Cabin Pressure

February 13th, 2020

Some good news this week – the expansion plans by Bristol Airport have been rejected by North Somerset council. Hurrah!

The decision still has to be ratified, and the airport has six months to appeal, so of course every piece of silver has a cloudy lining….

But I’ve written to Bristol Airport and various airlines, of course, and for now I’m just trying to be happy with the core news.

KLM has already replied to me, noting expansions due to take place all around European airports too. I hope those cities all have energetic Extinction Rebellion groups and other ‘flygskam’ enthusiasts opposing the plans, to match those impressive people in North Somerset.

Emma Crewe, a local resident and professor, was quoted in the Guardian saying: “In the last year we have witnessed an incredible and diverse movement of volunteers, young and old, springing up across the south-west making arguments against airport expansion. I think they are motivated by extreme concern for the planet, the greenbelt and the beauty of this part of Somerset.”

So yes, that is the solution – all of us human beings somehow have to recognise that this ‘fight’ is for all of us, and come together: we might differ in what we place emphasis on (from local to global), but at heart we share. ‘More in Common’ as Brendan Cox said, remembering his murdered wife Jo, in a different context of course, but optimistically relevant, I feel…

The image of an ostrich burying its head in the sand is sadly appropriate – Ryan Air and Easy Jet are continuing to offer ridiculously low-cost flights, stoking the general public’s ability to ignore the climate emergency. Both budget airlines proudly boast their ‘environment credentials’ (tucked away, far from the immediate lure of cheap holidays; and, maybe more worryingly, the hook of commuting by plane, sometimes daily!..). These consist mainly of ‘offsetting’ – as Adrian Gibbs, an environment consultant, said: “The airport would need to plant millions of trees a year to offset the extra CO2 the expansion scheme would create”. Offsetting is never going to solve the problem. Stopping things at source, or at least limiting, is the answer. (A fellow volunteer at the community shop I go to on Friday reckoned, last week, that I wouldn’t like something because it was plastic – it’s single-use plastics we need to stop, at source.) He added the crucial phrase, that some people still seem yet to acknowledge – “Our house is on fire”. To expand an airport is to throw fuel on it.

A desperately sad example of pouring fuel on fire is in Australia – Scott Morrison’s cynical, arrogant government claims it has no alternative to burning more coal and gas in the face of the country’s catastrophic fires….Its plan to plant more trees to capture carbon is risible action, as it goes hand in hand with the coal mine plans and even forest clearances… 

As Tim Flannery says: “If Australia was being threatened by an external enemy, Morrison’s government would be doing everything within its power to recruit allies. It would put the economy on a war footing, and raise arms.” But this global heating enemy, caused in part by Australian policies, is not worth fighting…? In addition to using the frightening term ‘mega fires’, and warning  there will be more to come around the world, Mr Flannery has written a book that sounds optimistic – ‘Atmosphere of Hope: Solutions to the Climate Crisis’.

We mustn’t forget the crisis – if one country’s suffering is out of sight for a while, it should not be out of mind.

Here’s another strange hopeful turn of events, in this country – Michael Gove is expressing opinions that are moves in the right direction. He has implicitly criticised the US and Brazilian presidents for their scepticism about the climate emergency. Calling for concerted global action on the emergency, at the forthcoming COP26 summit, he said: “I shan’t mention any world leaders by name in a critical fashion. However, it’s important in the United States and in Brazil that we recognise that there will be people, at the state and at the city level, who can play a vital role in driving change that we all need to see.” Good plan, let’s circumvent Trump and Bolsonaro – leave them isolated in their vicious cruelty….

Gove also admitted that as the first country in the world to industrialise, Britain has a “responsibility to lead a green industrial revolution as well.”

I never thought I’d say this, but thank goodness he still has a front bench role in the UK government (minister for the Cabinet Office). As you’ll know, I’m sure, Boris Johnson’s re-shuffle today has resulted in a new Chancellor – where does that leave hopes for the March Budget….?

Now, sad and bad news about bees – bumblebees are in drastic decline across Europe and North America owing to hotter and more frequent extremes in temperatures. A scientific study suggests the likelihood of a bumblebee population surviving in any given place has declined by 30% in the course of a single human generation. The researchers say the rates of decline appear to be “consistent with a mass extinction”. There’s that word…. I know some people do not like Extinction Rebellion’s ‘gloom and doom’ approach; but the natural world is seriously suffering extinctions…On a lighter note, do you remember the ‘Bee Movie’ in 2007?… Why didn’t we take action after that, though? Bees are so important for pollination of crops. Professor Jeremy Kerr, from Canada, the study’s senior author, at least gives us hope. He said: “This work… implies ways that we might take the sting (good choice of words, my comment!) out of climate change by maintaining habitats that offer shelter. Ultimately, we must address climate change itself and every action we take to reduce emissions will help.”

Finally, good news, I think, from another unlikely source – Nestle, apparently (according to someone on who started a petition appealing to Kellogg’s to ‘stop destroying rainforests for cheap palm oil’) , has started using satellite tracking to identify deforestation so they can take action if it is one of their suppliers.

One thought on “Cabin Pressure

  1. Tim Flannery writes excellent books, I have not read Atmosphere of hope but I have certainly read several others, including The weather makers his book on human driven climate change. There is a rising tide of dissatisfaction here in Australia I am hopeful it will bring about some change.
    The loss of bees is frightening, I sincerely hope it is something that can be stopped and reversed, the loss of pollinators leaves us in real trouble.


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