By Louise Gold
Between 14-21 August “The Camp for Climate Action” will make its bid for the world’s attention to the effects and causes of climate change, somewhere along the fringes of Heathrow airport.
The organisers’ aims are to highlight aviation as “the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK”; and Heathrow as “the heart of the UK’s aviation industry”. The location and timing of the camp, whilst government plans are set to expand Heathrow through local villages and communities, is “an opportunity to highlight bias in the corrupt planning process in favour of big business and development”.
BAA which runs Heathrow, sought to restrict the movement of up to five million people with the recent injunction it wanted against the camp. John Vidal in the Guardian was quick to point out the harmlessness of the people BAA want to hold “legally and financially responsible for any disruption that may be caused by protests...” People like, Geraldine Nicholson, “a local woman married to a policeman, who runs the local protest group... She wants people to know that her village will be obliterated by Heathrow’s expansion.”
But everybody’s democracy and civil liberties are being threatened. The injunction BAA attempted to achieve would “prevent local people travelling to and from their homes… travelling on sections of the M4 and the M25; it would prevent National Trust members from using the Heathrow Express and make it an offence for… anyone in the Woodland Trust, Greenpeace, CPRE, Friends of the Earth or a host of other environment groups even to carry a balloon on the Piccadilly Line.”
Instead the injunction BAA have won bans on three leading campaigners. The campaign Plane Stupid was also covered by the injunction.
The injunction has given Heathrow a very bad press, and provides Plane Stupid with very good press and an opportunity not to organise any outrageous stunts for the sake of publicity. Plane Stupid are a non-violent direct action group who in the past have managed to close down Nottingham East Midlands airport for several hours whilst they staged a memorial service for victims of climate change.
From a socialist perspective I think there is a real concern that it’s regressive simply to suggest that people should travel less by plane in order to tackle climate change. For working class people, the opportunity to travel abroad has been quite recent. Demands for longer holidays for instance, are integral to expecting people to travel to places by alternative modes of transport. Workers having direct control over their workplaces: for instance in industry and airports, is the only way to run things on the basis of need not profit. The media has posed this fight, for once, in terms of “people against profit”. And whilst Climate Camp will be suggesting the effects and causes of climate change start and end with carbon emissions, we need to highlight global warming as an effect, caused by a society propelled by profit.