On Saturday Le Monde reported that an incredible 25,000 activists took direct action to reoccupy the site of a proposed airport in Nantes, France.
Some protesters had been evicted from their squats. The amazing reoccupation united local farmers who risk losing their land with climate activists and thousands of protesters concerned about cost, pollution and noise.
We have been inspired by the passionate grassroots support for local people’s struggle to take their lives into their own hands and say, “no” to an unaffordable, polluting airport being built on their homes and farms. Check out these beautiful photos of the ZAD and you’ll wish you were there too.
On Saturday 3rd November 2012, around 100 local residents and campaigners took part in a protest walk against the proposed 'World Logistics Hub' at Manchester Airport. The protesters braved the cold to take a route around the 90 acre former greenbelt site, which is threatened by the plans to build 43 cargo sheds and almost 1,500 car parking spaces.
Local residents, wildlife enthusiasts and environmental campaigners spoke at various points along the walk, sharing their experiences of fighting Manchester Airport expansion and highlighting the numerous ways that the plans would affect local people and the environment.
Audrey O’Donovan, local resident and Chair of Ringway Parish Council, said "The World Logistics Hub, should it get final approval, would result in serious loss of amenity and environmental damage for local people. The Airport's application is based on unsubstantiated claims regarding the number of jobs they hope to create. There are also unsubstantiated claims in relation to finding potential occupiers of these new warehouses. The impact upon local wildlife and ecology would have serious consequences forthe biodiversity of this area."
The Wildlife Walk came one week after Councillors on the Wythenshawe Area Committee ‘recommended for approval’ the World Logistics Hub plans. The application will now be sent to the Planning and Highways Committee at Manchester City Council for a final decision on 22nd November 2012. A number of attendees at the Wildlife Walk, keen for their concerns to be brought to this Committee, pledged to attend this November meeting at Manchester Town Hall.
Several Manchester Councillors of the Wythenshawe Area Committee backed the Logistics Hub plans based on the Airport's promises of local job opportunities. However campaigners argue that job creation figures proposed by the Airport are inflated. Jane Beetson from 'Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport' campaign said “When Manchester Airport first announced plans for a second runway, they claimed 50,000 jobs would be created. No-where near that number of jobs materialised. Just like then, they are misleading the public now.”
She added, “Local Councillors say they will force the Airport to give jobs to local people but in practice they will have no way of enforcing this on the firms that move into the new office and warehouse spaces. We need to create green jobs in sustainable industries not dirty aviation.”
The Save Sunbank Wildlife Walk was also an opportunity for biodiversity experts to explain that Airport's promises of preserving wildlife are also unrealistic, and that creating a 'mitigation zone' is no substitute for leaving habitats untouched.
Along the route, campaigners encountered the threatened habitats of numerous plant and animal species. Several mature oak trees line Sunbank Lane, providing nesting opportunities for rare birds, and potential roosting spots for endangered bat species. The site is also home to 12 ponds occupied by Great Crested Newts, an endangered species found only in the North West of England. Walkers were also able to spot signs of protected animals for example badger snuffle holes and mole hills in the green space around Sunbank.
Have your pitchforks, timber, nails and tools to hand... A meet on the morning of the 17 November at Zone A Défendre" (the "ZAD," the site of the planned airport) Notre-Dame des Landes for a re-occupation demonstration has been called for.
The planned assembly point and directions to the campsite for the eve of the action will be announced later. Please consult the ZAD website regularly: http://zad.nadir.org
The struggle against the proposed airport at Notre-Dame des Landes has continually intensified over the last few years. Among other actions, an occupation movement has taken over the threatened buildings and woods. Last year, confronted with the increasing threat to the various houses, huts, and kitchen gardens, the inhabitants of the ZAD and their supporting collectives called for a reoccupation demonstration in the event of evictions.
On Tuesday 16 October, the long feared police attack began. The 1800 hectares of the ZAD were invaded by 1200 police. Little by little, they attacked the occupied houses and huts, destroying them, and scrupulously removing all of the debris from the zone in order that nothing that might serve the occupiers be left behind. The occupiers and those that came to support them resisted, built barricades, reoccupied. Together, we did what we had to do to obstruct the machines of destruction and block police movements...
Determination has been increased by the huge wave of solidarity from all over France and beyond: daily demonstrations in Nantes and other cities, material support of supplies and food, and actions targeting Parti Socialist and Vinci offices, those airport builders and destroyers of our lives. Though most of the houses have already been evicted, as well as some of the huts, many other occupiers remain, spread out across the woods and fields, and in the trees. New constructions have already been begun.
Apart from the occupiers, the "legal" inhabitants and farmers continue to be threatened. They will also be forced to leave the ZAD in the coming months. In other words, this supersized eviction attempt is here to stay. Those great wits at the Prefecture code-named their military eviction operation "Caesar." It is for us to prove that the resistance to the airport is indeed "implacable" and that they will eventually be defeated and ridiculed.
At Notre-Dames des Landes, the decision-makers and developers have been planning a new airport to perfect their vision of a vast metropolis in endless economic growth. Their plan is to obliterate 2000 hectares of agricultural land and homes with concrete. This ZAD, "Zone dAménagement Différé" (Special Planning Zone) devenue "Zone A Défendre." (Zone of resistance) is 25km north of Nantes. There has been organised resistance to the project since the beginning.
This campaign is at the intersection of issues over which we all must unite and devise collective strategies. These issues include the struggle against the drip feeding of over-refined foods, the industrial society and the consequent global warming, the policy of economic development, the control of the territory, urban sprawl, the conformity of each persons existence, the privatisation of public space, the myth of endless growth, and the illusion of democratic participation...
The opponents of the airport remain as opposed to its construction as ever. The campaign against it continues with demonstrations, legal action, links with other campaigns, hunger strikes, distribution of newspapers, disruption of motorway toll booths, opposition to land surveys, sabotage, interruptions to environmental and archaelogical surveys, occupations of offices and workplaces, etc...
Over the past three days, French riot police have been violently evicting inhabitants at The ZAD, that is to say those who are defending the vast area around Nantes which has been earmarked for a new airport.
For years, hundreds of activists have joined locals by moving onto this 1,600 hectare area of rich agricultural land in order to defend it from the threat of a proposed new Nantes airport. Yet in the name of the ‘public good’, over 1,000 riot police began a siege of the area earlier this week. In a bid to clear the ZAD to make way for a new airport, the French authorities have been forcibly removing people from their homes. They arrived armed with helicopters, riot vans, and trucks (to carry away the bricks from the houses they’d destroyed!). Through the use of tear gas, arrest, and the occasional act of arson (on Wednesday, eye witnesses report having seen police burning down someone’s home without even confirming first that it was empty), the riot cops have been violently evicting residents at the ZAD.
The fight against a new Nantes airport has been a high profile affair in France. During the general elections, two local farmers went on a 28 day hunger strike after having been threatened with compulsory purchase orders on the land their families had farmed for generations. The struggle at Nantes has attracted international attention too; in July this year people from all over Europe arrived at the ZAD for the European Forum Against Useless Projects.
Many homes have been evicted at over the last three days to make way for a ‘secure’ zone on the land around the proposed new airport. Yet the activists and locals currently remain in force and are trying to take back the land. Three houses and many fields are still occupied by ZAD residents, who have been joined by supporters and activists from far and wide. The battle is on, and there’s everything to fight for.
If you can get down there to help defend the ZAD, or if you want to send a message of support, you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The US Senate passed a bill on Saturday which means US airlines are exempt from paying for their emissions on European Flights.
The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) which has been enforced by the European Commission since January is dysfunctional at best but the fact that the US cannot even sign up to it is very worrying and sends out the complete wrong message on climate change.
Republican senator John Thune said in a statement:
"The Senate's action today will help ensure that US air carriers and passengers will not be paying down European debt through this illegal tax and can instead be investing in creating jobs and stimulating our own economy."
The Republicans statement should of read:
"The Senate's action today will help ensure that US air carriers and passengers will not worry about climate change and can instead carry on with business as usual as if climate change doesn't even exist."
The US continue to have no programme in place to address its own aviation emissions.
Like the steady roar of planes coming in to land over West London, the aviation industry keeps droning on about expanding London’s airports. Last week’s reshuffle shows Cameron and Osborne are listening to them too.
Justine Greening and Theresa Villiers, two Ministers with whose opposition to the third runway was well known, have found themselves shunted out of the Transport Department. A Number 10 official sniggered that Greening would "have plenty of time to think about runways as her flight to the next developing country circles the airport yet again." (Which doesn’t even make sense, because why would a plane flying to a developing country be circling at Heathrow? Unless Cameron thinks the UK is a developing country? Anyway, I digress.)
Cameron and Osborne have established an inquiry to look into “the scale and timing of any requirement for additional capacity to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub”. Lest this loaded question prove anything other than a licence to lay tarmac, they asked the former head of the Confederation of British Industry, Howard Davies, to oversee it. Davies was once a special adviser to the climate change denier Lord Lawson. He had to leave the LSE after he was busted for nodding through some chunky donations from Gaddafi’s son. Davies won’t decide to build a third runway until 2015, which means all three parties get to run on a “no third runway unless the commission tells us to build it” platform at the next election.
Residents needn’t worry though, because Boris Johnson is on the case. He’s set up a rival inquiry, proving that the invisible hand of the free market will ensure competition. The Mayor’s inquiry will report in 2013 and, like the government’s commission, will conclude that we need lots of more runway space, because that’s what it is being asked to do. Given that no one is going to build a runway in the Thames Estuary – his preferred solution – Boris gets to oppose the third runway while making it ever more likely that Sipson and Harmondsworth will be buried under tarmac.
None of this means that the third runway will be built, of course. The strongest argument against it isn’t climate change, it’s that the damned thing has no purpose. There is bags of spare capacity at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, which is why Virgin Atlantic was able to offer new routes between London and Manchester days after losing its West Coast train franchise. Using all that spare capacity would be stupid, of course, because flying causes climate change, makes loads of noise and pollutes the air we breathe. But let’s not forget it’s there.