I have just returned from Nantes in South West France where 4,500 people demonstrated against plans for a new airport on Sunday (12th July). 14,000 over 2 days. This could become the 'French Heathrow'. The site of a victory as iconic as the struggle against the third runway.
The campaign has brought together a vibrant coalition of local residents, environmentalists, sympathetic politicians and direct action activists who have set up the ZAD camp in the area. It is a community-driven campaign protecting the homes and livelihood and land of small-holders whose families have farmed on the agricultural land for generations.
Over the past decade the campaign has grown in strength and radicalism. Already the local community has staged direct action protests. They are now supported by a camp of activists from all over Europe. On Sunday they all came together for what, each year, has become one of Europe's biggest annual protests. 4,500 people formed the human aeroplane, pictured above, with the defiant message that "we will win". Amongst those joining them for the weekend protest was both the radical activist Jose Bove and the Green Party candidate in next year's presidential election.
The campaigners have succeeded in making their fight a national issue. Hardly surprising as it has become the biggest airport campaign in Europe. If the Greens get enough votes in the Presidential Election they will insist that the dropping of the new airport will be a key condition in any deal they may do with the socialists.
Nantes already has an airport. The campaigners argue that, just a few hours by the fast TGV from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, the proposed airport - Nantes International - is little more than an exercise in ego-building by the regional politicians in the ruling socialist party. The campaigners have commissioned a report from the respected Dutch economic consultancy, CE Delft, to prove that the airport is unnecessary.
It is an inspiring fight. What the campaigners need is support from activists across Europe. Go down to the camp. And, in a few months, they may be organizing an event, possibly in Paris, where supporters will be asked to come from all over Europe. Our chance to deal another devastating blow to airport building in Europe.
For more information and directions to the camp you can get in touch with email@example.com
On Friday 15th July, after 2 years of editing, crowd funding, tweaking and general hype - Just Do It the film will be coming to cinemas near you.
Following the more shady side of climate activism which has never been shown on camera before - the film follows climate activists on their mission to make sure the issue of climate change gets the full attention it deserves. The film is all about action rather than words. Where politicians speak and nothing happens - Just Do It showcases those individuals who put there bodies on the line and face arrest to ensure action happens.
Plane Stupid features amongst the likes of Climate Camp and Climate Rush in a film which tells the story of the build up to COP15 in December 2009 and where this left us afterwards. Direct action is all about taking matters into your own hands and this ethic comes through in the production of the film too. Where film companies rely on big budgets - Just Do It has been made on a shoe string and has only been made possible by generous hours given volunteering and generous donations from different supporters.
BA chief executive Willie Walsh has finally admitted a 3rd runway at Heathrow Airport "will never be built". He told a Times CEO summit yesterday that "it's dead" and that British Airways were looking for expansion at Madrid airport after their recent link-up with Iberian Airways.
John Stewart, Chair of the residents organisation HACAN, which campaigns against aircraft noise said:
"It now looks as if finally the third runway has been killed off. It's most enthusiastic backers, British Airways, are now planning for life without a new runway".
"BAA should now sell off the houses they have bought in Sipson to allow life in the villages to get back to normal".
Whilst this announcement clearly represents a victory for the Heathrow villages and the UK's climate change act - at the same time we need to be really cautious that expansion doesn't just happen elsewhere instead. There are many regional airports across the UK that still have expansion plans and with the Times leader today pushing for a new airport on the Thames Estuary it is clear where the battle has now moved too. Expansion in Europe instead would also be problematic.
We cannot have airport expansion and meet our climate change targets. Fact.
Today defendants Tilly Gifford and Dan Glass from the Climate 9 had their appeal heard at Edinburgh Appeal Court against the conviction they received last summer for a breach of the peace.
The conviction related to direct action taken in March 2009 where the Climate 9 shut down Aberdeen airport and directly stopped 107 tonnes of emissions from contributing to man-made climate change. They played golf in a cage on the taxiway to highlight the fact that the airport's expansion will serve to deliver Donald Trump's super-rich golfer pals to his contentios course at Balmedie Estate.
Following a two week long trial in August 2010, which was the first jury-led climate change trial in Scotland, all 9 defendants were convicted of Breach of the Peace for their role in the protest. Dan and Tilly made the decision to appeal against the conviction as they hold firm to the belief that the action they took was justified, proportionate and necessary in the face of catastrophic climate change.
Appellant Dan Glass said:
"The Scottish legal system defines breach of the peace as an activity "causing fear and alarm to the ordinary and reasonable person, and which threatens serious disturbance to the community". I can't think of a better way to describe climate change. Sometimes, we believe, the law must be challenged to protect our fundamental freedom of expression and to disrupt lawful activities that are harming the prospects of future generations. Furthermore, it's the role of a democracy to protect the voices of the minority as well as the majority".
The appeal has reached its final stages after months of anticipation and against the backdrop of severe climate change, as recent estimates suggest an unthinkable 4 degree temperature rise by 2080. During the 4 hour hearing this morning the court heard a strong case from the defence, who argued that the jury wasn't given any sense of this grave context regarding both the importance and urgency of the protest.
Appellant Tilly Gifford said:
"The judge presented a choice to the jury between 'breach of the peace' and 'freedom of expression' without any context. This is simply not good enough. The jury should be given the serious climate change context of the situation relating to the case, otherwise the inference is completely abstract from the reality."
The appeal verdict will be heard within the next 6 weeks in a final court hearing. A date is not set yet. If it is successful it will set an important precedent for future protest cases, through actively defending freedom of expression and supporting the legitimacy of the right to protest given the governments inaction to effectively tackle climate change. It would be the first legal case in Scotland to engage with the severity of climate change that we face and challenge the 'business as usual' attitude that the aviation industry is taking in its expansion plans.
Plane Stupid spokesperson, Joe Ryle said:
"Aviation remains the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions in the UK and we cannot let this go unchallenged. However the heart of this debate is about our fundamental right to protest and whether we are prepared to tolerate greater disruption to business as usual in the face of climate change."
Isn't the countryside noisy? The life which reverberates all around you in Notre Dame des Landes is astounding, a reminder of the world we have to save. The crickets never stop singing, every time you sit still some weird and wonderful new bug crawls across your leg, and the sides of the roads are packed with wild roses, bluebells, and forget-me-nots. But it's all under threat.
The government of France is locked into an unholy alliance that is depressingly familiar. Here, as in Sipson, Hasty Lane, Essex and Edinburgh, the aviation industry has coaxed our "representatives" with its oily tendrils into a belief that the destruction of lives, habitats and the planet for profit is in the best interests of all. The plan? Concrete over 2000 hectares of some of the most pristine biodiversity in France, taking away homes and communities, condemning local residents to a future of poor health and sleepless nights. The aim? Two runways and two motorways, making Notre Dames des Landes into Europe's most westerly hub, taking over some of Heathrow's stopover capacity. All this, even as smaller airports around France and the UK are being forced to close due to a lack of demand. The hell-bent determination of the industry fixated on growth is not only morally criminal, its economically nonsensical.
But the resistance is growing. Since Plane Stupid last visited the ZAD (Zone a Defendre - the proposed site of the airport), the number of occupied spaces has rocketed from one to about 16. In fact, no one seems entirely sure how many people are now living here, preparing for battle: all that is certain is that it is growing constantly and people are prepared to put up a big fight. Together with those set to lose their homes and land, activists from across France and the world have been taking over sites bought up by the council to make way for the airport, and transforming them into living examples of the world they want to live in. There's a bakery, which turns out enough bread twice a week to feed the whole ZAD, a bicycle workshop, a skipped supermarket which seems never to run out, a kitchens collective, an internet cafe, loads of chickens, herb gardens, treehouses, and, of course, vegetables.
This weekend we came to help open a new site, where our friend from Reclaim the Fields are reclaiming the runway. At 9 a.m. we gathered at Les Planchettes, the HQ of the ZAD where the main meetings and info point are based in a beautiful old farmhouse. The spectacle was extraordinary: about 350 people carrying machetes, pitchforks, scythes and spades, riding in tractors and trucks or walking alongside, many with masks on to hide their identities from the skulking gendarme who accompanied us at a distance. The sound system and the samba band competed for airtime, as banners were hoisted up between trees across the roads we walked down proclaiming the resistance.
Finally we reached the soon-to-be site - a seemingly impenetrable wall of brambles - and while some of us grabbed a quick glass of 30cent vin rouge from the rapidly assembled bar, the tractors belonging to local farmers rolled onto the field, crushing the brambles top to make way for our machetes. Like an army of ants, the people fanned out across the area, some hacking back the undergrowth, some trimming the trees, others turning the soil and pulling up the roots, and others scraping everything together into huge mounds ready for burning. Then almost as quickly as they had descended. the swarm pulled back, leaving the 8 people who will live there with a large plot of cultivable land ready for planting. Resistance is fertile.
So many lives and hopes are embedded in this beautiful area. Our hosts, Paul and Elizabeth, have been fighting the coming of the airport for decades. They will not sell their home, with their chickens and horse and amazing rhubarb jam, to be flattened for profit. Paul sends his solidarity to Sipson, which he visited in 2009 and describes as "une belle quartier" of which he's got many fond memories - especially the pub. From the people living 15 metres up in their beautiful fortified tree camp, to those who stand to lose generations of history on the land, the communities here stand side by side in their struggle and in ours.
The governments and corporations complicit in this campaign of demolition and disappropriation must be stopped. We will continue to strengthen out grassroots links with the people here, and will not let the bulldozers roll. BTP (Battiments Travaux Publiques) and Vinci, the key players in this ransack, have operations across Europe - including numerous subsidiaries in the UK. Vinci reckons they are "convinced of the need to adopt a responsible attitude to climate change" - their plans for the ZAD are so far from "responsible" it's hard even to laugh. Both groups should be targeted wherever they try to establish themselves, and made to realise that their involvement in the attempts to destroy Notre Dame des Landes will make them an enemy of the global resistance.
The Fairford Air Tattoo returns to the skies of Gloucestershire on Friday 15th July to Sunday 17th July.
This event, which masquerades as a charity whilst simultaneously inviting all the biggest arms dealers from around the world will go one stage further this year – it will proudly exhibit the American A-10 tank buster as one of its star attractions at the show.
This is the plane that has fired hundreds of tonnes of depleted uranium (DU) across Iraq and the Balkans. In mockery of those families whose lives have been blighted by DU, it will be used in this year’s show for family entertainment.
Members of Plane Stupid, and a coalition of climate and anti-militarist groups intend to stand in solidarity with all innocent victims of war and will be cycling en masse to the air show in aid of the victims of DU and in support of the ongoing campaigns to get DU banned.
Friday is the ”industry” day when arms deals are made, Saturday and Sunday are the public days where about 150,000 are expected on both days. The plan is to stick to the well marked traffic routes and of course hope to keep to a minimum the chaos that may be caused on the roads!
There will be a series of events during the weekend: bands playing Bob Dylan’s Master of War on Friday evening (at a location that will be announced on the morning of Friday 15th on the Facebooksite Fairford Air Tattoo Sponsored Bike Ride (http://on.fb.me/iqecqP)) and there are also planns for various workshops on the alternatives to a war based economy.
To gauge numbers please either join the Facebook group or contact the organisers at firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm if you are coming. Bikes can be hired from www.go-by-cycle.co.uk who can arrange drop off and pick up at Kemble Railway Station.
Please come with your camping equipment to face down one of the biggest events legitimising the military industrial complex’s use of inhumane and indiscriminate weapons and their rights to pollute our planet.