(Some) Workshops at the Camp for Climate Action

The recent Camp for Climate Action in Yorkshire got headlines for its audacious attempt to shut down the UK's most polluting coal-fired power station, Drax, but it also featured a packed programme of workshops.

These ranged from practical ways of reducing your environmental impact to the theory of climate science. During the week it was impossible to look into any of the many marquees without learning something new, often something astonishing. At "Slowing Down is the Fastest Way to Reduce Carbon Emissions", I learned what a huge effect simply reducing the road speed limit by 10 mph would have. Paige Mitchell of the Slower Speeds Initiative raced through a presentation of their detailed calculations ranking that easy and costless transport measure the 6th most effective of those presented in the UK's 2006 Climate Change Programme. Physically, 50 mph is the point where the drag on a vehicle makes increasing engine power ineffective. If everyone drives at that lower speed, car journeys are more efficient and less attractive over the alternatives. The facts are in place, all that's lacking is the political will to literally put the brakes on consumer society.

That workshop, like many others, suggested immediate steps for people to take when they returned home. Equally informative but slightly disempowering was "21st Century Border Controls" which gave a taste of the repressive technologies being prepared for the booming market in population control. Sci-fi nightmares like taser mines, directed energy weapons and "sub-lethal" weaponry are leaving the drawing board and looking for buyers. Likely to find favour with elites wanting to keep hold of their privileged lifestyles, the challenge for humans is to find ways of de-legitimising their use before they're deployed. The most immediate need I could see was for more solidarity with and defence of asylum seekers and those already clandestinely crossing borders but there wasn't enough space here to discuss this.

More practical was "Living Off Grid", which demystified 12 volt battery-based electricity. With a "leisure" battery or two you can store electricity generated from wind or the sun (or a bike) and run a surprising range of devices, including laptops and MP3 players. A device called an Inverter allows you to power mains devices, or anything that comes with a "power supply" brick can work directly if the voltage is around the right level. Even with no desire to go mains-free, calculating how much electricity your appliances need is an eye-opening exercise.

"Renewable Energy in the UK" was an admirably direct, engineer's look at the subject. All the current green options pose problems with storage, transmission and/or maintenance that aren't insurmountable but are annoying. The gist of the talk was that Energy Efficiency was vital; don't generate what you won't need.

Climate Change is such a huge issue that it was impossible to grasp the whole from any one workshop. To understand renewable energy issues you also need to know about the National Grid, which leads to questions dealt with in "Decentralising Power", etc. For more information, watch the Climate Camp website for workshop notes appearing and try to get hold of the massive "Time's Up" booklet.

See also:
 http://www.climatecamp.org.uk - Official website
 http://www.slower-speeds.org.uk/ - Slower Speeds Initiative
 http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/pubs/06otsc.html - Technology and border control