Thirty years ago, when environmentalism was still cool, eco-warriors only used to untether themselves from endangered trees to wash the pepper spray out of their eyes. Over the course of time, that same movement has turned into #savethepolarbears tweets and boutique gap year programmes where you're gifted the incredible opportunity of paying £2000 to work on a marine conservation project while staying in a luxury, reclaimed beach hut.
While aging members of the original environmental revolution have moved on to starting new religions or opening vegan cafes in Totnes, a group called No Dash for Gas have been busy reclaiming some of the badassery of their bearded, hemp-wearing forefathers. Earlier this week, 15 of them broke into the recently built West Burton power station and scaled one of the 300ft towers with giant rucksacks. They're still up there – after building barricades to protect themselves from the police and connecting a rope between the two occupied chimney stacks in order to send supplies and people across – and, each day, are preventing 2371 tonnes of CO2 (the amount an average house produces in 182 years) from entering our atmosphere. They’ve prevented over 10,000 tonnes and counting so far.
I called up Ewa Jasiewicz, one of the protesters, to find out why she was risking her life to shut down a power plant. It was a little tricky to hear her over all the wind, but I could tell from her voice that spirits were high.
VICE: Hey Ewa, what’s the view like from up there?
Ewa Jasiewicz: We're sitting under a tarpaulin eating curry at the moment, but the view is amazing. We have a 360-degree panorama of all of Nottinghamshire and beyond. Oh, I just found a lump of cheese! [Cries of jubilation from other protesters]
You’re not just there for the view, though.
No, we're here because we're trying to stop our government’s “dash for gas”. By that, we mean that the government is relying heavily on natural gas as a main source of fuel. They're looking to add 20 gas-powered stations by 2030, which our climate can't afford. You could argue that Hurricane Sandy is a symptom of that, because the sea is a few degrees warmer, which can cause violent storms.
We're also here to encourage the establishment of of green energy, green jobs and a decentralised energy system. This country is the Saudi Arabia of wind: it could power itself entirely with renewables if it had the support and investment.
How is climbing a 300ft tall power station going to help?
Well, we have someone sitting in a portaledge over the furnace at all times so they can’t turn it on, which means it can't produce any fuel. It’s also a really good example of what ordinary people can do when they put their minds together. This should be happening all around the country – you just need some organising, some climbing skills and a bit of nerve.
What are you doing for fun up there?
We've been playing this game called kite, which is where we get a rope from tower to the other to transfer food, batteries and people from tower to tower. We also have an engineer here who's built some fully functional solar panels. In fact, I'm speaking to you from a solar powered phone right now.
What happens when you guys leave?
Our presence is what's shutting it down, so once we come down, it'll be fired up again, unfortunately. Also, we'll be arrested – that’s a given. There are about 30 police below us at all times – they even get meals delivered to them. Prison is also a possibility, but we were all aware of that when we got into this. We think the issue is important enough to justify it.
How are you going to get back down?
I can’t tell you that.
Well, we haven’t decided yet. We have some ideas.
Solar panels built by an engineer at the top of the chimney that allow protesters to charge their phones.
Can you tell me what your ideas are?
No, it’s a secret.
You don’t have any ideas, do you?
There's no chance of us being stuck here! We have some great ninja ideas.
Is it a bungee cord?
No, but that is a great idea.
Is it a parachute?
Are you abseiling?
You’re abseiling, aren’t you?
We don’t know for sure yet, honestly
When do you think you’ll come down?
We don't know that, either. We have quite a lot of supplies, though.
Good luck getting down, Ewa!
Since I spoke to Ewa, six members of No Dash For Gas have climbed down to the base of the tower and accepted arrest in order to leave more supplies for the rest of the protesters.