Coal – let’s leave it in the ground!
The Co2al Caravan (CC) was a cycle-based caravan which held events in communities threatened by open-cast coal mining, two in areas where new coal fired power stations are planned and several in between with a long standing attachment to coal. Members of the ecological activist community travelled with the caravan and ran workshops, held discussion events, spoke to Ed Milliband’s advisor, and debated the merits of the film The Age of Stupid.
They travelled to people who were affected by the miners strike and had a cultural attachment to coal. They anticipated a much more hostile response than the one they got: many of the people they spoke to had already considered the affect that continuing to burn coal is having on our environment. People seemed less informed about the ways in which to stop this trend and seemed to feel powerless against the government and the large corporations which it supports. People were pleased something was being done about the issues of coal and carbon emissions and suggested ways in which they too could make a difference.
The local campaigners were grateful that the CC managed to bring attention to their region and found that it helped them to sustain their own campaigns, showing that people outside the immediate area are also concerned about these developments. CC were able to establish important connections with the Pont Valley Network, who are resisting open cast mining at Bradley.
One of CC’s aims has been to encourage cycling as a long distance travel option and they managed to successfully demonstrate this to members of the public during the course of the caravan. They carried all their personal belongings on their bikes and a large amount of the communal equipment for workshops and events in trailers, which were shared between the riders.
The Caravan generated a significant amount of media attention, but they created an eight-page newspaper of their own about the coal caravan and how burning coal affects climate change. They distributed nearly 10,000 of these newspapers. This was an effective medium for communicating with the public, who are more accustomed to picking up free papers than leaflets.
CC also held workshops such as natural jewellery-making, cycle repairs, basket weaving, and campaigning. Many people they talked to had not heard of the plans for their local area and were shocked at the destruction in the pipeline. This kind of events will increase the support for local campaigns and people will now know how to oppose developments in the future.
The caravaners appreciated the opportunity to be able to see the various sites that are threatened. In Shipley for example, work has started and the landscape is being destroyed, water courses diverted and noise pollution is a serious issue. This raised concerns for Fairburn Ings site which is very close to a wetlands nature reserve, likely to be affected by noise, dust and watercourse disruption if the mine is given the go ahead. This site is very important for birds on a national and international level, but the good news is that thanks to CC and others, it is likely that this site has now been saved!