Copse (1998, Kate Evans, Chippenham, England.)
“The direct action campaign against road building in Britain is the most successful revolutionary movement in Western Europe in the Second half of the 20th Century. Never before in this period have such radical aims been so comprehensively achieved in so short a time. Never before has a central component of government policy, to which billions of pounds had already been committed reversed, without the need of a change of government, by citizen politics. The humble, impoverished people who fought and won this war have plenty to be proud of.” -George Monbiot, from the introduction.
Sometimes a social ill can become so prevalent that it is sewn into the fabric of our society, normal in all senses, and so common that invisibility is reached. So it is with the car. Whether fueled by gasoline or electricity, bio-diesel or hydrogen, the automobile is one of the most destructive things on earth. Cars emit more than half the world’s air pollution, and kill more animals every year than the fur and vivisection industries combined. But that is only the beginning of the problem. You see, cars require roads, and they travel on them at deadly speeds. What this means is that the streets– a commons where people once gathered– are no longer a place to live and interact, but a place to pass through. The automobile has completely altered our social structure and harmed the ability of normal people to meet and share their discontent with the existing order. Roads now take up more than 1/3rd of most cities, and when parking, garages, gas stations, and other things necessary to feed and house cars are taken into consideration, more than half of our urban space is dedicated to traveling metal boxes. This is an ecological and social catastrophe that goes largely ignored even amongst those who care about human community, wilderness, and non-human animals.
But, it wasn’t always this way. Less than 20 years ago thousands of people fought against the building of new roads in England and elsewhere, and the actions which they undertook are greatly inspiring. From complex villages of tree sits and blockading devices to mass daylight arsons, the anti-roads movement was tremendously successful in preventing the furtherance of car culture and its corollary social and environmental impact.
There were many attempts at documenting this exciting people’s struggle, but none of them were quite as fun as Kate Evans’ Copse. Comprised of interviews, photographs, essays, and plenty of comics, Copse distilled the spirit of the protests onto each page. Part history lesson, part graphic novel, this book is a great starting place to understanding an important piece of the recent history of mass direct action.