It may now be called Vestival, but it’s no party for those (sacked) Vestas workers still inside their factory. Morale does remain high. We are strong, we are largely young, we are www-literate, we are radical, and we stand shoulder to shoulder in our resistance to the stupidest industrial planning move of the decade. We must save Vestas. I’m now blogging and coordinating migrating supporters and media workers for the Save Vestas campaign from the mainland, but Vestival footage is flooding over YouTube…
At the beginning of the summer, the internationally reverberating struggle that is “savevestas” consisted of a tentful of students, and not much else. Seven of us were camping near Newport, embodying the new purpose-built group “Workers Climate Action”. Every day we talked to workers at the factory gates, fomenting resistance, holding information stalls, gathering contacts, publicising meetings, and flyering locals. The revolution seemed a long way away, but in the meantime we met with ubiquitous expressions of support, and very little nimbyism.
That’s a word that’s become common currency. And yet, how many of these big bad NIMBYs with eyes of flame does anyone actually know? We Vestas campaigners are facing off a worried looking Ed Miliband wherever he goes, and he keeps citing national ignorance and NIMBYism as an excuse to throw up his hands and proclaim himself powerless; but when challenged about this he quickly reverts to mumbles about planning permissions. I think he is worried because he’s been pointing – as the Vestas management have – to anti-wind campaigns in the UK which actually don’t stand up to scrutiny. That is not to say that they don’t exist, and they do deserve his recommended “social stigma”, in their bathetically named groups (THAWT, CLOWT, etc). George Monbiot memorably exposed to ridicule the director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England in an interview last year. The Age of Stupid beautifully demonstrated the enormous stupidity of a clutch of posh country folk, who thought that revolving blades on their horizons would distract them whilst driving.
Yet NIMBYs are rare beasts to scare politicians so. They dwindle in comparison to the lobbies against fossil fuel- and aviation related developments, and yet, when you scan the headlines and governmental reports, nowhere can one find a word to describe these mighty ground-swellings of protest. Corporate lobbies for oil, air and coal have ensured that any public consultations with local communities that have taken place regarding Kingsnorth, or Heathrow expansions, have either been non-existent or a sham. The wind power industry as yet lacks the lobbying capital required to have any local opposition to its proposed generators quietly trampled.
We at Workers Climate Action are not merely anti-nimby. We have a positive message and a bold demand: nationalisation of the factory. Wind power and people power have a common interest, we believe. Even Lord Mandelson’s department admits an overlap on the Public Perceptions section of its website, where it declares that a recent survey
“revealed that 84% of the general public support the use of renewable energy, 80% are in favour of the use of wind power and 64% would be happy to live within 5km (3 miles) of a wind power development.”
These in their millions are Britain’s WWRHADs (Wind welcome right here any day) and other sources suggest they constitute an ever larger majority when confronted with cold climate science. However this same website keeps markedly quieter about the number of respondents opposed to coal fired power stations or runways, or, as I would like to call them, “Noops” (Not on Our Planet). This is because the movement – alive online at a plethora of websites from http://www.nonewcoal.org.uk to http://www.2mgroup.org.uk – oppose the corporations Peter Mandelson likes to rub lapels with. E.on, Exxon, Shell, Enron and co. are terrified of Noops. They are fossil dinosaurs, and feel distinctly threatened, too, by the raw futuristic force of us Wrrhads and Noops.
Our majority is, alas, still substantially passive, or, as Monbiot termed it last week, “silent”. The bourgeois clamours of Nimbys, on the other hand, are amplified beyond all proportion. The whisper and whirr of wind turbines are calling upon us to carry away these twenty-first century carbon luddites with us. We must defend the six hundred green collars we have on the Isle of Wight by keeping the factory open for green business – in defiance of Vestas Blades itself, if need be. At the same time we must take a deep breath and blow obstructive Nimbys nationwide clear of our roadmap to “Low Carbon Britain”. Mr Miliband, Mr Mandelson, it’s time to deploy money and regulatory powers with the same cunning you used to try and flatten Noops at Kingsnorth and Heathrow.
Meanwhile, if the Danish firm is going to stay, corporate social responsibility from Vestas Blades may require more than a little coaxing. For now, the workers are staying put. If they, our leaders, wish merely to pretend they act on behalf of the people they serve, they will (at the very least) save our only wind turbine factory. Else how will we hold our heads up internationally on the road to Copenhagen? On the question of climate change even the highest placed can no longer doubt where their loyalties must lie. Mr Miliband likes to quote the “Tck, tck, tck” the global Climate Justice movement uses to raise awareness of the imminence of this planet’s emergency summit in December. So, honestly, boys. Time is ticking, and which side are you on?