Magazine article E Magazine

The Unfriendly Skies

Magazine article E Magazine

The Unfriendly Skies

Article excerpt

Last spring, a handful of grassroots community and environmental groups sent delegations to Minneapolis for a conference opposing the ongoing expansion of airports. The activists, who are talking about forming a national organization, argue that airports increase noise, air and water pollution, kill birds and fish, and create such a dill that residents of nearby communities are often forced to relocate.

"We believe in a balance between public health and the economy," says lack Saporito, executive director of the 1,200-member Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare in Chicago. "Years ago they wouldn't even listen to us," adds Debi DesMarias, president of the 1,300-member Citizens Against Sea-Tac Expansion, which has led a vigorous campaign opposing the growth of Seattle's airport. "Now they treat us with more respect."

There are an estimated 600 such groups in the U.S. working to curtail the growth of everything from small regional airports to sprawling international facilities. Activists abroad are even more aggressive: Protesters in Manchester, England last year occupied tree houses in the forest around the city's airport to physically block bulldozers. Similar efforts have also been organized in Australia and France.

Juliet Wright, a spokesperson for the Maryland Aviation Administration, says the protesters are misinformed. "These are real issues which we believe can be exaggerated at times," she says.

Tempers are certainly on the boil in San Francisco, where a planned airport expansion into the city's legendary bay has created controversy in the environmental community. …

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