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Upton Solidarity Day Group 2016. Photo: Louise Somerville Williams
Upton Solidarity Day Group 2016. Photo: Louise Somerville Williams
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    Don't be a Fracking Test Dummy Anna Boyle at Shale Gas conference. Photo: Louise Somerville Williams

Earth First! Winter Moot next weekend: nourishment, inspiration and solidarity for eco-activists

Louise Somerville Williams

16th February 2016

Whether you're fighting fracking, coal mines, new roads or a third Heathrow runway, next weekend's Earth First! Winter Moot is for you, writes Louise Somerville Williams. Campaigners and activists from across the UK and beyond will gather in Stroud to build common strength in our struggle against ecological destruction, and to work for a world of social and environmental justice.

The Winter Moot welcomes people who love this planet and are prepared to do something real about it. We offer support, knowledge and a space to network. We are not there to tell you what to do or how to do it - though we may have some useful tips!

Faced with an onslaught of environmental disasters and social justice issues which seem to batter us more each day, campaigners, activists and support networks, need nourishment to provide sustenance in the battle for a safer, fairer world.

An assembly held for debate, especially in Anglo-Saxon and medieval times was called a Moot, in essence, a gathering. Next weekend in Stroud, people who care about our environment, social justice and simply put, people who care are gathering for the Earth First! Winter Moot.

The hammer blow of the state and weaponised policing are impacting on our lives and actions, the Winter Moot provides a warm, indoor space to seek time out for nourishment, to find solidarity and inspiration so we can step out into the world renewed and refreshed.

Coming to Stroud for the moot next weekend will give us all new ideas and contacts to support our integrity as part of a powerful, exponentially growing movement for positive change.

There's space in this movement for everyone

The Winter Moot provides us with a unique opportunity.It's somewhere that we can gather, regroup and recoup our energies. The Earth First!Winter Moot is being held at an indoor venue in Stroud, Gloucestershire from the evening of Friday 19th February until Sunday. We invite people involved with, or interested in, finding out more about nonviolent direct action as an integral element of their grass roots environmental campaigns.

We don't care what you wear, or how you wear it, we don't care about your background, your bank balance or your intellectual capacity, we don't care if you love being arrested or are scared of being arrested, we don't care if you have never participated in direct action, as long as you trust that action is an effective tool for change. What we do care about - is that you care.

Brave souls on the front line, locked onto lorries and diggers, folks mindfully creating campaign text in their front rooms. Earth First! is an inclusive space, a safe space, and my goodness, it's also a fabulously inspiring, exciting, nourishing space.

The Winter Moot welcomes people who love this planet and are prepared to do something real about it. We offer support, knowledge and a space to network. We are not there to tell you what to do or how to do it - though we may have some useful tips!

We can introduce you to some incredible campaigners that may inspire you, we hold a safe space and hope that we will all make new friends and form alliances with people from a broad cross section of our communities and campaigns.

Saying 'No!' to those who would destroy our planet

Inspiring interactive workshops and discussions form the bulk of this weekend event. These will be focalised by experienced campaigners, and all present will have the opportunity to share and discuss information about the issues which are affecting their local areas and be able to find out more about the national context of environmental and social justice campaigns.

The EF! Winter Moot offers you the opportunity to spend time, space and inspiration with people involved in a diverse collection of environmental and social justice campaigns from across the UK, and you get to do all of that with tea and cake.

Direct action is at a critical stage in our evolution, as fast as the State are labelling us 'terrorists,' the State are being exposed for lying, stealing, cheating and destroying the very fabric of this Planet. As the threat facing our communities grows, more and more people, from broad cross-sections of society, are standing up and saying "No!" No with their minds, hearts and bodies.

Sometimes our front lines are journeys of many years and we meet companion souls along the way. Sometimes there are instant moments of kindred soul knowing, when we gather and connect with each other. Our hearts beat together as we share our journeys and our support for each other in a nourishing, powerful way.

Between the 19th and 21st February 2016, we can collectively plan to say "No!" In voices that speak louder than words as the winter moot nourishes us to plan, to speak, to act and to build new friendships.

The battle against fracking in the UK has added a potent momentum to actions for environmental justice. Mothers and grandmothers from across the land have been standing in front of trucks and taking control of fields in the middle of the night, councillors have chained themselves to diggers, and at Crawberry Hill in Yorkshire, a former Director of Education meditated in front of the gates blocking the only access route onto the frack pad.

The nonviolent direct action movement is growing exponentially

Those, who consider themselves to have conventional backgrounds are literally putting themselves in front of machines and declaring: "Enough is enough - land, air, water are threatened and we will protect all life forms!"

Communities across the land have become exasperated with the 'traditional channels' of democracy. Residents living near fracking sites have moved from writing 'strongly worded' letters to their MP, to literally putting their bodies on the line. Walking in front of lorries delivering drilling equipment and camping out at anti-fracking protector camps such as Borras and Holt near Wrexham in North Wales.

Anti-fracking protector camps are springing up across the country. As we write this article, there are people defending the Horse Hill fracking site in Surrey whilst experiencing illegal and disproportionate policing.

During the last few years, residents of Barton Moss in Manchester and Balcombe in Sussex, became part of a massive groundswell of people. Communities are rising up, as central government impose their extreme energy schemes, across the country. The direct action movement is no longer a marginalised activity perpetuated by the few, it is now mainstream.

The Moot is a momentous opportunity for us to reflect on how broad and inclusive the direct action movement has become, and we can spend time discussing some fundamental issues, such as inclusivity. This is especially important in the light of recent undercover police exposés. The direct action movement can choose openness instead of paranoia; we can remain attuned to solidarity and link in with new, established and international groups.

This year's Winter Moot has an exciting timetable with a creative mix of UK campaign groups giving updates on 2016 threats of ecological destruction. We will facilitate an introduction to the groups, individuals and camps that are fighting for better world.

Ditching coal, bioenergy, nuclear and fracking

Biofuelwatch will be working alongside the Coal Action Network who have recently launched the comprehensive 'Ditch Coal' report. They are regular Earth First! attendees, a British and US NGO who campaign against bioenergy power stations, including Drax which burns more wood than any other plant in the world and more coal than any other plant in the UK.

Biofuelwatch are campaigning to axe Drax and to raise awareness on proposals to build new biomass power stations in Wales. Port Talbot, Anglesey and Milford Haven are all potentially affected by this toxic method of electricity generation and the knock on effects in terms of pollution, carbon emissions as well as severe adverse impacts on biodiversity, animal and human health are devastating. The safety records of biomass power stations are not impressive either.

Coal Action Network (UK) are facilitating a theatrical interactive work shop, ahead of their UK 'Ditch Coal' road show which coincides with the release of their new report 'Ditch Coal', an exposé of global mining impacts caused by the UK's addiction to coal.

While we are on the subject of energy, campaigners from South West Against Nuclear are Winter Mooters and we are waiting with baited breath to find out if their current actions to stop Hinkley Nuclear Power Station have been successful.

It's make or break week coming up for Hinkley as EDF, the company behind this white elephant, have their board meeting in France and the decision of whether they will proceed with building a new nuclear power station in Somerset may well be made on Tuesday 16th Feb 2016. There is a current shout out for anyone and everyone to participate in #OccupyEDF actions.

Anti-fracking campaigners from across the UK will be sharing their stories, learning about what's happening at the current planning inquiry in Lancashire, and delighting in some of the successes of recent times. The National Anti-Fracking campaign, No New Roads, Incinerators and toxin free communities will also be attending.

A global movement for environmental justice

The Moot is hosting a discussion on Security vs Inclusivity, how to be open and stay safe, and on climate vs capitalism: ways forward for the anti-capitalist climate movement since the COP climate talks in Paris.

It's rather exciting for the Moot to be hosting international campaigners, a network of Palestinian communities, Jordan Valley Solidarity are coming along to share how they collectively resist Israel's attempts to implement ethnical cleansing via a strategy of 'To exist is to resist.'

Undercover Research Group will also be attending the winter moot and they want to speak to people spied upon but not (legally) represented yet as part of their independent inquiry into undercover police infiltrating political groups. The URG workshop will explore the topic of being targeted by undercover police.

Groundswell is working on a year of action for climate justice, and activists from Reclaim the Power are coming along to the Moot and bringing their agenda of inclusivity with them. There is a place for everyone in Groundswell action and not everyone needs to climb a tripod (although we do recommend having a go, it's really aerobic and fun!) Tripod opportunities are available if you come along to our Summer Gathering on August 17th to 22nd.

Alone we can do so little
Together we can do so much

Participating in direct action can release an immense adrenaline rush, which compliments thoughts and feelings that reinforce the fundamental importance of standing up for our beliefs, putting our hearts, minds and bodies on the line and listening to our inner voices, knowing we are 'a part of doing something right, something that may make a positive difference.'

Members of the Earth First! Collective will be joining with many activists and supporters at Willesden Court for the sentencing of the #Heathrow13 on the Tuesday morning following the Moot. We are grateful the Moot is the weekend before their court case as the judge has recommended a prison sentence.

The EF! collective send a message of solidarity and welcome to activists and campaigners worldwide, please come and join us, in Stroud this coming weekend, 19th to the 21st February. Who knows ... you might even fall in love? We did.

 


 

More information: The Earth First! Winter Moot is an indoor event with sleeping, vegan meals and cake provided. The cost is in the region of £30 full price and £25 concessions. It's being held in Stroud's Centre for Science and Art GL5 1BB from 17.00 on Friday 19th to 17.00 Sunday 21st February. There is very little car parking nearby, however; the train station is a five minute walk from the venue.

Louise Somerville Williams is a passionate environmental campaigner, a founding member of Frack Free Somerset and No Geo Nuke Dumping. She has founded a number of online campaign groups which include the first UK based anti TTIP FB group and anti-GM FB group, and an anti-Glyphosate Facebook group. Her main role is with Biofuelwatch as their UK based bioenergy campaigner and volunteers with End Ecocide England in her spare time. Twitter: @Loolovestea

 

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