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 tent .

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.

Balcombe - the missing solar Panels

I have been at Balcombe camp for nearly 2 weeks working in the tech tent. The campaign is a positive experience and the issue is very winnable. But the internals of the campaign and the camp that is now at its centre is like many in the past dysfunctional anufe to help undermine this likely victory. The are a lot of hidden agenda’s amongst the #Balcombe anti-fracking which can make a very dysfunctional campaigning space. I am sitting this morning in such a situation.

If my solar equipment isn’t here (which at the moment it isuant, as I though the new 450w had arrived) the camp has one 27w solar panel which on a sunny day can power a small laptop or charge 4-5 phones. This has been going on for a month or more. For a time I brought extra panels and got us up to charging 20-50 phones a day including all the legal and core camp phones. Was a happy time that was crowned by a offer of local funding and a morning on the pub wifi, £600 ordered 450w of solar panels and controllers. See post (LINK)

It was going to take 3-4 days for the gear to arrive so I left the camp with a working basic solar phone charging set-up for core camp phone's for a few days to do some work in London. Keeping an eye on social media I noted that the process of installing the solar panels had got stuck somehow so decided to come back to the camp to finish the install.

Arriving back to a poisonous soup of clashing agenda’s the panels were stuck in a locals house and are still there now 4 days latter.

The is a sorted tech crew, but no consensus on how to move on from here. So days are spent rasherioning power and argueing over fantasy plans which are beyond the power we have and beyond the 450w of power we will have at some point.

Its interesting to experience the internal dynamics inside the tech team -

On one hand we have pragmatic realists – who recognise the lack of control, creative and destructive power at camps. They deal with this by:

  • Building set-up's to include clear separation of different systems so if one fails the other continues.

  • Put in simple work flow to minimise the competing needs on scares resources the different groups will demand.

  • Separate the different user groups into core camp, legal, media and events so that they do not compete for the same pools of limited resources

Of course the is nothing to stop the different working groups co-operating and helping each other, what this avoids is the competition and ego-flaring that envehrtably happens in the highly stressed camp life.

On the other hand we have obdurate realists who while right in what they are saying are ignoring the circumstances of where they saying it. I can give you an example: in the last 24 hours the solar phone charging I set-up has been ripped apart and scattered, then re-built 3 times. To keep this working today I sat in the tent all day this is not a sustaining way of running a key camp technology.

This is the reality of camp life with no working consensus.

Balcombe - working in the tech tent

Its been an interesting and educational experience working in the tech tent at the anti-fracking protest camp. 

When I arived, in the first 3 days none of the solar panles were pluged into the batterys, they were just on dispaly. 

I set out to build a working system from the bits there, I managed to beg and borrow the pieces I needed to put together and had a working 12v solar phone charging station by the evening ready to run the next day.

The problem was in the night a drunk person came and ripped it apparent and took away core parts of this. I then spend a very frustrating morning recovering the bits, but it dosent work as the battery had been some how destroyed in the night. This was the end of getting anything working for a few days, the core problem of tech space was obviously social rather than technical.

Soughting through the donated equipment, most of it was broken soon after it arrived due to "enthusiastic" use in late night party’s and events, misswiring blown fuses and then bodged fixes.

Almost all the equipment in the camp tech tent was broken, so to start things off whent home for a few days and then came back bringing my own solar panels and equipment. Here it is on the roof of the tent ready to charge phones.

Day 2 of "new tech tent order" we charged 20 phones, setup and powered a live radio station and made 2 short video reports. Here we are repairing one of the broken solar panels.

We had a priority of charging the legal observers and core camp phones. 

What I learned form this is that tech spaces at camps are chaos and one way to tame this “destructive madness” is to bring in sorted equipment and set-up a working part of the space – this then gives you influence to settle the madness in the rest of the space. If you cant make something work and keep it working you are just one mad voice in the many. And if you dont have your own equipment you can't keep it working as some one else with equal "voice" and “need' will pull it apart when you go to sleep or for a cup of tea.

We have a social problem to solve as part of the tecnical building of protest camp tech.

10 days at Balcombe Protection Camp

Photo: Katherine Stanley

(DRAFT)

My experience at the camp was over all positive, and came away feeling that fracking is a completely winnable campaign.

I went to the camp to spend a week making media about the people, issues and organising of the #fracking protest camp. In stead of this media/video making, which am very good at I spent 10 days living on the camp trying to sought out many core issues.

* the dysfunctional camp meetings

* the draining camp fractions/dynamics/power struggles

* the tech tent

I will start with the tech tent, when i arrived the camp had no working solar power and all battery were charged (by grid electricity - fossil fuel) offside and driven in by car each day. No care was taken for the effective life of the battery’s so they were disintegrating rapidly by being excessively discharged each day. With 12v battery’s it is much more efficient (and safer) to run the camp on native 12v then use fragile/inefficient and potently dangerous 240v inverters as was happening.

The tech space was being ripped apart and trashed (by persons unknown) every night, leading to the problem that nothing permanent could be built or sustained, this lead to all the competent people leaving this core space. Each day new equipment would arrive and by the next day it would be broken, the solution was to then order more new equipment, the tech spending was spiralling out of control.

When equipment was ordered it was always the wrong type because of the politics/opacity of shopping - this was very damaging as it lead to more equipment failer and the strong possibility of electrical fire. This repeating power politics and unspoken agenda’s was the root of many issues.

I spent much of my 10 days on this problem, and by the end of the time we were charging all legal/camp/media/visiter phones on 12v solar power and had finally ordered the equipment to run the wider camp on solar power.

This was on order when I left:

Core permanent power for the tech tent

100w 12v x2 semi-flexible solar panels permanently affixt to the roof of the south facing tent

water/shock profer controller x2

strong water prof connectors

heavy duty cabling

Then we had politics - Experimental event charging (this was a political choice rather than technical)

1x250w 24v glass facing solar panel 

Voltage regulating Controllers to bring this huge 24v panel (20KG metal and glass) down to the 12v needed

This experiment system saves around 50 in cost but is a HUGE problem as its heavey and frigile if it is mixed up with our 12v set-up as this will lead to equipment failer and possibly fires.

The camp is in a permanent state of chaos with out some one in the space to mediate this chaos, and at time the will not be, then this experimental system has to be (at a minimum) installed/looked after in a physically separate space to the core stable power set-up.

Is saveing a small amount of money worth adding to this chaos?

Because of camp politics this essential equipment was not ordered.

GOOD CAR “cigarette lighter” connector banks x2 (branded)

6x double 5v USB car adapters (branded)

3x laptop 12v power supply’s with tips (branded)

Best tent to buy for Vagabonding

Love this tent, have been useing it for the last 3 years. http://www.rei.com/product/827785/rei-quarter-dome-t2-tent This tent costs around $300 and is about 1/2 the wait and size of a normal 2 person tent.

Here I am in the Polish Rainbow Gathering

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