This Airport Protest Flies in the Face of Logic; the Writing Is on the Wall: Camp for Climate Action Protesters Take Part in 24 Hours of "Direct Action" against Heathrow Operator BAA
Byline: NEIL COLLINS
AT THE weekend I found myself at the Eastbourne Airshow - a homage toair travel at the very time Heathrow protesters are complaining about it. Itwas overwhelming: thousands of cheerful souls sitting on the shingle to seeplanes showing off, burning the earth's resources for sheer entertainment.
There were stunt planes, Spitfires and jet fighters galore: but the highlight,on Saturday afternoon, was the arrival of the biggest bird in the show; as aBoeing 747 lumbered round Beachy Head at Dambusters' height, thousands ofpeople leapt from their deckchairs for a better view.
This plane, which everyone there had seen every time they went to an airport,eclipsed everything else. The response to the spectacle would have broken thehearts of the much smaller numbers who also spent their weekend watching planesat our main airport in the protest about our addiction to air travel thatreached its climax today.
Despite the attempts to paint them as the usual rent-a-mob of weirdos,troublemakers and general misfits, most are measured and sincere (the 14arrested last night after clashes with police excluded) and the vast majorityhave shown considerable forbearance in the face of attempts by the police totreat them as potential terrorists. There's no point in denying that theprotesters strike a chord with millions who wouldn't dream of joining them.
We're deeply uneasy about the possibilities of climate change, and we don'tlike the prospect of yet more of the remaining green bits of the South- Eastgetting a concrete coating in the development of another Heathrow terminal.
Can't we sacrifice a little of the potential economic growth in return forstopping further development and doing our bit to save the planet? It's abeguiling thought, but it is highly dangerous. Our prosperity is built on ourability as a trading nation, and globalisation has made trading much morecompetitive.
It's no longer good enough to be the most efficient maker of widgets in thecountry when there's a more efficient producer in China. As with goods, so withservices. It's no longer enough to be the best bank in Frankfurt, because thefinancial innovators in London can offer your customers better solutions totheir problems.
Even the most blinkered protester will have seen the benefits that globalfinancial services have brought to Britain. The City of London is not only amassive generator of jobs, it's also scooping up a growing share of the worldmarket in finance. Globalisation means the winner takes all, and financialservices is this country's only world-class industry that has any scale.
The crowds on the other side of the fence from the Heathrow camp, seeking toescape a miserable summer weatherwise, are a reflection of the prosperity thateconomic progress has brought, and their miserable journey through the airportis a consequence of the failure to build enough capacity to meet the demand forflights.
Their motto might not quite be "sod it, let's fly", but they've earned themoney and have the right to spend it in any legal way they choose. They are, ofcourse, only holidaymakers, and the rest of us would be no worse off if …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: This Airport Protest Flies in the Face of Logic; the Writing Is on the Wall: Camp for Climate Action Protesters Take Part in 24 Hours of "Direct Action" against Heathrow Operator BAA. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Evening Standard (London, England). Publication date: August 20, 2007. Page number: 13. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.
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