Wednesdays announcement that the government will consider building a new airport in the Thames Estuary, dubbed 'Boris Island' sparked a long day of media hysteria.
Boris Johnson's voice echoed out over our TVs, Radios and newspapers the next day and Plane Stupid came under pressure to get a representative to appear on Sky News and Newsnight in response.
We are totally baffled by it all. 'Boris Island' airport is to be built on an artificial island and would result in 150 million more passengers a year which is serious bad news for the climate. We can't allow airport expansion on this scale and meet our climate change reduction targets at the same time – the two government policies are mutually incompatible and cannot both succeed.
The other little problem is the fact that the Thames Estuary is basically a bird sanctuary. Birds and planes don't match – simple as that.
Here are some other useful facts that need to be included in the debate:
The UK fly on average twice as much than any other country in the world already.
The most popular destination out of Heathrow is Paris and 3rd is Manchester. If we reduced these unnecessary flights there would be plenty of capacity at Heathrow Airport
Aviation is the fasting growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.
If aviation grows at its projected annual rates then aviation will take up 100% or more of our national carbon budget some time between 2030 and 2050.
Between Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, London City and Luton; London already has 6 runways and 10 terminals.
Only Boris could come up with an idea as daft as this, building an airport in a tidal estuary when we are facing a future of rising sea levels due in part to emissions from aviation.
For now we will just be keeping a close eye on it but if given the go ahead the Thames Estuary Airport could represent an activists dream. Building an airport on an artificial island is such an enormous logistical project that it would be child's play to disrupt it!
In collaboration with some different groups the Aviation Justice Tour have launched a series of videos in response to the arrest of the UK's 'most effective environmentalist' John Stewart to the FBI's fascination with the use of superglue as a 'dangerous' tool in a climate activists weaponry.
Global climate campaigns have vowed to challenge the 'green scare' political suppression of environmental groups through mass superglue trainings. A new US-wide activist network is to be set up to oppose the soaring growth of aviation in North America. The decision was taken after Americans heard from British campaigners John Stewart and Dan Glass about the success of similar networks in the UK. Stewart and Glass had been skyped into over a dozen events across the US on tour after they were refused entry to America to speak about the successful campaign to stop a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport.
In controversial circumstances on 29th September, Stewart, voted the UK’s ‘most effective’ environmentalist, had been escorted off the plane at New York’s JFK Airport by armed police before being sent back to Britain. Glass, his visa challenged due to speculation of his 'superglue addiction' based himself in Canada where he worked with the communities around Toronto Island Airport.
Aviation expansion and tar sands have been two of the key climate campaign issues in recent years.
The untold story is that the tar sands and aviation industries are fuelling each other’s expansion. New bounties of fuel from the tar sands are propping up the expansion of aviation across the globe, while aviation is providing a valuable market for aviation and jet fuels refined from tar sands crude. As a result at least 15% of tar sands crude ends up in commercial jets and the revolving corporate door continues to spin between Tar Sands and the Aviation industry execs. There are fuel pipelines to Vancouver, Denver and Chicago airports from Athabasca bitumen mining operations and the notorious keystone pipeline – all which must be challenged. .
All too often, we reinvent the wheel by not connecting the dots between our movements and building off of one another’s momentum, tactics and shared opponents. All along the fossil fuel production line, from Indian mining activists, to Canadian tar sands campaigners and British anti-aviation organizers, we must see find ways to bring our efforts together and support each other to have a hope of tackling this global climatic catastrophe.
4. The Transatlantic Anti Airport Expansion Rolls On – The case of Toronto City Airport Campaign
The UK, US and Canada, per capita are among the most flying nations in the world with some of the weakest train alternatives. With aviation being the fastest growing cause of global CO2 emissions, Aviation Justice Express are proud to launch our global network of grassroots campaigns to challenge this.
"Superglue’s a useful tool in the array of climate campaign tactics. It’s been used to great effect in protests against some of the biggest polluters in the world, from the Royal Bank of Scotland to airports to UK Government departments. If superglue helps stick it to politicians who let us down, then bring on the superglue revolution!"
The Occupy Movement worldwide has been groundbreaking with nowhere more so that in it’s home continent North America. The well-crafted image of Canada as a sweet, caring and obedient nation has taken a much needed blow as no fewer than 20 Canadian cities have seen occupations. It's “We are the 99%” mantra casts a spotlight on global disparities in wealth and power between the ever-shrinking haves and widening have- nots. Occupy’s critique of today’s corporate buy out of democracy is especially redolent here in Canada, where the aviation industry and the fossil fuel industry at large, are the loudest voice in the Canadian government.
This brings back some warm memories. This five minute film, produced by the Media Trust for UK-based charity the Sheila McKechnie Foundation (SMK), aims to inspire people to get involved in campaigning.
Every day, ordinary people campaign to right wrongs. Anyone can campaign.
A fine example of people Power against economic polluting giants. The video includes old footage of Plane Stupid, NOTRAG, HACAN, Transition Heathrow and all who organised the ceilidh (2nd half of the video).
SMK is the only registered charity in the UK dedicated to connecting, informing and supporting campaigners. For more information visit smk.org.uk.
How is it that after 17 years of negotiations the UN climate change conferences have utterly failed to adequately address the issues at hand and have instead overseen decades of rising carbon emissions and worsening climate injustice?
Most people are now well aware of the vested financial interests that have engineered and perpetuated a global system that’s predicated on widening social injustice, impoverishment and indebtedness of the masses. The same financial, corporate and government bodies responsible for the global financial crisis have also seized control of the environment, commodifying the atmosphere, land and waterways to trade and profit from. It’s no surprise that emissions continue to rise when you know that carbon is a commodity with a tradable value, with dedicated carbon markets and accompanying corrupt schemes such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). Without climate change continuing to worsen the markets created around it wouldn’t exist, hence nothing proactive is done by the architects and gatekeepers of the system who have taken power. Realising this, people all over the world are claiming back the legitimate and urgent concerns around climate change from the corporate clowns and Occupy COP17 was part of that reclamation of power.
Although small in number, we were strong in spirit. Every day during the conference we sat and talked under the trees, the way millions of people meet and work out problems all over the world. We had no air conditioned conference halls or PA systems, instead we had the hum of traffic going round our small island of grass (directly outside the fortified UN compound) and the human microphone to amplify our voices. Our rallying cry was Climate Justice, Not Carbon Markets. We had poetry from Nigerian activist Nnimmo Bassey. Live art from South African performer Ewok (who also provided us with a soundtrack). Guerrilla gardening from AmBush. Actions to get the World Bank out of climate finance and Canada out of the tar sands. Five hundred women from throughout Africa forming the Rural Women’s Assembly joined with us and hundreds of civil society delegates from the Democratic Left for a spirited march which was full of song and dance, power and passion, things that were curiously curtailed in the officially designed march the next day.
There were many who came out of the conference to join and speak with us, including Bolivian activist Pablo Salon, South African Commissioner for Gender Equality Yvette Abrahams and the UN Ambassadors from the small island states of Seychelles, Grenada and Nauru. Our aim was to create a safe space where everyone could come and speak, using non-hierarchical organising and consensus decision-making. Most of those who came were not invited to attend COP17, yet they were the people who needed to be heard most, those who are at the front line of climate change and crying out for Climate Justice.
We connected with a group of people who had faced repeated evictions from their dwellings in nearby KwaMashu, deemed unsightly reminders of the government’s failure to meet the needs of ordinary people. They had been evicted ahead of the World Cup a few years previously, and now had been evicted ahead of COP17. This time not only were their shacks demolished but, to make sure they stayed away, all their belongings, including food and clothes, were taken from them. Still they fought back, taking over a community hall and becoming Occupy KwaMashu. Their plight exemplified the enormous gulf between what many of the insulated negotiators on the inside were discussing and the real problems that were being laid bare by those outside.
So what are the solutions? As with many problems of this nature they are not easy to summarise or solve. But we do have a roadmap to work with and a popular mandate from the people, and that is the People’s Agreement of Cochabamba. It lays out a just and fair plan to avert catastrophic climate change and create a more equitable and harmonious world. It’s our job to make sure this is the route followed, rather than the suicidal path that is currently being pursued by those calling themselves leaders.
Hubris is a funny thing, but it is also a predictable thing. Without fail, it is has an uncanny ability to make those in power sail full speed into headlong disasters whilst convinced of their own infallibility.
The COP 17 charade is the latest display of hubris and its ultimate epitome. Just as the captain of the Titanic ignored the warning of icebergs and kept going at full speed convinced in his unsinkable ship, so the leaders of the world’s biggest economies ignore the dire science of climate change and keep growing their economies at full speed equally convinced their economies are unsinkable.
So the question now is - when the Titanic has hit the iceberg, which it has, which it is - what do we do as we wait for the inevitable? How do we respond accordingly? If you were on the ship and you had just come up from its bowels with an ashen white face because you have seen the water pouring in, how would you focus everyone's attention in the boat for the most viable and painless outcome?
Would you switch on the ballroom jazz music whilst you await the back up life-boats so everyone can dance their final hours away in bliss? Would you scream at everyone and make them wait in the waiting room until their knuckles are white and they are projectile vomiting with fear into the air? Would you let everyone raid the cabin mini-bars so they drown their sorrows? Or ply everyone with caffeine to work into the night for a solution? Whilst the international flares rocket high and the message for more boats is sent out - would you try and cram everyone onto an already-heaving lifeboat? Or would you set up raft making workshops, using the scrap wood from the boats emergency store? Would you give up on saving lives, put on your cleaning gloves and scrub the floor spotless for whoever finds the wreck? Would you arm everyone with weapons, lie to all with stories of each other's blame, nick the last lifeboat and tear off lonely into the night? Would you share your favourite jokes, sing your favourite songs, let the cabin boy/girl know of your (previously) secret lust for them and share your deepest love for your dearest around you? Would you steel yourself for a night in the icy water and prepare to swim for any lifebuoy on the horizon in the remote hope that you may get there and some others might survive the long swim with you?
Alternatively, you might want to ask yourself what were you doing in the bowels of the ship. Should you not have been up on the deck to make sure that the captain and his crew were not doing something as daft as playing with your life by racing through an ice field in middle of night. You will curse yourself for not being there and not taking over the bridge to bring sanity to the situation before it was too late.
The truth is, there are now limited ways to stop destructive climate change. But there are countless ways out there to generate the attention and support mechanisms we so desperately need. Many of us can instinctively join the dots, We can see the connections between war - conflict - climate change and the other big issues - but how to arm everyone to fight the battle, with their heads held high with hope in the long term - is something else altogether.
It was the tour the authorities tried to stop. Dan Glass, the Plane Stupid activist who had superglued himself to Gordon Brown in protest against a third runway at Heathrow, never got a visa to visit America. His fellow speaker, John Stewart, who had chaired the coalition against the third runway, was sent packing back to London when he landed at JFK Airport.
Dan and John had been asked by American campaigners to come to the US to talk about the successful third runway campaign. The Aviation Justice Express tour had been months in the planning. Dan and John were to spend a month visiting climate activists and local airport campaign groups across the US.
The American authorities, possibly prompted by the UK aviation industry, were determined it was never going to happen. But it did – thanks to the new media. John, from his modest office in South London and Dan, from Canada, were skyped into all the events. And new events were added when the campaigners realized that the barrier of physical travel had been removed – courtesy of the American authorities. As John put it: “We left the students of Harvard in Boston at midnight and five minutes later we were talking with activists in Pittsburgh.”
And that wasn’t the only favour the American authorities did. The banning of Dan and John generated more media on both sides of the Atlantic than the tour on its own would ever have got. From reports in the London Evening Standard to in-depth interviews on the Canadian-based Radio Eco-Shock. And it enabled Dan to do a parallel tour of Canada meeting with climate activists and airport communities.
The outcome of the skype tour was just the one the American authorities didn’t want. A new network has been set up bringing together climate activists and local airport campaigners committed to stopping new runways, cutting short-distance flights and promoting rail using conventional and direct action tactics. Bringing the American aviation industry down to earth!