One of the most toxic effects of environmentalism’s tendency to reduce human needs and wants to problems that need to be contained and controlled is found in the debate over transport policy. Movement itself is threatened by demands that we reduce our ‘impact’ on the world. We are urged not to take ‘unnecessary’ journeys and to take them in the least carbon-intensive ways, or the carbon calculator will be used to prove our guilt.
But why should people feel guilty about travelling? Isn’t the freedom to travel a moral good? If we can travel, we can find opportunities for work, to meet new people, to find new culture, discover new ideas, or just escape for a while, for whatever it is we want to indulge in. Travel broadens the horizons of the mind.
Hoping to mount a defence of this freedom is a new group, starting up on Facebook for now, Modern Movement.
Protests over the third runway at Heathrow, and against airport expansion in general, attempt to portray much needed investment in transport infrastructure as an unwanted imposition on ‘the people’, rather than a development to be welcomed.
Heathrow may not be the ideal location for a large airport but we need more runways. Flying is a freedom millions have only recently been able to afford. The long-standing environmentalist prejudice against the freedom of flight shows that for Greens, the real problem is freedom of movement for the masses.
Modern Movement – a group campaigning, amongst other things, for 21st century transport infrastructure – is mobilising against the moralisation of cheap flights and the ‘cheap’ people (in the eyes of Greens) who take them. We support the building of the third runway at Heathrow.
The observation that when living standards suffer, people turn away from green issues, is correct. And so people should! People deserve better – lower fares and faster transport ultimately give people more time and money to do the things that matter. The majority continue to vote with their feet by taking flights…while they can still afford to.
Modern Movement demand fast, cheap and plentiful transport and an end to the moralisation of flying.
Following the Plane Stupid protest group’s day in court recently, another climate group, Climate Rush is planning disruptive action at Heathrow and Manchester airports next Monday, according to activist media portal, Indymedia.
Hundreds of anti-aviation protesters are expected to give the government a nasty shock when they return to Parliament after their Winter Recess on Monday 12th January. Protesters from the environmental action group, ‘The Climate Rush’ will be holding a sit-down picnic at the Departures Gate of Terminal One in Heathrow Airport. The dinner will begin at 7pm sharp and is expected to last several hours. At the same time the Northern Climate Rush will hit Manchester Airport Terminal 3 (Domestic Departures).
Climate Rush? Silly name. Never heard of them? Nor have we.
‘The Climate Rush’ held their first protest last October. Taking their inspiration from the Suffragettes they mounted a ‘rush’ on Parliament.
Ah. It’s a ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ form of protest.
But let’s give this claim that they take ‘their inspiration from the Suffragettes’ a little more inspection. What exactly is it they are taking from the movement?
Yesterday, we looked briefly at the words of Ed Miliband MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change…
When you think about all the big historic movements, from the suffragettes, to anti-apartheid, to sexual equality in the 1960s, all the big political movements had popular mobilization. Maybe it’s an odd thing for someone in government to say, but I just think there’s a real opportunity and a need here.
…and we pointed out that far from standing against the Government, protesters styling themselves on the Suffragette movement were necessarily doing what the Government were instructing them to do. It is curious, isn’t it, that Government lacks such confidence in its environmental policies, that it asks people to participate in ‘direct action’ in order to make it own actions look like a response to a democratic movement. What this clearly indicates is that the Government knows that environmental concerns do not emerge from ‘grass roots’, mass political movements. And it knows that it is a problem.
The favourable comparison of climate activists to the Suffragettes fails at the first inspection. Could we imagine that it was the early 20th Century Government, wanting to extend the franchise to women, calling for the radicalisation of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage? No.
Climate Rush’s website continues to explain themselves:
Climate Rush is inspired by the actions of the Suffragettes 100 years ago, who showed that peaceful civil disobedience could inspire positive change. We are a diverse group of women and men who are determined to raise awareness of the biggest threat facing humanity today – that of Climate Change. Our government acknowledges the huge problems we face from Climate Change, but carries on with business as usual. We demand DEEDS NOT WORDS because individual choice alone cannot curb CO2 emissions if we are to stop runaway global warming.
And here a further contradiction separates the Suffragettes from Climate Rush. Demanding ‘deeds not words’ is all well and good, but the Suffragettes’ claim was that women were as capable as men in determining what form of Government should exist. Climate Rush, meanwhile, claim that Government action is necessary because individuals are not capable of making decisions. An equivalent claim by the real Suffragettes would be that women be made equal to men by removing the male right to vote. Some kind of equality.
This echoes the statements made by the lawyer defending the Plane Stupid protesters yesterday, quoted in the Guardian:
Benjamin Newton, defending, said the group regretted what they saw as the necessity of taking part in the protest, but had done so as a “last, desperate act” having exhausted all traditional means of influencing the democratic process.
It’s not the Government that environmental protesters have failed to influence – as we can see from Miliband’s words, they are on side. It’s the ‘stupid’ public that the Plane Stupid and Climate Rush protesters have failed to reach. Publicity seeking, and irritating stunts are their only avenue of expression. What this expression amounts to is not a call for democratic equality, but, on the contrary, less democracy. The democratic process has failed.
These protesters have nothing in common with the Suffragettes. At all. They flatter themselves with the image of heroic, oppressed, and put upon victims, such as the following graphic from the Climate Rush website: