, so I won’t be bothering the charts anytime soon but I hardly think it is arrestable, do you?
Dave helps to ferry things back and forth over the front gate
I was also wondering where the hell I would join the direct action, but was feeling extremely wary of doing anything fun like going out on the rafts with the GRRR, even though that sounded the most fun. Frankly, I knew it was illegal to head out onto the Medway and I didn’t want to risk arrest. For awhile I toyed with the idea of going out on a bike action with a borrowed Bicycology bike (I didn’t bring mine after hearing all the tales of confiscated bikes and hacksawed locks) but was put off by the decidedly non-consensus male dominated way that the block seemed to be operating, not to mention the shaky bike that would have been my vehicle across all terrain. I was also worried about being arrested for conspiracy, as I had just heard some of my friends were. Sounds glamourous, not so glamourous in court.
a girl hangs origami peace birds in the tree next to the police line
the bike powered sound system that gave us some great sounds into the night
So in the end I had a very early night (the lack of sleep finally catching up with me) and was persuaded in the very early morning to join my friend on the “orange” or fluffy march. So called because it was kid friendly and entirely safe (haha) to tag along with. It also looked like it was going to be alot of fun. The sun was shining, the dragon looked fabulous, everyone was singing and it seemed like a good option. Double haha.
the march leaves the campsite to the flash of many photographers
the clown leads the dragon procession
And it was alot of fun, to begin with. Despite being held up for a ridiculous amount of time in the little green lane leading out of the campsite because we were ahead of schedule (as agreed by the police) we rattled along in a game old fashion, with beautiful banners held high and newly invented lyrics falling fast from our lips, accompanied by tambourine, sax and guitar.
facepainting and music
dancing along to the tunes
Guy gives me a grin. love his placard!
foxy girl with Coal on her stomach
locals along the route look happy to see us!
Trash, trash, trash the station
We are the activist generation
We don’t want no power station
We just want some Climate Action!But then someone broke a small bit of police tape, and with characteristic understatement the police waded in with batons and horses. See my video here.
the police, being violent and intimidating for no apparent reason, again
a police horse looms over me
another cute chick says no to new coal. time to get rid of the crusty image of protesters. we’re a good looking crowd!
Fortunately sanity prevailed and we carried on peacefully for several miles to the gates of Kingsnorth, where everyone sat down and had a picnic whilst the police helicopter flew overhead broadcasting a tape that warned us that “weapons will be deployed.”
eating a tasty picnic at the Kingsnorth gates after the long walk
After several speeches of varying quality (the good folks of the local Kingsnorth action group in Medway gave the best and most thoughtful speeches) and a bit of music we samba-ed our way back towards home.
singing at the gates of Kingsnorth
a triumphant member of the GRRR meets us on his return!
As permission had been given to leave the march at any point (so long as we did not rejoin) a group veered off into the town of Hoo as we passed it on our return. Families gathered on their doorsteps rushed to grab their wellies to join us but our impromptu breakaway march quickly dissipated as we neared the town centre and the allure of the Co-op, where junk-food starved campers dispatched to purchase beers and crisps under the watchful and totally necessary eye of the ubiquitous FIT team.
locals in Hoo give us a wave
stocking up on crisps and beer in the local Co-op
the FIT team are giving me that look. Do I look like a thief?!
On leaving to go back towards home I discovered that a bus was being prevented from turning towards our site – on asking why I was told it was too dangerous as the road was full of protesters – I suggest you make up your own mind from these photos. I suspect that yet again the cops were attempting to drive a wedge between protesters and locals.
where the bus would like to turn
clearly a road completely blocked with protesters, wouldn’t you say?
the police failed in their underhand tactics devised to turn locals against us, as explained by this local lady on the march
Although it was clearly a successful tactic in the case of the local pub, sporting on the door what I believe may be an illegal sign in this day and age.
a sign that may as well say “no blacks” or “no travellers” or “no irish”. truly offensive
On our way up the road my friend Michael volunteered to carry a weary Samba drummer’s drum back to site, and we encountered a young man who had just been detained by far too many officers for a section 60 search, having stopped to change his shoes.
Michael and the drum, swiftly followed by George Marshall, climate change guru
As we sauntered down the road my friend Rob commented that he felt uncomfortable about such a large police presence, and we should get back to the relative safety of camp as quickly as possible before the police started making arrests for no particular reason.
Oh how right he was.
No sooner had he spoken than Michael was hauled in for a section 60 search at the large police station just before the camp. I blame that drum. And at this point I will have to cut a large section of my blog, as advised to by my lawyer, since I am still waiting to go to court, having been charged with obstruction of a police officer. Suffice to say that this is the photo that got me arrested. The rest will have to wait!
lovely lovely west yorkshire coppers.
Of course, I sat there with my eyes closed on the back step of the van and I let the tears stream down my face in the wind whilst they stood around not arresting real criminals. Who I am sure were having a field day up and down the country, as huge amounts of police were instead deployed to waste tax-payers money by arresting law-abiding citizens at a peaceful protest camp. Boy at that point did I wish I had instead embarked on an exciting and much more illegal action for my pains. I could have boarded a raft! I could have climbed the fence and entered Kingsnorth! (well, maybe not, my climbing skills aren’t great) Instead I had been nicked for being lippy, and was now going to miss the celebratory post action evening that would surely occur that very night.
I managed to take one last photo before they confiscated my belongings, including dangerous earrings and pin badge.
inside the van, in a dark little cell
As they led me away the hideous arresting officer gloated after me “tell me what your blog is, I want to see myself on the internet.” Awhile later I was joined in the van by a Slovenian girl who had been caught with a rope ladder, and we commiserated together on our way to the police station – she had been hoping to catch up with a nice young man she had met the night before and was worried it would now not happen. Once at Chatham police station I passed all my belongings to the lady officer, PC Hopper, who had brought me in, and she listed them in great detail before putting the more precious ones in an evidence bag. I was then presented to the custody sergeant, one Sergeant Willet. Who wanted me to note his name and say that he was rather eccentric but lovely. For awhile I forgot I was under arrest as I flirted with them both as a sort of cupid’s intermediary. Turns out that Willet wees on his tomatoes and mows his lawn naked. A saucy one that. He wanted to know if the rumour that we shit on the grass was true. What do the police think we are?! animals? I wanted to know if the rumour that £3million had been spent on policing the event was true. “More like £15 million” he replied. How very depressing. I must confess that I even gave Willet a copy of the Climate Camp songbook; he was that charming – for his kids mind you – maybe we can turn them early on. Anyway as PC Hopper led me away she confessed that she found Willet rather dishy – so maybe I helped to instigate a bit of police romance on my way to being charged. They can be nice you know, some of them. And he was good looking, in a policeman kind of way. I’d probably be interested if I was PC Hopper too. Good luck I say, and can I come to the wedding please?
So, to the cell. Apparently the cells in Chatham police station are nice and new and clean and I’ll admit they were – my fellow detainees in Basildon apparently had to put up with fleas in the bedlinen. I got offered cups of tea and everything. I asked for reading matter and was given Esther Rantzen’s dreadful novel A Secret Life to peruse. I tried, and failed. Staring at bare prison walls suddenly seemed more entertaining. And anyway, I had to leave the cell several times, to talk to my lawyer, provided courtesy of Bindmans, and to give an interview. I was also given a police supper, consisting of a veggie curry and rice in separate packages. I quite liked the design so, much to the duty officer’s amusement, I asked to keep the boxes and here they are.
Police issue pilau rice
…and police issue veggie curry! brilliant!
I didn’t think the curry was at all bad for a microwaveable meal and anyway by this time I was bloody starving, having not eaten properly all day.
I answered the police interrogator’s questions, and I got charged. Which meant that I was bailed away from the site. This is a particularly horrible thing to do – it meant that a well meaning mate had to pack away my tent for me, stuffing my spray of paperwork, songbooks, bright fluffy clothing and of course, various pink slips somehow into my small backpack and then bringing it to me the next day at the station. But can I just stick with this subject a bit further. I was released at midnight on a Saturday, into the quiet and darkened streets of central Chatham; a girl on my own with no money and no keys (both left on camp) and no way of retrieving either. How is this safe? or even legal? Are not the police here to protect citizens? I believe these bail conditions were set entirely assuming that we would be rescued by Climate Camp legal helpers, which we were. But still. So I, with others released at the same time on bail, was taken along to a kindly vicar’s church hall, where we bedded down for the night. The girl with the rope ladder was not charged and returned to camp to find the guy she had met the night before.
freezing, midnight, in a borrowed jumper, outside Kent police station on my release
where I slept for the night, curled up in the corner on makeshift bedding
The next morning, after a fitful night’s sleep as more people returned from police stations across the area, we gathered outside the small kitchen to look at the morning papers and exchange stories. Most people had far more exciting stories of their direct action antics than me to tell, but even so the papers contained a shocking lack of coverage of the day’s events, particularly the broadsheets. Shame on you!
checking out the newspapers in the morning
And so, no longer available to help with “tat down” (our term for clear up on camp), I travelled back to Strood station on foot and from there homeward bound. I slept that Sunday night in my own bed for seventeen hours, but remained exhausted for the rest of last week. But was it all worth it I hear you cry?! Yes yes and yes. Yet again Climate Camp was the only place in the world that I wanted to be – not only was it a beautiful example of sustainable community living as direct action, but it brought the crisis of Climate Change to the heads and hearts of many more people who will no doubt continue to grow this most important movement of our times.
a familiar sight above camp – the constant whirr of the helicopter an annoying presence particularly when trying to hear the speaker at a workshop
My only regret was not making enough of a contribution to the running of the London kitchens as had been planned, but I guess I spend so much time cooking for my eight interns at home that it was actually nice to be able to concentrate on other things than the kitchen, and it gave me more chance to report back on workshops which I feel is important.
chopping in the London kitchen
men at work!
serving a wonderful vegan supper to the hungry hordes!
And if the go ahead to build Kingsnorth goes ahead then we’ll be back, with a rolling blockade designed to stop this ridiculous plan from going ahead.
You can come and see me in court on the 1st of September at Medway magistrates, if my ridiculous charges are not dropped before then. I’d appreciate the company!
love from Amelia
Feeling ever so slightly like the prize winner of a dunce hat throughout my time at Climate Camp, this site for my under education in climate change matters. It was with some relief that I found myself actually understanding (even if I did get lost with all the acronyms) Matt Carmicheal’s workshop. Entitled Aid, Trade , Debt, Ecological Crisis-It’s All One Problem, Carmicheal included a rather complete history lesson of the last 50 years to bring in the greater context of how ecological crisis has been shaped by the past. For anyone who thinks Climate Camp is full of hippy wasters, an eavesdropping on one of the many work shops would blow away that viewpoint.
The concept of ‘free markets‘ (a deregulated market with little or no trade restrictions) is by no means a new one but its effect on global ecological matters are only beginning to be truly realised. It is in 1944 were Carmicheal picks up his historical tale at Bretton Woods, here delegates from 44 Allied nations gathered for the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference. As the name suggests the overwhelming theme was economics. The seminal idea of Bretton Woods were those two words above: ‘free markets‘. It was agreed to link all currencies to a fixed value in terms of gold, the US promised to fix the price of gold to $35 an ounce. Thus other currencies were pegged to the US dollar and as the principle fixed currency the US dollar became extremely powerful.
The agreements signed at Bretton Woods also led to the establishment of three organisations, playing a significant role in future developments between aid, trade, debt and ecological crisis. The International Bank for Reconstructive Development (IBRD) later becoming the World Bank which lends money to governments at a relatively low interest. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was introduced to stabilise exchange rates and supervise reconstruction. Finally it was through the General Agreement on Trades and Tariffs (GATT) that the reduction of barriers to global trade was implanted (I told you there were lots of acronyms).
The IBRD began lending money to developing countries termed ‘soft loans‘. Problems arose with this lending of money with a short sighted view of both the IBRD and the developing country. Unstructured support for spending and corrupt regimes led to some highly dubious decisions. In Kenya 20 million dollars was loaned to build a huge super shiny high rise tower in Mombassa . But, technology hadn’t quite caught up with the lofty aspirations; the top floors would be without water as the water pressure in the area was not strong enough to reach them and there were not adequate electrics to sufficiently work the lifts. Money supposedly loaned to improve a countries development and help repay back that loan, was squandered away in ill-advised schemes and failed to reach those who needed it most.
In 1973, running a trade deficit and with the financial strain of the Vietnam war, Nixon pulled out of Bretton Woods agreement. De-linking the dollar from gold, resulted in the devaluation of the dollar (reducing US debt) and the hiking of interest rates (other countries debts rise). Developing countries with already hefty debts, all of a sudden had the debt hiked up despite not having borrowed any more money. Between 1973-82 there was a five fold debt increase for non-oil producing third world countries. So great was this gain in interest for Latin American countries, that the entire 1980′s is often referred to the ‘lost decade’, as new loans simply paid off old interest.
In order to help developing countries pay back these ever increasing loan, the IMF drew up yet another plan this time Structural Adjustment Plans (SAP). Within a SAP conditions are placed on how loan money can be spent, which the IMF believe promotes economic growth. The conditions must be met by the borrower even if not in their best interest, and subject to severe financial punishment for failing to meet this conditions. Carmicheal argues these financial threats amount to little more than blackmail.
These conditions typically implement the ‘free market’ idea, and with it the privatisation and deregulation of previously run government services. As a consequence spending on education and health is typically cut, and taxes are raised in order to meet this deficit in spending. Increasingly crops become the main currency for a developing nation in exportation, creating a drain on food resources of that given country which in turn leads to a previously sustainable country becoming unsustainable.
Despite this when GATT was replaced by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the WTO still decided the concept of a laissez-faire free market was the number one solution for developing nations with no thought to ecological development. In India, Special Economic Zones were introduced in 2000 which were deemed to be foreign territory for the purposes of trade operations, duties and tariffs, leading to some rather negative consequencesp. Corporations are effectively allowed free range of a piece of land with no challenges to any unsavoury principles.
In recent years the anti-globalisation movement has been growing in direct opposition to global ‘free-markets’. Protests at the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999, held in Seattle to usher in a new era of trade negotiations, overshadowed the actual conference, it was here that Starbucks literally took quite a bashing. Protestors made up NGO’s, student groups, labour unions and anarchists who were united in their concerns over labour issues, the environment and consumer protection.
The most recent trade round of WTO called the Doha Development Round commenced in 2001 and on the face of it looked like a step forward ensuring against exploitation of developing countries and ecological errors that have plagued former rounds. Again pushing the lowering of trade barriers around the world to increase trade globally, the Doha Rounds also sought to allow developing countries input into what they would like out of trade relationships. However, no mutual agreements have been agreed upon and talks have stalled on a number of issues, such as agriculture and industrial tariffs.
Talks of the Doha Rounds are due to resume in 2009 but I wonder will any agreements be reached. It seems highly unlikely developed nations will agree to the sanctions they impose on developing nations being used on themselves. But if nothing is done instigate change in global policies that will and do effect us all the future will not be so bright.
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