David is studying philosophy, politics & economics at the University of Essex.
If you’ve been following the news (and presumably you have been if you are reading this) you will know that sandal footed, hair shirt wearing, beard clad
"protesters", who may or may not be unemployed students, and may or may
not know what they are talking about, descended on the greenbelt
of London armed with flags, banners and boxes of muesli. Their aim, to
stop climate change, by holding a climate camp. Yawn.
I am not a fan of expanding airports, indeed I oppose airport
expansion, nor do I wish for polar ice caps to melt, but one thing more
annoying than the noise of aircraft, the destruction of the
countryside, the sheer ugliness of airports and melting ice caps, has
got to be protesters making ordinary people’s lives awkward by holding
"camps" in fields which they do not own, in an attempt to alter
decisions which are not theirs to take.
services must hate them, for these are the same people who make them
build then guard rings of security fencing around G8 meetings, who’s
forebears formerly made Greenham Common resemble a refugee camp (and
caused sales of wire cutters to surge), and now make them plod around
muddy fields in the rain of what has got to be the worst summer in
years. I’m sure this is just what they joined MI5 and the Police for –
no doubt the government will use this very scenario in part of their
next £250 million per year advertising campaign to boost recruitment.
ordinary people, trying to escape the said terrible weather, risk
having their holidays ruined. Their week or two in the Canaries or
Costa or wherever ruined by, frankly, a bunch of total nutters with
nothing better to do.
I note the climate protesters when
speaking primarily target short foreign sun seeking trips (such as the
Canaries) and not more polluting long-haul trips, presumably because
they have all had their gap year trips to do the washing up in some
grotty café in [insert poverty stricken country of choice here] but
believe that’s alright because they say it’s a worthy "life experience"
whereas to them a well deserved family holiday in the sun apparently
So, back to my plot: airports shouldn’t be expanded, but it’s nothing to do with climate change.
have to get realistic. The affect of British aviation, let alone an
extra runway, is so minimal it can hardly be measured. Indeed, the UK
is just 2% of global CO2 emissions, and one of our top polluters is
agriculture – in the form of cows, who globally produce more harmful
greenhouse gases than planes, cars and trains combined (18%). If
governments were truly serious about stopping greenhouse gases, cows
would be the most taxed creatures on the planet (I’m not suggesting
this). And if protesters really were there to "save the planet", and
not just to be annoying, they’d be doing as Michael O’Leary suggests
and driving round shooting cows (I’m not suggesting this either).
So why shouldn’t airports be expanded, if it’s not because of climate change.
the answer to me is quite simple: neither the government nor BAA own
the land. To build the new runway they would have to resort to
compulsory purchase powers, effectively a state land grab (like
Zimbabwe but far wetter). Well, not quite like Zimbabwe, but you get
the point. People own their property, we can’t just force them to sell
it. Yes they might get compensation, but they might not want it – they
might value their home and attached memories more than the offer. How
would you like being forced out of somewhere you liked? I’d certainly
be annoyed, and it’s not our right to force them. It all reminds me of
China’s Mrs Wu Ping.
even if the government or BAA did own the land, the runway would affect
other property nearby negatively, and under planning law you can’t just
go building what you like, where you like, if it affects others. If we
had an anarchist planning law, property values – and people’s biggest
investment – could be destroyed by anyone and everyone, building
anything anywhere, blighting people’s homes. I wouldn’t be keen on an
airport being built near me. Anarchist planning policy is simply not an
This leads me to the worst argument for
expansion; the "it’s my right to fly" argument. Of course we all have
the right to fly, but only when there’s the capacity; just as we all
have the right to drive our cars but not on other people’s property
where there aren’t roads. The right to our own property is more
important than anyone’s right to fly, airports shouldn’t expand their
Of course, there are times we need
new or improved infrastructure such as roads and railways, but airports
cause the demolition of whole communities. They are a different thing
on a different scale altogether.
Will not expanding
Heathrow damage the economy? Not if we work round it. In the age of
digital communications, more and more people can be meeting anywhere.
We are a small country, we don’t really need many domestic flights,
instead we need better high speed railways. Busy and small airports are
a problem globally, and plane manufacturers are working on planes to
boost capacity without needing airport enlargement. Technology is a
better bet than airport enlargement for our transport woes, just as
technology is a better environmental bet than eco-camps. And to be
honest, if we agreed to everything that is labelled "not doing this
will damage the economy" there wouldn’t be anything left in the country
but trading estates and airports.
So in conclusion, please don’t expand airports, and please – no more "camps".