Since September 2011, the Occupy Movement has been pitched outside London’s iconic St Paul’s Catherdral.
Positioned right alongside London’s Stock Exchange, the camp – one of many that has sprung up across the world in the last five months – aims to highlight the ‘corporate greed’ which they believe still domiantes despite increading unemployment an austerity.
What does this have to do with climate change? I went to spend a snowy afternoon with Peter Coville from the movement’s energy, equity and environment group to find out…
RTCC: What is the link between the Occupy Movement and climate change?
PC: Climate change is being driven by the economy that we have. An economy which is based purely on growth, exploiting nature resources – and people for that matter – and with the growing world population this is something which we have to start looking at straight away and change.
RTCC: What are the major issues you see when it comes to climate change?
PC: We know that we are going to run out of fossil fuels at sometime over the next few decades but it won’t be enough to prevent climate change so we have to rein back very seriously right now on fossil fuel use.
And countries have been part of an international process for cutting back their emissions but it is not nearly enough for what the science says we need to do.
We are still heading for a rise in global temperature on average of about four degrees – which really means catastrophic levels of climate change.
But we still have time to change it and that is why we need to act now.
RTCC: And what in your eyes needs to happen in the future?
PC: We need to have a massive move towards renewables now, we also need to reign back on consumption and looking at the way that things are designed for obsolescence and move towards a more sustainable production as well as consumption.
RTCC: How do we go about doing this? Where do we start?
PC: It is everybody’s responsibility to do this, governments have got to take the lead because they are the ones who make the laws but it is also up to companies and it is up to individuals as well.
It is up to individuals because often we think we can do nothing but it is up to us to put pressure on our representatives to make the changes that are necessary and not just to stand back and be passive and think that we have got know power over any of this.
RTCC: Do you think the Occupy Movement is putting the right pressure on the right people?
PC: We have already seen that this movement – this global movement – occupy has already had an impact on the discourse of the decision makers in government and they have started talking about finance and inequality – even at Davos they thought that inequality was the most important issue that has got to be addressed – so these messages are getting through.
And there is a large number of us who are in the occupy movement who are also concerned about climate change and we hope that the occupy movement will be a vehicle for putting this message across very strongly that we have also got to act on climate change.
We have got the advantage that we are not only people who are writing letters to newspapers or to your MP or whatever, that’s great, but we are people who decided that we have got to now take action ourselves and we have got to stand up and get the governments to act but taking direct action by things which will get us into the media and into the public eye and so on – we think this is the way to go.
RTCC: You’re talking about fundamental changes in the way we live our lives. How do we event begin to do this?
PC: I really think we have to. There are a whole number of converging crises right now in terms of not only the financial system that we have got and that way of doing business but also in terms of environmental crises, climate change is the biggest and most obvious one, but we have also got huge crises with water all over the world water supplies are running out, aquifers are being drained with won’t be repleated in time and soil erosion is another major issue and the state of the oceans as well and forests.
So there are a whole range of issues which we are really coming up to a crunch point on and I really don’t think we have the choice – the choice really is either being passive victims of this or getting ahead of the game and trying to sort out these problems before they actually hit us.
RTCC: The changes we need – both in terms of investment in renewables and in terms of climate adaptation are going to involve vast amounts of finance. Isn’t working with the private sector and the major companies the best hope for accessing this money?
PC: Where did the money come from for bailing out the banks? Did that come from the private sector – no it came from the public sector and we have all got into huge amounts of debt for that.
And it has been shown very clearly that the money which was put into bailing out the banks – which was found within the space of a few days – would have been more than enough to solve the climate problem once and for all.
This is just incredible that we can find the money to bail out the banks but we can’t find the money to save the planet. It tells us something about the priorities of the current system that we have got.
RTCC: So do you think the priority should be mobilising governments?
PC: I think in the sort term we have to engage the governments because the institutions are not going to change rapidly enough to solve some of the very urgent problems like the climate change issue and the International Energy Agency has said that we have got five years to solve this problem now to prevent dangerous levels of climate change in a way that is not being done by the UN process so that is something which has got to be done very quickly.
A little bit beyond that I think we need to start looking at systemic change. This is not the ill recipes of the social left this is just a fact of life that our financial system is not working anymore and we are running up against all of these natural limits which are set by the planet so we are going to have to address that pretty soon as well.
So both really the governments in the short term but just a little beyond that we are going to have to go a bit deeper in our demands for change.
RTCC: Do you think that being here has helped you engage with the wider public about the problems we are facing?
PC: I think that is why we are here really. The whole point is that this is not just another afternoon process and then we go home.
Some people said near the beginning of the time we were here you’ve made your point now clear off but the point is that we are being persistent about this and we are a bunch of determined people and we are going to go one and we are prepared to go on for years if necessary, until significant changes are made in the way the economy is run and politics as well because a big part of this is about democracy.
People feel that they have lost power or lost control over their lives whether it is at work or in terms of influencing government or whatever they feel there is no real choice anymore so democracy is a big part of it too.