Today hundreds of amazing activists from Reclaim the Power shut down the Ffos-y-fran mine, the UK’s largest opencast coal mine. It is the start of Break Free, a wave of global actions targeting fossil fuels and demanding a just transition to sustainable energy immediately. The action was supporting the amazing United Valleys Action Group, who successfully fought off an incinerator and are now fighting plans for a new mine in the next valley. I was at the Reclaim the Power camp this weekend, helping with preparation, and although I had to leave last night it was a privilege to be part of this community and to have played a part towards such an inspiring action. I cannot think of a time when I have been surrounded by such welcoming people, united by a conviction that a better world is possible and it is down to us to make that a reality.
We made our camp on common land, and constructed a fully functioning site including compost toilets, a kitchen, medical tent and a wind turbine to power the whole thing. All attendees were crew and had to play an equal share in this and in keeping the infrastructure running over the weekend. This was hard work. We were camping on top of a very high hill in the Welsh countryside, with no trees and nowhere to hide from the elements. And in April, it feels very elemental. It rained a lot. It blew a gale. It was really, really cold. Hours spent lugging around access boards, creating ramps and washing up outside did take their toll.
It wasn’t all hard work – we had the wonderful Three Acres and a Cow performing a history of land rights through folk song, and music from Seize the Day, who also joined in on the action today. And there was a great feeling of camaraderie and togetherness throughout it all and knowing we were all there for a purpose made everything easier. Camp decisions are made through active consensus, which means that everybody has a say in the outcome and everybody participates equally. Reclaim the Power is non-hierarchical, so there is nobody that’s in charge. Everybody counts equally and everybody shares the responsibility for making things run well.
It is this principle, in a way, that I think is as important as shutting down the mine today. If we end fossil fuels but usher in a new era governed by the same exploitation and unequal distribution of power, really, that’s just not good enough. We demonstrate that it is possible to do things differently to the way they have been done before. We are not going to wait for a better world to come along; we are making it happen.