A week after NASA's leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, actress Darryl Hannah and others crossed the line into illegal direct action in a desperate attempt to prevent coal mining and burning from ending our hopes of retaining a hospitable climate, twenty-nine protesters are standing trial here in England for a similar action last year. The 'Drax 29' admit stopping (safely) a coal train two miles outside the Drax power station in an attempt to prevent the deaths already being caused by climate change. Nonetheless they have entered a "Not Guilty" plea against the charge of 'Obstructing the Railway' (which carries a maximum two year prison sentence). They are defending themselves in court, and after reading their inspiring closing statement justifying this position to the jury, I felt moved to create the pledge above. You can read their defence yourself in The Guardian here, or it is reproduced in full below: -- Members of the jury. I'm going to try to summarise why we feel that we are not guilty, why we feel that what we did was right, despite the very proper laws against obstructing trains, why we feel that it was the wrong decision of the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute us in this case, and why we don't feel that we are guilty of a crime. I want to start by responding to your request for clarification yesterday about "lawful excuse". His honour may say [in his summing up] that it's true that there are ways in law to make space for circumstances, to allow a bigger picture to be considered. These ways can have different names for different offences — so for example "lawful excuse", which you asked about yesterday, applies only to the charge of criminal damage. For example, last September, a jury in Kent found six protesters not guilty of committing £30,000 worth of criminal damage to Kingsnorth coal-fired power station, since the group were acting to prevent a greater crime. Those on trial did not disagree that criminal damage is a crime, just that, in certain circumstances, it may be necessary and proportionate to cause some damage to prevent a great crime. That jury agreed. His honour may explain that there is a legal defence of "necessity", that applies to most laws, and that it was on the basis of "necessity" — the fact that we believed our actions were going to save lives and that we had to act — that we prepared a legal defence before this trial. Along with many legal professionals we were very disappointed by his honour's decision prior to the trial that this defence was not available to us in law. Nonetheless we decided not to appeal against it. We felt that you the jury would be free to decide on the facts of a case as you find them - and not just the ones his honour tells you are relevant. It's up to you to decide whether what we did was necessary. I would like to emphasise to you that we believed and we still believe that it was urgently necessary to do what we did, and proportionate to the scale of the problem, that the consequences of that train taking coal into Drax are so serious that any reasonable person would understand our reasons for stopping it. To help explain why we were so sure of the links between Drax's activities and deaths around the world we had expert witnesses lined up to talk to you about the immediate and ongoing harm that Drax's emissions cause. However from what evidence we have been able to get across to you, with his honour's indulgence, we hope that you can see that these facts speak for themselves, and our actions, though harmful, were indeed necessary to try to stop a greater harm. And if you agree with that then you still have a legal right – as the jury - to find us not guilty. You've heard it said already I think, that the judge decides about the law, but the jury decide about the facts. What does that mean? It means you the jury can decide as you see fit. You the jury have a constitutional right to follow your own judgement and not necessarily follow the judge's directions to find us guilty. In other words, you get to make the final decision. In law this principle is called the jury's power of nullification, and it's been a right that has been regularly used over the years when juries have felt the law has been applied harshly, or inappropriately, or unjustly, or incorrectly. Perhaps I can explain this with a quote from a very senior judge, Lord Denning. He said: "This principle was established as long ago as 1670 in a celebrated case of the Quakers, William Penn and William Mead. All that they had done was to preach in London on a Sunday afternoon. They were charged with causing an unlawful and tumultuous assembly there. The judge directed the jury to find the Quakers guilty, but they refused. The Jury said Penn was guilty of preaching, but not of unlawful assembly. The Judge refused to accept this verdict. He threatened them with all sorts of pains and punishments. He kept them 'all night without meat, drink, fire, or other accommodation: they had not so much as a chamber pot, though desired'. They still refused to find the Quakers guilty of an unlawful assembly. He kept them another night and still they refused. He then commanded each to answer to his name and give his verdict separately. Each gave his verdict 'Not Guilty'. For this the judge fined them 40 marks apiece and cast them into prison until it was paid. One of them Edward Bushell, thereupon brought his (case) before the Court of the King's Bench. It was there held that no judge had any right to imprison a juryman for finding against his direction on a point of law; for the judge could never direct what the law was without knowing the facts, and of the facts the jury were the sole judge. The jury were thereupon set free." This was affirmed as recently as 2005, in relation to the case of Wang, where a committee of Law Lords in the highest court in the land, the House of Lords, concluded that: "there are no circumstances in which a judge is entitled to direct a jury to return a verdict of guilty". So you do have that right to decide for yourselves. And unlike in 1670, his honour won't be able to fine you, or put you in prison for making what he sees as the wrong decision. There have been many cases over the years where juries have decided, on reflecting more broadly, to find people not guilty despite directions from the judge. For example, the case of Zelter and others who were accused of damage to an aircraft about to be used for bombing civilians. In all of these and others the judge said that the defendants admitted the offence and so must be found guilty. But the jury chose to look outside the limited view of the court room, and to find them not guilty. The freedom that you have is what enables the law, where necessary, to move forward. It is what allows you to look beyond the confines of this court to the wider world, and to make a judgement based not just on law, but to make a judgement based on justice. Justice is the force that underpins and breathes life into the law, and it is your role as the jury to see that justice as you see it is done. We all know that times change, and what was acceptable in one era may not be acceptable in another. You have heard of how it was once legal to own other people, how it was illegal for women to vote. Well one way or another we are going to have to stop burning coal and move on from the fossil fuel era. And that means that the law will eventually have to change and acknowledge the harm that carbon emissions do to all of us, by making them illegal. The only question is whether the law will catch up in time for there to be anything left to protect. We are not trying to tell you how to decide. We are only trying to say that it is up to you, and we are grateful for that. I want you to think back to that situation of there being a person on the tracks ahead of that train going on its way to Drax. Members of the Jury, it may sound like a strange thing to say but in truth there is a person on the branch line to Drax. The prosecution have not challenged the facts we presented to you on oath about the consequences of burning coal at Drax. 180 human lives lost every year, species lost forever. There is a direct, unequivocal, proven link between the emissions of carbon dioxide at this power station and the appalling consequences of climate change. That many of those consequences impact on the poor of other nations or people in Hull we don't know and should not in any way negate the reality of this suffering. We got on that train to stop those emissions, because all other methods in our democracy were failing. Just because we don't know the name of the person on the tracks or where they live or the exact time and day of their dying, does not in our view mean they are less worthy of protection. We don't dispute that there's a law against obstructing trains. We don't dispute that obstructing trains is a crime and should continue to be a crime. We just argue that in this case, we should not be found guilty of a crime for trying to block this train on its way to Drax. On Tuesday the prosecution argued that what we did was quite simply a crime, and as a result we should be found guilty. They were trying to suggest that if you find us not guilty, the whole world would fall apart. We argue that the more likely route to the whole world falling apart is if we continue burning coal in the enormous quantities that it is being burnt at Drax. His honour may say that we have been telling you stories, that we are trying to introduce emotions into the trial to distort the evidence. But we have been telling you the facts. If those facts move you, that's because they are moving, and they are what moved us to do what we did. We are happy to be judged by you, the jury. Thank you for taking the time to listen to us. -- See full details of the pledge I have created in support of the Drax 29 - and the option to sign - by clicking the image below. It has been another crazy whirlwind of a month, with this weekend set to be the first in five which I get to spend in Transition Town Home, having spoken recently in Bungay, Glastonbury, Belsize Park and the Forest of Dean, as well at the Transition Conference (I hate that name, can't we call it a 'Gathering' or something?) in Battersea, and at the Sunrise Celebration Festival. One highlight for me was watching the world première of the movie "In Transition" and being surprised and delighted to find that I was in it (having completely forgotten the quick interview they grabbed with me at my book launch!). Another was meeting an A-Level teacher who is already using my book as a teaching aid for his Environmental Design students. But perhaps of wider interest was the fact that Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, turned up at the Transition Conference as a 'keynote listener', but still managed to drop a few bombshells. When we buttonholed him for a bit of a chat (audio here, courtesy of Traydio.com), I was pleased to hear that he understood the need for Government to remain a step removed from the Transition movement in order to avoid "strangling" it. However, I must confess I had to refrain from gasping as he declared that: "If you think about the history of the debate on peak oil as I understand it, climate change makes debate about peak oil a bit of a second-order debate, because we have to start making the transition to low carbon forms of energy in any case. Whether you think that peak oil's in 2020, 2030 or 2040... I don't need to have the debate about peak oil... to know that we have to start making the transition as quickly as possible." Where to begin? Clearly Ed's understanding of the history of the peak oil debate differs a little from mine. Let's start with the obvious - with many experts agreeing that we likely saw peak oil last year, for our Minister for Energy to be pondering how many decades in the future it might lie is, frankly, terrifying. But what I personally find even more worrying is that he (and thus presumably his department) has not yet grasped that climate change and peak oil often pull in opposite directions. Perhaps Ed should cast his eyes across the Atlantic to the US Congress, where the advocates of Climate Change Bills (to implement strict carbon budgets) are doing battle with the champions of Energy Independence Bills (to subsidise carbon-intensive tar sands and coal-to-liquids projects). As I wrote here last year, and more recently in The Transition Timeline, there is a very real tension between addressing climate change and addressing peak oil, and policy based purely on one side of this equation could be very destructive indeed. Unfortunately, our government is still caught on the horns of this 'supply side dilemma', and is desperately casting around for more rapidly-deployable low-carbon energy supplies. It is only slowly dawning on them that renewable supply cannot increase as fast as oil and gas are declining, that nuclear only makes the problem worse, and that coal is not an option if we want a habitable planet. The inescapable conclusion is that if we are to treat climate change with the seriousness which it undoubtedly deserves, then we may well have already entered our years of energy descent. The only reasonable response is to find ways to thrive in this context - to reduce energy demand in line with the reducing supply - but as yet Ed still believes that only Denial sells to the voting public: "In a way I'm less optimistic than you are... you're optimistic that you can persuade people to adopt a sort of "no growth" model of society - I'm pretty convinced that you couldn't persuade people of that... Even if you were right about your model of society, I just don't believe that you're going to convince people of that" Actually, I do agree with Ed that we need to think long and hard about what "economic growth" actually means before we debate whether we want it, though I'm not sure we'll see eye-to-eye when that debate reaches its head. Of course it doesn't come as an overwhelming surprise to see my perspective deemed darker yet more optimistic than the Government view, but since the Transition Vision of the future seems about the only desirable outcome out there to shoot for, I think I'll just keep right on shooting, whether Ed rates our chances or not. Having said that, with Rob's recent post on 'burn out' in mind, it's definitely time for a day off for me. Tomorrow is my birthday, and I will be taking a hard-earned breather at Kew Gardens with my beautiful and inspirational girlfriend. Back soon! (pic - yesterday's non-violent direct action at Kingsnorth, courtesy of Indymedia) I'm back from this year's Climate Camp, and was deeply impressed with what I found there, both in terms of the organisation of the site (carried out largely by social anarchists) and the attitude and behaviour of the protesters. The Camp is still running as I write, and I know large numbers of people are remaining to clear the site of all traces of our presence (in line with the request of the landowner), but for me it has been the most enjoyable, inspiring and re-energising of weeks. Judging by the media response I wasn't alone in this. The New Statesman featured a very complimentary piece, which actually singled out the workshop I ran with Adam Thorogood of the Centre for Alternative Technology and went so far as to suggest that Gordon Brown and his Government are missing out by not engaging more fully with us and the rest of the brilliant people at Camp! The author also couldn't fail to mention the truly exceptional organisation of the site itself and its facilities. This was arranged in a totally non-hierarchical fashion, but the bulk of the work was carried out by advocates of social anarchism, and it was impossible not to be impressed upon seeing their philosophies in action. The police were excluded from the site, and in the absence of any authority figures what I found inside was great locally-sourced food, clean user-friendly composting toilets, solar-powered showers, electricity, internet access, film screenings, unimpeded passionate debate, music, dancing and a warm sense of welcome and community spirit. What I didn't find was any crime or fear of crime, or even any litter. And all this without the need to part with a penny in payment (voluntary donations welcome, but not solicited). It certainly gave the lie to the media's one-dimensional portrayal of anarchists. Yet for me the most impressive aspect of the week was the non-violent direct action on yesterday's Day of Action at Kingsnorth Power Station. As illustrated above hundreds of people converged on the perimeter fence of the power station and dismantled one fence to make a bridge over another. Having successfully crossed this fence and a moat they then scaled the inner (electric) fence and erected banners before a few decided to climb over into the power station grounds (and the waiting arms of the massed riot police), braving both physical harassment and certain arrest to ensure that the symbolic barrier was breached (see Indymedia for photo/video coverage). For their part the police were on the whole respectful (and in some cases even supportive), but there was a significant minority who were unnecessarily aggressive. I saw a number of protesters (including a city councillor) physically assaulted, but what most impressed me was the total lack of retaliation, just as was agreed during the preparatory workshops at the Camp. Protesters linked their arms and put their bodies on the line to protect their fellow campers, but I did not see a single blow or item thrown at the police. In the whole day I only saw one man even taunt the police, and he was quickly told to shut up by his peers. According to the Climate Camp website E:on's top PR spokesperson Emily Highmore was close to tears about how badly the week has gone. Maybe the public are finally starting to see through the spin and realise that these unpaid peaceful protesters are simply highlighting a massive threat to our collective future. Even mainstream figures like MP Chris Davies are starting to speak out: "It is my job as a parliamentarian to help make law, but in this instance I welcome the fact that there are people prepared to break the law...Without the use of CCS technology to prevent the CO2 escaping into the atmosphere (new coal power stations) must not be allowed to proceed. If that means politicians joining with other climate change campaigners to sit down in front of bulldozers, then so be it." Hear hear. And finally, I couldn't possibly finish this post without sending my huge respect to the world's smallest climate campaigners, who successfully made it to the top of Kingsnorth's smokestack! Well done to them, and to everyone who attended this year's Camp for Climate Action.