A river that needs crossing political and tech blogs - On the political side, there is arrogance and ignorance, on the geek side there is naivety and over- complexity

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Entries with tag balcombe .

Where are we - an example of what works

An example of what works.

At Balcome the anti-fracking camp last summer we built a “visible affinity group” to do the power and tech for the camp. This was successful in providing working off grid energy for the camp of more than 200 people for 2 months.

However it wasn’t with out problems and did fail to build on this success when the time came to reproduce this open working model at the next camps over the winter.

How we made it work, a time line:

* Clear the space of the dysfunction by imposing open working practice's.

* This opens the space for functional working which has been excluded by the dysfunctional pushy minority.

* Open working practices nurtures talent and energy the space growers and blossoms, good shit happens.

* A tiny minority of seriously dysfunctional individuals will actively try and destroy this flowering, some emotional violence will inshuew in process of excluding them.

* The wider camp will become used to a working tech space and normality will settle back into place, at its best this is rinsed and repeated for each part of the camp.

* People will start to forget the open processes as artificial, constant vigilances is needed here to keep openness relevant and in place.

* As the camp is packed down a open meeting will bring this amnesia to the surface as everyone has an equal voice and the focus (affinity) that created the flowering will be trampled under the widening of the groups members.

In the horizontal alt the are only two successful working practices, most organising happens by “invisible affinity groups” climate camp and RTS are examples of this. Rarely “open affinity groups” are also successful, examples would be early Indymedia and this tech at Blacome.

Balcombe Protection Camp has a working solar power station

While summer lasts we aspire to camp electrics being completely powered by solar power. Currently the kitchen, massage/meeting tent and the media/tech tent are working. We have LED lighting and can power 3 laptops and charge around 30-40 phones each day. Other structures have LED lighting running from fixed battery’s.

Hamish looking tired in the Balcombe  tech tent at the end of the day (photo Dik Ng)

Today’s observation is the tech tent has become quite boring last few days – the issue is that it simply works, the are no blown fuses, sparking wires or smocking components. The is just working laptops, phone charging and mostly working internet. This is a good thing of course, but I still have to spend my time in the space to stop people dismantling this working set-up. Here are some example bad energy's that make this necessary:

* I would do this better, rip appart and plug to gather in a way which is likely not better and then leave everything broken and burned out

* I need this now for this very important – screening – music event – personal project – ripaprt and leave key parts missing/broken.

* Pilfering, I wont this component, its an open space, I will take it, lots of adapters and cables go missing every week.

* External saboteurs, its well documented now that most successful radical campaigns have had paid corporate spy’s, agent provocaturs and undercover police/police informers and that these roles often ambiguously overlap.

* Internal Sabotage, I hate you because you told me in public not to do something I wonted to do so, I will make something you are doing fail. Some people think these overlap with the external saboteurs...

This last one is more prevalent than you would imagine and I don’t think many people doing it actually understand that they are.

Back to a positive note, we have a working tech tent, YEHA!!! and a good crew (would like to name them here but have to ask first), Sean Peatfield

How to build an effective protest camp

A look at the parts that make it happen (DRAFT)

Lets look at the groupings first that balance helping/hindering a campaign. These are of course B&W images to highlight issues, on the ground things are always complex with many overlaps.

The “family” - what is most important to them is having a senses of belonging, brining safety, warmth and meaning into there lives which they do not have in the outside world. This is good in as far as it creates a warm and carrying centre to the camp. But it is eqauley bad as it creates a unfriendly shell around parts of the camp “you haven’t been here since the beginning, you cant tell us what to do”, “he is a police spy”, “the newcomers are eating all the food and not doing any work” the tends to be a growing rejection of people who arnet part of the “family”. This leads to a decline in camp/campaigning effectiveness as people who are good at campaigning tend to not be interested in the continues internal sqwobals of this fractures and dysfunctional “family”. The is a increasing tendency to push out new blood and sougheded people from core parts of the camp. The family then repeatedly shrinks and implodes often trying to take “there” camp with it.

The party people – there garate when they organise regular fabulous party’s for the space and campaign. They are much more draining when there party is for them and involves lots of alcohol and late night music while the wider camp are trying to sleep. The mess this creates in the camp and in peoples heads drags the camp energy down.

The hippy’s, “all you need is love” this might be true BUT anyone who has live on a camp will know you need working water, a functioning kitchen, lighting and regulate wood for the fires etc. In camps these things generally/often end up being provided by angry people and at meetings you regaluly her creys of “you need to clear up after yourself” “who is bring the water” “last night some one eat all the XXX and messed the kitchen up” “can we stop playing load music after 11.00”. The hippy answer of a hug and kind words becomes thin after this has been repeated for the 3ed time with no real practical hands on help. You need love AND respect AND equality AND practical work to keep a camp functioning “all you need is love” is hippy crap in this context and if this is out of balances then no amount of “love” will save your camp or larger campaign.

The me, me , me, narcissistic Christ figger. At every camp the are young men who have father issues and messianic complexes, you can tell them by there holy clothes and obscurantist language. Not surprisingly These guys generally end up abusing young women and having fights with older men. They then drag the camp energy down by building sides to defend these actions.

The you, you, you, Christ figger are the invisible santes of camp life. At balcome the was one guy who cleaned the compost tolits for the whole time, in the morning oftern clearing the shit off the seats from the drunken party people, replacing the toilet role that the hippys dident have time to do while rushing off for important crystal harmonising and herbal tea... in the kitchen the were a group of older women who cleaned and cooked and cared, each morning clearing up the mess of the late night kitchen party crew before breakfast could be made... in both cases these people/groups were frayed and burned out as the camp came to a close.

Napoleon complex. The best that could be said for this issue was at least Napoleon was a good general, at protest camps this competency is rarely balanced with the damage done. 

NGO bods. the tendency to be lots of them visiting the camp during big days of action if the are media opportunitys, campers should be a little cynical to take care that the give and take in such situations is balanced.

Empire builders. Have there place if the empire is open and competency based, horizontalism tends to keep reasserting it self as nobody is paid to do this work.

The SWP's. the undead of activism, they always bring the plaque with them so best to dissuade them if at all possible.

Campaigners, are key to the campaign (; but their agenda often conflicts with the more direct action crew focus - this has to be mediated as both startatergys are key to a good outcome.

Grassroots media team – Individualists. God could I talk about this one....

Direct action crews. At protest camps we love the SPIKY and the FLUFFY the problem lies in how to keep the love flowing.

Mainstream media team (corporate cock suckers) have a lot of power and responsibility, they ALWASE fail in the responsibility part so real focus is needed to keep them focused.

And more to come...

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Some from:

  • John Hoggett You're doing very well without me. How about, "I'm a member of an oppressed group and I deserve to be treated like a God(dess)?" Or is that too bitchy? It's a difficult one as oppression does occur but there you go.

  • John Hoggett Or, Mental Health Patient - someone who has clearly been sectioned recently and sometimes spouts bonkers nonsense but proves to be a star, reliable, not phased by the police (even if they do talk about them in weird, almost non-senseical ways) and always happy to lend a hand with cooking, cleaning etc
     
    • Natalie Lamb The control freaks. Who like to control but not be controlled. They want things done their way only... and when it's not they get very upset. So they find a way to control, and insist on doing it their way without remembering how it felt when they were treated that way. When they have the power, they feel right. Thus perpetuating the cycle.

Fixing protest camp problems (and there back lashes)

Remember everyone is a volunteer, nobody at camps is payed to do the hard work.

At Balcome when I arrived tech was a disaster, all the power was brought in by car by taking 12v battery’s to locales houses brought back by car drained till flat then repeated each day. This both rapidly destroyed the lead acid car battery’s and meant the camp was actually running on fossil fuels.

I like a challenge so set out to fix this, it wasn’t a difficult thing to do, took me half a day to gather and assemble all the pieces, by the evening I was tired but prowed the was a solar power set-up that would permanently charge 2 phones for the length of the camp as long the sun shone. It was relative simple to carry on building this out to make the whole camp work in the same way.

In the morning the sun came up, I got out of bed to plug in some phones and what did I find, my days work had been pulled apart in the night because people “needed” components to play music in the party camp. A frustrating day gathering up the parts agen only to find that the battery had been destroyed in the night by running it flat.

It wasn’t a easy technical problem, it actually was a more complex harder to fix social problem. The was no shortage of competent people at the camp, but they weren’t involved because they had experienced variations of the problem above – that nothing could be built – everything was transitory and broken.

The social solution?

Push the few apsultute loons out of the space, this tends to be emotionally violent, we mediated by giving one loon the equipment he needed to set up his own space. The second one, when challenged, pushed him self out of the space and took his stuff with him. Short and (emotionally) violent in both cases but they did both go away and allow the space to grow and function.

The second issue was less challenging but probably created more resentment, this was that the equipment and space was held in “common” for the camp and everyone could use it as THEY thought fit. This was at the root of the destruction of battery’s and regular burning out of equipment – the was a big box full of broken stuff, each day expensive replacements were ordered and the day after it arrived most of it was in the broken box – camp spending on tech was completely out of control because of this.

To fix this we had to shift the control of the equipment from the “common” to the smaller growing tech team. How do do this was simple, sitting in the tech tent all day asking people what they wonted stuff for. This was a gentle and helpful thing to do BUT behind the sean it was building up a pile of resentment from the “crew” who were used to using and bracking tech equipment freely and it being replaced at camp expense.

After this successful transition the tech space became boring, it worked, phones were charged, laptops powered, media and legal work done, peopule could check there facebook. The wasn’t much to do but sit in there to make shore the “loon” energy did not come back to dominate.

Though it did came back to bite later. 

Attempted Putsch at Balcombe

The camp has to move after the drilling stops every one agrees with this, I do, the only useful question/decision is when and were to next. What am documenting here is one groups decision and action that happen this weekend at the camp. Read this with a smile (or you might cry) Its been interesting to be in the middle of a attempted Putsch at #balcombe anti-fracking site.

I have been oncamp for more than 3 weeks, On Friday in the morning I got up early to go off site to get the main battery bank charged otherwise the camp would have no power for the next 3-4 days. After I got back the camp was quirt I got some tea mosed around said hi to the people I met, everything was working fine on the temporary power in the tech tent. By the late afternoon it was time for a sester in my tent, on waking I found a strange decision had been made. The same thing happened to a number of people for example Marina Pepper was doing legal support for the court case and was constantly phoning up people at the camp, this decision making was not mentioned, Prajna was off site doing arrest support he was not informed etc.

A decision was made to close the camp down in front of the fracking site and move all the infrastructure and tents 5-10-15 miles away (the location was not revealed) This visible wrong agenda was pushed though a exhausting 8 hour meeting by majority vote of the people left in the meeting after 8 hours.

* You can never get a good decision after an 8 hour meeting!

* That we would be evicted on Monday – actually the court process starts on Monday and as many experienced people pointed out this will be a long process with many delays. It should be possible to stay till the drill is removed in 2 weeks and then leave as we wont to not forced by a court process.

* The main argument was if the whole camp left before the court case they could turn up at court and say “what camp” and the injunction would not happen. This is a fantasy in that we would have had to evict the half of the camp that refuses to go to meetings and would reject this imposing of a nonsense agender by a meeting they ignore. Even if this could be done this would not have stopped the injunction as they would have argued that the camp would have just returned so they would need the injunction to stop this happening.

* Then the was the very understandable argument for the mental health and physical health of the core camp crew here since the beginning – the call to support the “family”. This is the only valid argument, but when looked at it is thin and self inflicted. The camp has collectively allowed a tiny minority of people to continuously hold stressful roles for month's with out rest, this could have been mediated by the offered respite in locales homes or sharing roles with the large number of competent people at the site. The separate camp is going ahead anyway with out the camp moving for people who need time out this is a good thing and solves this issue if people take the time out they need.

The next day the was a very violent/bad tempered meeting where it was repeatedly coherently argued that the day before decision was damaging and wrong headed. Each point was refuted – the answer was imposed that we should STILL DO IT AS IT WAS DECIDED this wasted the whole morning till a tea break helped to clear the air. During the tea break the people arguing strongly for the camp to be taken down actually started to take down structures. This angry energy faded as the majority of people ignored them and didn’t take part in this.

The afternoon meeting was much calmer, apart form a part were the original decision was tried to be re-imposed by violent argument by a minority. The issue now (Sunday morning) is that online the original decision/agenda rolls on and locals with cars are turning up to take things, and owners of structures are reclaiming them still thinking the eviction is happening on Monday.

This ill timed and wrongly argued ripping apart of the camp might make it hard to move forward on a tactical agreement to leave when the time comes. This is the problem we have created and now face.

How far is Balcombe camp a responsible alternative?

Its interesting to be in the middle of camp life doing something that is core to the camp functioning. Am one of the crew responsible for the tech tent, we run a solar power set-up that charges the camp phones, runs the laptops and provides shaky internet for legal, media and wider camp community. This is currently working pretty well but we have a number of issues that need addressing, lets briefly look at each one:

We are completely reliant on a single source of power – solar – this as anyone knows is unsubstantial as people are finding out on dark rainy days – as we move into the autumn/winter this will stop working in a meaningful way. The is a blindness and intolerance to addressing this issue that is worrying and the wider camp is not taking on the responsibility for this issue.

The majority of people while expressing green views treat camp infrastructure as if it was normal mainstream home infrastructure. The is a tendency to get angry if they can't plug their phone in when they wont to or use the internet after dark, or watch videos over our shaky internet connection. You can explain to them all you like but when you leave the tech tent to get a cup of tea often when you get back you will find 3 extra phones charging and the laptop left on with nobody using it etc.

The solution being pushed is HUGE increase in battery’s and solar panels and tech so you can treat natural resources power as if it was home power. This is a surprising and shocking unthinking indictment of our culture, its why fracking/dangerous energy is happening in the first place. It seems people are un-willing to move closer to nature (even though they are living on a road verge in the rain) rather they unthinkingly continue to use technology to bend nature to there convenience.

We still have individuals who are ripping apart working camp set-ups see my last post for motivations for this LINK The camp is not taking collective responsibility over damaging individuals and there actions, the camp meetings are dysfunctional and fractures, the only way most things are decided is be mob rule or attrition through boredom. Consensus is failing through a lack of trust in the shifting camp crew.

If you wont to challenge fracking and dangerous energy extraction in general you need to be at least able to offer and outline of a working alternative. How can you build a green/alternative with out looking at this issues/mind set in our own camp.

Greenham women talks about protest camp life

This is a message from my mum who was an original Greenham women - she is wrighting in reaction to what she is hearing going on at Balcombe Community Protection Camp.

"I was on the original women lead march from Cardiff to Greenham Common. 36 women and six men marched from Cardiff to USAF Greenham Common in September 1981 to protest at the arrival of first strike, Ground Launched nuclear cruise Missiles. There was no plan to stay but when our request for a debate on TV was ignored we decided to stay living in the open in all weathers for almost 20 years. it was a new way of life aa amazing experience but with with many difficulties. wonderful world wide support. but personalities, money, infiltration evictions all had to be resolved.

Money at Greenham.

Anarchy - Greenham was amazing despite difficulties , When the camp was set up who ever got to the postman first opened the letters and took the money. One women used it to pay her mortgage. We opened a women’s peace camp coop bank account with two signatures who allocated the money each day. With discussion, so everyone knew where the money was spent, otherwise everyone considered their need was greatest. The camp belongs to everyone.....never forget our experiences with the security service infiltrators..new recruits with MI5 and MI6 in practice missions.

Whilst Greenham Women were facing eviction in the 1980s Mrs Thatcher changed the law, Eviction notices did not have to be given to the person but could be fixed to the premises. At greenham this meant nailed to a tree like in the wildwest USA . We found out who owned of the land around the base. Some belonged to the local council, some to the ministry of transport, other land to the military and some was common land. When women were evicted They only had to move a few yards to land owned by another authority and the eviction process had to start all over again. often there were vague descriptions of women not even a name. when the polce carefully described what we were wearing we all the swopped clothes .The first evictions were in Newbury district court. and later in the high court. we just ignored our evictions.Many of us had a high court order banning us from as many as five counties which we ignored. There were so many of us from all over the UK and all parts of the world we could ignore the courts decisions some women did go to prison. WE WENT INTO THE COURTS IN SHORTS AND VESTS WITH BABIES WHO WERE BREAST FED AND HAD NAPPIES CHANGED IN THE COURT.. VERY DISTURBING FOR THE MALE LEGAL PROFESSION; jUDGES WIFES AT THE BACK OF THE COURT WERE ADVING THE WOMEN. The judge Jupp retreated so fast after evicting us..."

Thalia Campbell

If you would like a pack of post cards from Greenham (and some contempery ant-fracking ones) ask Thalia for her address and sender her a donation (:

This happens nearly every day at Balcombe - Snatch Arrest

This happens nearly every day at Balcombe. This film was shot and edited and uploaded in 1 hour at the camp media center all on solar power.

Camp tech needs for Balcombe

Currently we have half the solar panels we ordered working to power core camp phone, laptops and tech tent (250w) – with limited public phone charging. And a second 40w solar powered laptop, music and phone charging point in the large massage tent. In the kitchen we now have a permanent lighting set-up with 27w solar panel. The tolits also have battery lighting but no panels to trickle charge the battery.

(DRAFT) This is a list to build on what we have in our low power solar driven 12v tech tent (and wider powered spaces) at Balcombe anti-fracking camp.

3x small cheap laptops (Thinkpad X60-61) these can be sourced ex-corporate and are strongly built, only use 14-24w of power – less than a 3ed of a normal laptop)

3xcheap usb mouse for the laptops.

Big 2TB external hardrive (legal and camp media off site backup)

Small 1TB USB hardrive (on-site backup)

4 x universal 12v laptop chargers (these can be used to power most small electronics, we use them for the audio and LED projector for screenings)

Wifi booster x2

2 x solar panels 100w semi flexible for tech tent roof + charge controllers, so we can move the huge panel to camp events charging which is what its needed, configured and bought for.

4x cheap 5-10w solar panels to trickle charge the distributed lighting set-ups, they are small so we don’t need the cost and complexity of charge controllers. (NEED TO WORK OUT THE MATH TO SEE IF THIS WILL WORK WELL ANUF)

20m cable heavy duty

Box of mixed 12v electrical connectors

Cheap mobile phone/mifi to use as permanent hotspot (Sim has to be 3 network as this is the only one that works reliably, PASG data package)

6x Phone charging USB 5v adapters (these keep going missing)

20 x micro USB charging cables (these keep going missing)

5 x iphone usb charging cables (these keep going missing)

 

UPDATED LIST (DRAFT)

Ebuyer torch (AA bats) x4 (529074) £88

Ebuyer USB micro cable x20 (242264) £19

Ebuyer Apple connector x4 (451003) £12.60

Ebuyer single 5 volt USB adapter x6 (394741) £18.00

Ebuyer external HD 1TB x1 (396739) £55.00

Ebuyer external HD 2TB x1 (384253) £84.52

 

Solar shower bags 3 off £21

rechargeable AA battery 16 £20

8 cell battery re-charger 1 £20

3 network data sim card 10gb a month 6 months £90

wifi booster antenna x2 £70

small 10w solar panels + cables x4 £100

 

transport fund £500

big tarps x10 £180

cast iran Clark Victoria wood burning stove x1 £574

cheap RF bugging detector x1 £20

 

Parrot AR drone power addition x1 £320

Kitchen water filter + 5 filters x1 £80

 

phone mic in spliters x10 £40

Cheap small low power laptops think pad (X60) x3 £420

laptop 12v universal power supply’s x3 £90

 

100w solar panels semi flexible x2 £320

charge controllers PWM5 x2 £36

Heavy duty 12v cable 20m £20

solar cable connectors 10 £25

box of electrical connectors x2 £40

padlock combination x3 £60

 

Hiring of winter tent £500

 

Total £3802

Balcombe - power use

I have been at Balcombe anti-fracking camp for two weeks now (DRAFT)

Broken inverter box of shame

We have come a long way in the tech tent in helping to change the mindset of the camp to be more environmental. The camp is moving more slowly towards being in tune with the wider natural rhythms of the seasons. Our next challenge in this is to get the camp to recognise that there are seasons and that autumn is coming. As a natural shift, power generation will start to move from sun to wind and other more experimental energy generating.

What have we achieved:

We moved peoples' perception on to be aware that where power comes from affects when you have it. The current power is solar and it comes from the sun so any power we have is available when the sun is brightest and strongest – so we have power between 11-4 o’clock to use laptops and charge phones. Before and after this only core and emergency use is available.

We managed the transition from inefficient inverters powering 240v AC hungry household appliances to native 12v DV low powered equipment. This is a basic green issue of energy use: use less and use it better. The inverting is costing more then 40% of the power coming in when you take into account battery efficiency.

WHY? It's about the efficiency of the battery/wire/voltage converter technology. Storing the power then retrieving it has a cost. We decide not to pay this cost. We use the power as much as possible directly from the sun. The batteries are used as floats, they buffer/moderate the power. If you use the batteries as floats and buffers you can use this power with little loss. As soon as you shift use of the power to other times you have the energy cost of charging, storing and retrieving the power – this can be as much as 40% of the total coming in. When you add to this the inverting (DC-AC-DC) of power which we were doing at the start this makes no sense at all unless you are connected to a coal or nuclear power station. The reality was that the batteries in the camp were shipped out by car each day, charged on the grid then shipped back by car, drain and repeat.

We are still working on the respect and longevity of the environmentally damaging batteries that we use and are donated. 6 have been destroyed so far and most of the rest damaged/degraded. This is a ecological cost in polluting with dangerous lead and acid. It's a mission that we will have more time for after the basic set-up is in place.

We cleared the tech space of the mad rip-it-apart-every-night energy and replaced this with more clear and safe sorted people (well, as sorted as you get at protest camps). This led to semi-permanent working set-ups rather than the draining of energy of having to re-build everything from scratch each day. It's interesting that it's hard to move people beyond the black and white thinking of solving problems to the more holistic thinking of respect for diversity of strategies. This mad creative/destructive energy has a space in the camp – and we have to nurture a space for it, rather than try and use a lot of energy failing to exclude it.

We face the basic green issue of energy use, use less and use it better in the case of batteries. The core space is now working, the next challenge in power is diversity of sources. Can we move investment away from solar as the summer comes to an end and the daylight hours shorten and fade.

For any power you take out in the evening about twice as much power has to be put back in the morning, so it's a bad way of borrowing shifting use times. It's an education building a power station at a protest camp.

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