Heathrow Climate Camp

I grew up under the flightpath into Heathrow, reaching up from my back garden I could almost touch the planes as they went over a couple of miles from touchdown. I still live around the same distance away. Back in the 1950s we resented the airport for having stolen productive orchards and farmland and being a noisy and smelly bad neighbour. In the 1960s I became a climate activist of sorts at a time when ‘Friends of the Earth’ were only Californian weirdos. We understood then about global warming and that human activities were beginning to have often entirely unpredicted effects on ecosystems.

Heathrow from its inception was in the wrong place, too close to built-up areas. Had they been open about the plans it would almost certainly have been turned down as an unsuitable site in the 1940s, but the public – and the authorities – were deceived. Since then, the airport has broken every promise it ever made about expansion, taking over more land, causing more pollution. I supported the efforts to stop T5, marched with the protesters against the third runway in 2003.

No Third Runway (C) 2003, Peter Marshall

Of course it provides a great deal of local employment, but it is still long past the time for a start to be made on running down the activities there, rather than continuing the program of expansion.

So will I be photographing the Heathrow ‘Climate Camp’ set up to the north of the airport yesterday? Regrettably I think not. Despite being entirely in sympathy with the movement’s aims, I can’t stomach the restrictions they have seen fit to impose on photographers and journalists:

Media wanting access to the camp will be invited to come on site between 11 AM and 12 noon. All visits will be over and journalists off site by 1 PM at the latest. Journalists will be given a tour of the site, accompanied at all times by two (or more) members of the media team, who will carry a flag to make the journalists/photographers identifiable. Journalists will be required to stick with the tour and will not be allowed to go into marquees or meetings and workshops unless invited at the agreement of all participants.

These are not conditions I can work under. Such draconian news management isn’t something I want anything to do with. So the camp itself will not get the kind of sympathetic coverage that I might otherwise have provided, and I know many other left photojournalists are equally disappointed. You can read Sion Touhig’s blog and his comments – along with some rather unconvincing attempts to justify the policy. Marc VallĂ©e is there doing his best to cover the event, and I wish him the best of luck. I’ll probably try to cover some of the things happening on the outside later in the week.

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