Hamza Hamouchene is researching the oil and gas sector in Algeria with Platform. Over the weekend he went to the Reclaim The Power camp in Balcombe to give a workshop, take part in a plenary and the protests on Monday. You can read his previous blog on Algeria, gas and human rights here.
The Reclaim the Power camp, as the name suggests was aimed at uniting people to recover the power lost to the greedy gas and electricity corporations that are causing fuel poverty and exacerbating the climate crisis. The motto of this inspiring event was: “We are facing a climate crisis, economic crisis and social crisis. We want a clean and fair future where people come before profit”.
The camp stood with the people of Balcombe in West Sussex, in response to their call for support against the exploratory drilling in their community which could lead to fracking. The decision to move the site from West Burton to Balcombe showed the commitment of the participating organisations and activists in fighting for a better future for all, and represented an uplifting act of solidarity with communities facing the devastating possible environmental and social impacts of fossil fuel extraction.
It was my first time attending a camp like this and thus did not know what to expect. The site of the camp was a beautiful field in the countryside and on my way there, I was dreading the thought that all this natural beauty could be blighted by the hideous drilling sites of frackers but I was sure that it won’t happen without resistance.
I must say that I was really impressed with the immaculate organisation, with the professionalism of all the people involved and with the high quality and rich content of the workshops and activities. All aspects of daily life were taken care of in a collective, caring way. It is obviously becoming really hard to dismiss all the energy and effort put into the camp, and to simply brand it as another gathering of lazy hippies hooked on smoking cannabis. In the contrary, it was an excellent opportunity to bring people who are seeking a positive change together, and also a space for connecting the dots and linking up different struggles to challenge the same enemy of all: the undemocratic, unjust and unsustainable system that is serving the few at the expense of the majority.
Workshops were run under tents, a great idea, as it gave a friendly atmosphere to the discussions, made the sessions highly interactive and allowed more bonding between attendees. The workshops started on Saturday, the second day of the camp and covered different subjects. The ones I attended and that focused on fuel poverty and digital campaigning were excellent, informative and more importantly engaging.
Not only did the camp and its activities succeed in connecting the different struggles here in the UK but it also managed to go beyond and paint a big picture of the struggles of communities in the frontline of energy extraction outside the UK. Therefore, I was invited to participate in a workshop titled Solidarity with Communities on the Frontline, which was organised by Platform and UK Tar Sands Network. Alongside other speakers, we addressed some of the issues facing people in Algeria, Azerbaijan, Canada, Columbia and Ghana. And with more than seventy attendees, we attempted to explore avenues of showing solidarity with these communities by emphasizing the negative impact of the West’s greed for energy and collusion with dictatorships.
After a delicious camp-made vegan dinner, I had the chance to speak at the plenary, and sum up what I learnt from my day. I am more strongly convinced than ever that “It is crucial to build a strong global solidarity movement that transcends borders because we are facing the same enemy – greed. If the people of Balcombe succeed in their resistance to fracking and the rule of big money, it won’t be only a victory for them but a victory for all communities in the world”.
Reclaim the Power camp was an exhilarating experience in terms of the convivial atmosphere, the heartening solidarity, the empowering unity, the useful learning and the direct action. I am definitely hooked and going back for whatever happens next!