At a thrash metal gig in Kilburn I was introduced to Deborah Grayson and Tamsin Omond, two of the founders of Climate Rush, a gang of ecological activists who spend most of their time invading parliament and super-glueing themselves to things. We talked about the run up to the Copenhagen climate talks this December and how everyone ought to be out protesting like mad, demanding our leaders grow some green balls and actually do something meaningful about climate change. They invited me to spend September walking with a horse and cart across the southwest of England, organizing protests and doing activist stuff along the way. I thought, Why not?
We set up camp at Sipson, the Anglo-Saxon village that is set to be annihilated if the third runway is built at Heathrow. The next morning, a police helicopter flew over the camp taking photos. We hit the road on September 6, and since then they have followed our every move, lurking in lay-bys and snapping us like paparazzi.
A week ago we rolled into Oxford airport to be greeted by a shitload of police on horseback, who prevented us from getting inside. The closest we could get was to a road outside the perimeter. A 19-year-old student named Millie and I made it our mission to break in.
Fifty or so of us set up a picnic on the road, singing songs and blocking the entrance. While the police focused on the commotion, Millie and I clambered beneath a neglected hedgerow. On the other side, a few security guards in bright yellow hi-visibility waistcoats spotted us and started frantically barking into their radios. We legged it until we reached a big barrier that stood between us and the airfield. Another security guard emerged from his cabin and marched toward us menacingly. I dodged him, vaulted over the barrier and busted into an airfield dotted with small aircraft. I approached the first plane and draped a big red sash reading NO AIRPORT EXPANSION! from the tail fin. There was a brief moment of calm as I stood watching it triumphantly flutter in the wind.
Suddenly an angry American voice shattered the silence: "HEY FUCKHEAD! GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM MY PLANE!" I looked round to see a muscular man, who looked a bit like a caricature of an aging quarterback, in a black vest and white Oakley shades.
"HEY FUCKHEAD! I’M GONNA BEAT YOUR FUCKING HEAD IN IF YOU TOUCH MY PLANE AGAIN. GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE, FUCKHEAD!" He then charged at me, making shapes like Stone Cold Steve Austin warming-up for an ass-whoopin'. I offered him some flyers about climate change as he chased me round his plane. Weirdly, after a few circuits, he accepted them, only to aggressively scrunch them up and hurl them at my feet. I’m pretty tall, 6' 4", but he still managed to make me feel like Milhouse as he loomed over me and shouted: "HERE’S TO YOUR FUCKING ENVIRONMENT, FUCKHEAD. GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE AND GET A FUCKING JOB!"
I sensed that it might be time for me to go somewhere else, but before I could do so, a van full of policemen appeared and I was arrested. While I was being cuffed and bundled into the back of the van, the pilot was pointing at me and screaming: "I’M GONNA BURN A FUCKLOAD OF EXTRA FUEL JUST FOR YOU, BUDDY."
Millie and I spent an afternoon in the cells. After surrendering our fingerprints and DNA we were released on bail. Although it sounds a pretty excessive thing to do, when contemplating the horror and suffering that runaway climate change might bring (like, er, mass starvation and the half the species on Earth getting wiped out), protests of this sort seem logical to me. We’re back on the road and only halfway through the adventure. It already feels like a military campaign. I’m pretty sure I’ll get called a fuckhead again soon.