Many of us in the UK will remember Swampy, the environment activist who blocked construction of the A30 dual carriageway to Exeter for several days in the 90s by living in a tunnel he and his friends had dug in the path of the bull-dozers. Swampy is, apparently, still joining protests and living the message through having a very low environmental footprint, however the A30 was completed along with the rest of the road building programme and his bravery seems to have little impact upon the need for action on the environment. Like the Greenham Common camp, his actions raised public awareness because they brought a damaging operation to public notice, but changed little.

This weekend, there is a Climate Camp at Blackheath in Southeast London. Those attending will mostly know each other and, like Swampy and the Greenham Ladies, be regarded by the middle-class mainstream as eccentric losers and bludgers who have no hope of changing anything.

My personal view is that they are unlikely to achieve much in terms of altering public perceptions, and change will only come about when the mainstream of society get on board. But they are to be admired where they live according to their message of living a life with a low environmental footprint.

However they stand against the flood as it seems that the entire human world has been seduced by the Western model of exploiting natural resources for financial gain and economic growth, and our respectable middle-classes lead the way. People are admired and respected for being rich, especially when they are self-made or have become powerful within a corporation. Indeed Western-style free enterprise societies have created a sort of Nirvana, or refound Eden (see Reinventing Eden by Carolyn Merchant) for the better-off. People get what they want when they want it, can go anywhere they want in the World and consume without a thought. In fact for many, consumption is an end in itself, proving their wealth and position, and attesting to man’s dominion over the natural world.

We know that the environmental footprint of the average American or European is many times that of a citizen of India or China, and dozens of times that of the average African and it seems that we Westerners are intent on keeping hold of every bit of what we have. We also know that the billions of people in rapidly developing countries aspire to have what we in the West have, and that populations are growing.

The logic is inescapable: we can’t go on like this, and something has to change. This, of course, is exactly what Swampy and his environmentalist friends have been arguing for many years, but in spite of being right, they are still on the outside. Why?

In The Observer this weekend, Peter Beaumont offers some insight which fits in nicely with my Death To The Environmentalist blog ( ) suggesting that the problem is “not a lack of conviction….: it stems, rather, from an obsession with its own structures and its relationship with the media and police… (and) from a preoccupation with measuring its achievements in terms of protests it has undertaken rather than a series of achievable goals that those outside the camp movement can easily identify with.”

The UK Government along with several in Europe are at last saying that we must deal with climate change and are ramping up environmental protection, not in response to the countless demos, camps, meetings and action by environmentalists, but to the realities facing us. These realities must be accepted by the middle-class, environmentalist-hating mainstream as they are the ones who will be asked to change their lifestyles in ways that they perceive to be negative. They also have the biggest environmental footprints and could have the biggest impact on our country’s emissions.

Environmentalists know how to do it, the mainstream needs to do it, a common purpose and direction are missing.