Heathrow Again

I don’t like airports and air travel. As someone with a sensible level of concern about the environment I try hard not to fly – and managed to avoid doing so until I was sixty. Since then I’ve flown on I think 8 occasions, mainly when I’ve been invited to talk or exhibit photographs overseas, and where there was no real alternative.

I’m obviously not a great traveller, though I have been to quite a few parts of the United Kingdom over the years, but there is still so much that is new here that I’d like to explore. And even in London I occasionally still find parts I’ve not visited.

Airports like Heathrow seem designed to generate the maximum unease amongst those passing through, and are designed largely to sell goods to those passing through rather than to transfer passengers in an efficient manner from entrance to plane and vice-versa. I’ve travelled through a few smaller airports which do just that, where you can get off a plane and be taking a bus or taxi away in just a few minutes – and you can catch one with only a short queue to go through a security check and just a few minutes waiting. No huge shopping areas and extended periods to wait in them.

Reclaim The Power’s #StayGrounded protest made some of the issues clear, though perhaps not to all the travellers passing through Terminal 2, who probably couldn’t see the speech bubbles with things like “I’m one of the 15% who make 70% of all flights” and probably didn’t see or appreciate the ‘Frequent Fliers’ stepping over the ‘dead’ on the ground to get to the ‘High Polluters Club Frequent Flyer VIP Check-in’. And relatively few would have heard the speeches.

Photography – and of course video – is vital in getting the point of protests, particularly onrd like this which have a narrative across to an audience. And to a wider audience than those few members of the public who actually experience it. Of course the highest numbers see them through TV and newspapers, and this protest did make some of them even on the channels which like to ignore or minimise protest, but many too see them through social media. Even web sites and blogs like this have thousands of readers each day.

Air transport – for goods and people – is expensive and essentially wasteful. It creates pollution and wastes resources and is an important factor in climate change. We need to look not at ways to increase it, but ways to cut it. Some of its popularity is because of huge subsidies that currently encourage it, and those need to be removed.

Our recent election in the UK has perhaps served largely to show that we need a better voting system, that more accurately reflects the views of the British public. I welcome too the fact that it has brought out more young people to vote, and that a significant number of voters have begun to see through the media lies about Corbyn. As someone – not a Labour Party member – who had been saying since he became party leader that he represents Labour’s only chance of being elected to govern in 2020 I think the Labour vote shows I was right. Certainly he is the only Labour leader who could win if there is another election soon (and its highly likely.)

And until we do have another election the good news is that the vote needed for the expansion of Heathrow is unlikely to go ahead in this Parliament, which is good news for those of us who live in and around London, for the nation and for world climate.

I had been worried on my way to the protest that airport security might make photography difficult, but I had no problems as they stood back and watched, stopping the protesters from going into the security area and directing passengers in alternative ways to avoid being held up by the protest. The protesters too had obviously decided against any confrontation here, which was, for example why all the plastic champagne glasses of those ‘high polluting frequent flyers’ were filled only with air to abide with the bylaws.

You can see the whole story of the protest – which ended in singing and dancing – at Heathrow flashmob against airport expansion.


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My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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