In defence of Manchester Airport. Sort of.

I’m a climate activist and I’m sick of people banging on about aviation.

I’m sick of the use of Manchester Airport as a convenient whipping boy and lightning rod for all our frustrations and concerns.

Climate change is a bastard of a thing to campaign about. Bypasses, GM food, Globalisation, they were all solid concrete objects, or had easy symbols. Climate change is a lot more slippery because it- or its cause, the burning of fossil fuels- is EVERYWHERE. We eat oil, we drink oil, we wear coal, we cook with gas. Fossil fuels give us the lifestyle we have today.

And that’s the dirty little inconvenient truth that dare not speak its name.

Look at the current response to Manchester City Council’s “Call to Action.” This is a flawed document, by any sane individual’s reckoning. There’s huge gaps, there’s huge silences. And the danger is that our focus on airports is going to distract us from all the other problems.

What about all the other principles? What about the lack of consultation? What about the lack of mention of food, reducing consumption (not just energy demand). I could go on, and at a later date I will.

But for now a few basic points:

  • Manchester Airport, in its ground operations, is actually pretty good. Not good enough, but pretty good. The problem is that the Airport‘s sole reason for existing is to service the dirty great big metal birds that take off and land there.

I am NOT saying the airport can expand, or that the City Council should be allowed to fudge this issue.

I am NOT saying people should stop campaigning on aviation. Airports ARE a big factor in our emissions, despite the BAA/MAG propaganda, and- crucially- they are something that we could “easily” give up in a way that we can’t stop heating our houses. It’s a quick win and we need some quick wins at this late late stage in the game that we’ve been losing for 20 years.

[Deep breath] I AM saying that right now I think I would rather see the Manchester Airport stay the same size and everything else that’s wrong with the Council’s Climate plans and wrong with Manchester and Climate Change sorted out. The stuff to do with resilience, social justice, consultation. The stuff to do with non-existent or counter-productive campaigning and ghetto-pathologies.

  • The airport may or may not be our biggest challenge in reducing our emissions- I don’t know, but it is NOT our only big problem. Surely we can all agree on that?
  • Bashing the Airport lets us sub-contract out our thinking and our politics. We can just evade all the things that would make it harder for us to build coalitions. If we focus on the Airport, we don’t have to focus on the need to radically reduce meat consumption. To challenge consumerism. Or the very nature of capitalist growthmanship and wealth inequalities. If we focus on the Airport we can pal up with the Liberal Democrats and the Tories and so forth. We need to do that, IMHO, but with Eyes Open.
  • This is lazy politics, and our children will not thank us for focussing so exclusively on reducing aviation emissions (though they won’t thank us if we don’t get real swinge-ing cuts either. Basically, our children are going to be very very pissed off with us)

PS *We MUST shrink the airports, providing a just transition for ALL the workers whose livelihoods would be affected. But we’re not even having THAT discussion. We’re not even offering a positive alternative vision. Because it should be union-based intellectuals and policy wonks doing that, and folks in the universities. But they don’t seem to exist. Or am I wrong? I hope so.

PPS This cartoon never got the distribution it deserved


About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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One Response to In defence of Manchester Airport. Sort of.

  1. Pingback: Aviation activists to stand trial in Manchester |

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