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Home | Friday 12th December 2008 | Issue 659

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Stansted reached a stand-still this Monday (8th) as Plane Stupid climate campaigners blockaded a runway at the airport. In the early hours, while the runway was closed for maintenance a group of over fifty protesters snuck in carrying metal gates and locked themselves into their own fortified enclave (an impenetrable triangle of building site fencing). During the morning a reported 56 flights were cancelled. 57 protesters were arrested, mostly for Aggravated Trespass. Plane Stupid are saying they are ‘determined to turn the climate talk into climate action.’

Aviation is Britain’s fastest growing source of emission, accounting for at least 13% of the national climate impact. Britain’s new commitments to tackle climate change is yet another folly of government rhetoric as airport expansions at Stansted and Heathrow (see SchNEWS 600) are rolled through.

Predictably, mainstream media still refused to use the Stansted action to open up the debate about the challenges we face, and the threat of an expanding aviation industry. A headline in The Times read ‘This anti-flying circus is absurd: The Stansted demonstration ignores the great benefits of cheap flights’.

But funnily enough The Times have changed their tune since the mid-sixties, when BAA began a commercial airport at the ex-WWII airbase at Stansted. And you’ll be pleased to know that this week’s protest is not just another fad of the new ‘eco-terrorists’: In 1967, 400 locals and two MPs campaigned against the new airport. And The Times headline of the time, Stansted – A Real Mistake, went on to say ‘The choice of Stansted does not stand or fall by the number of fine buildings in the vicinity, or the number of acres lost to wheat, or the status of the north-west corner of Essex as a ‘lung for London’… the calculations themselves are suspect: no attempt is made to estimate social costs and benefits.’ Admittedly, this was not in relation to climate change, but overall environmental damage – but the link was obviously glaring then as it is now.

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