If any more proof is needed that direct action works, take a trip to Nantes in western France.
Fifteen or so miles outside the city, the regional authority backed by the French national government, has been trying to build “Nantes International” Airport. It claims it is required to replace the single runway airport in the city in order to attract investment into the area. The opponents commissioned their own study which refuted those claims. They also point out that Nantes is just a little over two hours by fast train from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. The new airport is dismissed as little more than an ego project of the former major of Nantes, Jean-Marc Ayrault, now the Prime Minister of France. It has been dubbed ‘Ayrauoport’.
Last weekend (11th May) I was one of the 40,000 or so people who formed a 25 kilometre-long human chain around the site of the airport. The huge numbers have been inspired by the direct action of last winter. During the winter months there were tear-gas battles in the woods as police fought to remove hundreds of young protesters who had set up make-shift homes in support of the local community. The courage of the protesters from the self-styled ZAD as they resisted the police in the bitter cold and driving rain of last winter both cemented their support in the local community and inspired people from around France and beyond.
Now there are support groups, called “committees”, in 200 towns and cities. Each group stages demonstrations in their own towns and lobbies politicians in their own areas in support of the Nantes campaigners. Hardly a week goes by without one of the committees cycling or walking through France to the site of the proposed airport. Last weekend on my way back from the protest I spied a billboard in Le Mans– over 100 miles from Nantes– opposing the airport.
The ZAD resistance followed on from the 28 day hunger strike staged last year during the presidential election campaign by four peasant farmers against the plan to evict them from their properties.
The local community has fought a great campaign over the years – and recently won an important court case in the courts where the judge ruled that the airport’s promoters had failed to carry out proper flood plain and environmental assessments of the project, as required by the European Union. The campaigners believe that the ruling from the court may provide a way for the Government to drop the airport and save face. But the reason the Government is under so much pressure is because of the way that direct action – the hunger strikes and the resistance from ZAD – electrified support from across France. No wonder there was such a carnival atmosphere last Saturday. We were holding hands around an airport that will probably now never be built.
A major threat to political protests of all kinds is currently being consulted on by the government and hardly anyone knows anything about it.
Under new proposals to cut legal aid further, criminal legal aid will become pretty much non-existent. What the proposals mean is that criminal suspects will lose their rights to choose or dismiss a solicitor, and the number of accredited legal aid firms will drop from 1,600 to less than 400 – raising the inevitable outcome of hundreds of small high street firms being replaced by huge contractors like G4S and Eddie Stobart.
The government have labelled this process by the memorable name of 'competitive tendering'. In other words, privatisation by offering contracts to whoever can offer the cheapest rate, ie G4S and co. You would be better off representing yourself then being represented by G4S!
Nearly every lawyer in the country, except those working for companies such as G4S, have come out strongly against the proposals including The Law Society and The Criminal Bar Association. However, most people aren't taking any notice. The lawyers need supporting otherwise by the end of the year the make up and possibility for protests in this country will be seriously undermined.
Alfie Meadows, beaten up by the Police at a student protest would not have been acquitted without criminal legal aid. For Plane Stupid - many of us would probably be in jail by now without proper legal representation.
On Wednesday a demonstration will take place outside Parliament at Old Palace Yard from 10.30am. We urge you to go down there and make your voice heard.
Big decisions are being made now about how we're going to power the UK. The government's policy of increasing our reliance on gas is pushing millions into fuel poverty. This - coupled with ruthless cuts to essential services - leaves many with an impossible choice between heating and eating.
And the same policy guarantees that we'll miss even our modest carbon reduction targets. Both the financial and the climate crises are related to the pursuit of profit above all else, in the interests of the few and at the expense of the many.
We need a win. And one win we need is a secure future for generations to come, where profits don't trump the public interest and where we have safe, clean energy to meet our needs. Be part of creating something BIG this summer, get involved now and Reclaim The Power.
We can fight back, as the student, trade union, women's, disabled rights and anti-cuts movements have shown us. There has never been a more critical time to take action. The solutions are there to be grasped.
Last October, 21 environmental activists shut down EDF's West Burton power station for a week in protest at the government's Dash for Gas. West Burton is the first of up to 40 new gas fired power stations being planned. With your help, including a solidarity petition signed by 64,000 people - they fought off EDF's attempt to sue them for £5 million.
This summer, inspired by their action, we are building a wide coalition of groups and individuals who will be coming together to Reclaim the Power. We’ll plan together. We’ll put forward solutions. We’ll cross the border from anger to action.
It was people power that stopped new coal and stalled plans for a third runway at Heathrow, that made bankers' greed and tax avoidance toxic and that is now fighting austerity attacks on workers, women, pensioners and the disabled. Together, we will stop the dash for gas.
Want to be part of creating Reclaim The Power? Wondering where we'll be, how you can get there or what you need to bring? More info to come soon, keep up to date at: www.nodashforgas.org.uk @nodashforgas.
Aound the world, in country after country, we're seeing the same thing: the companies that profit most from extracting and burning fossil fuels are putting a stranglehold on our political leaders. With climate politics deadlocked, 350.org are trying something new: directly targeting the companies standing in the way of progress.
Emissions from airlines blanket communities, causing heart failure, asthma, and other lung diseases. Airlines already accounts for 5 percent of global warming pollution, and aviation emissions are skyrocketing. If nothing is done, airline pollution is expected to double by 2020 and quadruple by 2050.
Last month, governments from around the world met to negotiate a program to cap airline pollution. But the airline industry, led by United, has spent millions lobbying to weaken standards.
A high level group of an intergovernmental panel known as the International Civil Aviation Organization (or ICAO) met in Montreal last month to design a system to reduce air travel’s footprint on the climate. They will release proposed rules in June, and a vote will be held in September. But United and other airlines have unleashed a horde of lobbyists, PR flacks, and “experts” to muscle the ICAO into making those rules as toothless as possible.
This isn’t the first time United has declared war on sensible environmental regulation. Last year, the European Union passed a law requiring airlines to improve their energy efficiency or buy pollution permits at a cost of just $3 per passenger. United responded by lobbying aggressively to get the U.S. Congress to pass a bill that prohibits U.S.-based airlines from complying with the EU’s efficiency standards and forces American taxpayers to foot the bill for the resulting fines.
United’s CEO Jeff Smisek wrote an op-ed in Hemispheres, his company’s in-flight magazine, arguing that the EU had no right to regulate flights taking off and landing in Europe.
Even other airlines think that United is extreme in its uncompromising opposition to all emissions standards. And in the highly competitive airline industry, United can’t afford a reputation as the anti-environment airline. If enough people call United out, it will have to stand down, and we’ll have a much better shot at controlling one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse emissions.
Put together by Plane Stupid's very own activist and animator Leo Murray, 'Carbon Omissions' addresses the fact that UK emissions are soaring if you take into account emissions created by us but outside of UK borders.
The animation has the support of Green Party MP Caroline Lucas among others.
George Monbiot summarises the message well:
"The carbon cuts we have made so far... have been achieved by means of a simple device: allowing other countries, principally China, to run polluting industries on our behalf."
This is a hugely evocative video of protests against new Nantes Airport. Farmers, activists & residents campaigning together.
The date for everyones diaries is May 11th when they are planning their biggest mass action ever and are looking to get 100,000 people (remember they got 40,000 last year) to symbolically surround the land that would be needed for the airport.