This week the Energy Working Group is expecting triplets. We’ll soon be caring for three brand new shiny solar panels. It sounds simple enough but the gestation has been lengthy and at times difficult. Some of the difficulties have been technical – which panels, what voltage, how many charge controllers and do we need inverters? Others have been practical – how do we get them delivered and is there a sunny enough location given the time of year and surrounding tall buildings? The most painful pre-birth contractions have been rather more surprising – at least to the environmentalists amongst us – and have taught us that for all the idealism of the Occupy camps, in some ways we’re a microcosmic version of the wider world and its contradictions are reflected in us.
The green energy crew visited each service-providing tent in turn to assess its electricity needs. Nearly every tent demanded far more than expected. We’re so used to the flick of a switch providing an effortless and endless flow of electricity that the concept of going without – even when camping – is alien. The crew were nonplussed, then realised this presents another opportunity for using the Occupy camps as an educational resource.
The new energy deal is being phased in gently. At St Paul’s there’s an almost emotional attachment to the noisy, smelly generator hidden out back of the tech tent. Confiscating it would probably provoke tantrums so we’re going to make sure the solar panels are wired in, the leisure batteries are fully charged and the low energy LED lighting is in place before we begin the weaning process. Bicycle generators are also planned and are expected to be a winter winner. Get fit, keep warm, make power…
Expectations will have to be lowered. Habits must change. People may have to go without a charge for their phone occasionally. Electric kettles will be banned. On a small scale we’ll be going through the same process that the wider world is baulking at. Powering down. Using resources more sparingly. Embracing thrift. We’re pretty good at recycling now but that is not enough. Imagine the peace when that generator shuts down.
The Finsbury Square camp is a little ahead of St Paul’s. It has one solar panel, freshly wired up, which is expected to charge batteries for lighting. The generator there is being switched over from diesel to recycled chip fat. With the Bank of Ideas just up the street, laptop and phone charging is not such an issue. The BoI crew are considering making use of the large roof space they are current custodians of to generate enough solar energy not only for the Bank itself but also for the Occupy London camps; and maybe even enough to feed back into the grid and provide an income with which to implement a myriad stored Ideas.
This is Transition Occupation.