From Camp to Cousland to Canada
Leaving our cosy field in the back of HQ for a field trip to Cousland felt a little bit like the shambolic field trips to the zoo or science museum that I remember taking as a child. I visited the loo before getting into the minibus (rule number one for field trips), and I wondered what this trip would be like. I couldn’t imagine that any village would really care whether or not fifty or so activists- half on bikes and half in minibuses- came along to simply say “we support you”. But as we arrived at the village, we were met by a big group of residents who warmly welcomed us and shared their story with us.
Cousland is located in beautiful countryside which is threatened with destruction if the plans for a new open cast coal mine go ahead. The plans are proposed by Scottish Coal, one of the main open cast coal mine operators in the UK. Their projects are made possible through loans from Lloyds TSB, another UK bank which, like RBS, prioritises profit over our future.
The area has a listed historical building, a protected badger population, and the ruins of a castle where Mary Queen of Scots met with one of her conspirators. In addition to all of this, the vast majority of the village (95%) is in opposition to the construction of the mine. Considering all of this, it is hard to believe that Scottish Coal is still pushing for planning permission. But Scottish Coal has a bad track record, as it just pushed ahead with plans to dig a new mine in Douglasdale, the site of the Mainshill Solidarity Camp.
With the recession showing no signs of receding, corporations seem keen to use the economy as a “get out of jail free” card that allows them to get away with anything. They promise that the open cast coal mine will create jobs for the local area- but the residents have conducted their own survey and concluded that in addition to the devastating effects on the landscape, local ecosystems, and the health of local people, the proposal would actually have a negative economic impact and harm local jobs.
The attempts of corporations to buy local approval- and the adamant refusal of local communities to sell out their future and the environment- reminded me of the plight of indigenous communities in Canada fighting against tar sands extraction. Indigenous communities are fighting against tar sands extraction- financed by banks like RBS and Barclays- as their communities suffer from alarmingly high rates of cancer and the absolute destruction of the ecosystems within which they live. I met two women from First Nations communities in Canada- they spoke about the devastation they are witnessing in Canada- all for the sake of profit and a fossil-fuel driven economy.
I found it incredibly powerful how the experiences of communities around the world were brought together through the lens of fossil fuel finance, and the brutal demands that banks and corporations make of people who live in areas where there is profit to be made from fossil fuel extraction. It is absolutely essential that we support these communities, in every way possible. Yesterday, that meant taking a field trip to Cousland and writing a letter of objection to the proposals. Tomorrow, it means joining in the day of mass action. The resistance won’t end there, but it’s a meeting point of many struggles where we can draw strength and inspiration from each other.
More information about:
Communities Against Airfield Open Cast
Tar Sands resistance- Indigenous Environmental Network