I've been campaigning and taking direct action against the growth of the aviation industry for the last two years. Last month I found out I won an award for my work. To collect it I was to go to 10 Downing Street and meet the PM, the same man who has been wilfully ignoring all of Plane Stupid's campaigning work, and the objections to the third runway of 70,000 London residents. It didn't take long to decide what I would do.
With a team from Plane Stupid backing me up, I put on my second hand suit wearing a device in my pocket which was linked up to an anonymous Skype account on a computer in front of the team, so that they could hear what was said. At 6.15, the Prime Minister made his way out into the audience to shake our hands. I knew what I was about to do as I squeezed the superglue packet into my left hand...
'By the way Prime Minister, I've just super glued myself to your arm,' I said. 'Don't' panic. This is a peaceful protest in line with Plane's Stupid uncompromising commitment to non-violent direct action.'
I continued: 'We just wanted five minutes of your time because, Prime Minster, you cannot shake off climate change just like you can shake off my arm.
'Prime Minster, you must realize that we can beat climate change- but not by expanding the world’s biggest international airport at Heathrow, and supporting aviation, the fastest growing contributor to global carbon emissions. That's why we, Plane Stupid, are taking our campaign from the roof of parliament to inside ten Downing Street.
(to the whole audience including the PM):
'We are the last generation with the opportunity to adequately tackle climate change before it is too late.We need the Prime Minster to make the tough decisions he keeps on talking about and if he needs someone to hold his hand, then we are willing to do just that. But we are not going to wait around for politicians to catch up. Remember, he only has two possible legacies before he leaves office. As the first Prime Minster to take climate change seriously. Or the last one not to.
'It's time you stopped hiding from communities on the frontline affected by climate change. Whilst we stand here smiling nicely for the cameras in the Arctic, Inuit communities are planning survival strategies for their families as the deep seas gradually engulf them. Whilst we stand here drinking champagne and eating canapés, communities in Tuvalu are desperately building sandbanks to stop their island, their families, their lives and ultimately, their dignity, from going underwater. And, Prime Minister, as you know so well, whilst we stand in each other's arms, the community of Sipson in West London awaits complete demolition because of the planned third runway at Heathrow airport. '
Brown's Heathrow consultation is a fix pure and simple. It is the single most anti-democratic, anti–national, anti-human, outright evil thing this government has done since the Iraq war and that's saying something. If super-gluing myself to the Prime Minister is the only way to cut through the power of corporations like BAA and ensures he hears what people from West London really think, then so be it.
I talk of Heathrow, not because everyone is, but because it is a sign of things to come. In Heathrow, the battle lines are drawn. We could continue careering down the path of relentless economic growth and ignore the world's top scientists who are calling on us to curb aviation, or stop, take a breather, and support workers in the aviation industry and communities living around airports into a sustainable lifestyle, before it is too late. The choice, Prime Minster, is yours.
Allow us, the future generation, to shake your faith. Put your hand in ours, let us lead you through this labyrinth and realize that we have this remarkable opportunity. I could be your son. Explain yourself to the next generation. The people of next generation will either thank us for taking the necessary, logical action, or lament us for not being radical enough. It is not good enough to do our bit- we must do what is necessary. Do this, because it's important that you understand. If you find a basis to disagree, by all means take the other side. But please don't ignore it, don't look away. Prime Minister, it's time to stand up to the bullies from BAA and stand up for the British public.
Every morning since leaving 10 Downing Street, I have woken up and asked myself whether I should write press releases or obstruct the machinery which is causing environmental destruction. The world is drowning in a sea of words, and I don't want to add to the deluge. Almost everyday I notice signs that more and more people are longing for our species to cease its self-destructive war with the earth and each other. And that's the real strength of Plane Stupid; creating new spaces in which to confront climate change. Powerful people know that ordinary people are not innately selfish or slaves to consumerism. Creating spaces to strategise resistance to forces promoting this inter-generational catastrophe is not just a campaign, or even a movement - it's a whole culture not negotiated by governments, but enforced by people. By the public. A public who can link hands across national borders and acknowledge that we are all learners, and always continuing to learn to tackle climate change.
Brown's brazen belief that we can run the world disjointed from natural phenomena with his imprudent riot squad of aviation industry technocrats has exposed the fragile relationships this government upholds with the polluting industries. The sheer ignorance of deliberately ignoring the consultation results regarding Heathrow expansion has placed on full public view the trickery and collusion inside the government walls.
Now that the Government's sinister relationship with the aviation industry has been put into mass circulation, it could be disabled quicker than the pundits predicted.
Bring on the spanners.
If we succeed no one will remember; if we fail no one will forget.
Plane Stupid, and communities taking action on aviation expansion around the world, will not go without a fight.
This article first appeared in the Ecologist July 2008