Heathrow: to hang with the hippies or not?

August 14, 2007 at 8:56 am (Civil liberties, environment, green, left, rcp, voltairespriest)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThere’s a mini-debate going on at the moment about whether or not to support the eco-protestors’ gathering at Heathrow Airport in protest at proposed expansion plans. Whilst on the one side there’s overwhelming backing for the stance that climate change is one of the greatest threats that humanity has ever faced, on the other there’s a certain queasiness in sections of the Left about some of the Green movement’s more hair-shirted solutions to the issue. Regarding airports in particular, this largely surrounds the point that if the volume of air traffic were radically reduced through the likes of Heathrow, the likes of Easyjet and Ryanair would be forced to either raise their prices to cope with a squeeze on passenger numbers, or to go out of business. The knock-on consequence of this would be that whilst middle-class hippies would still be able to go mountain trekking and spritual journeying in the Himalayas, your average working class family would be left with little option other than a return to Blackpook beach. A worthwhile sacrifice obviously if you happen to be one of said middle class hippies, but if you work on the checkout at Tesco you might be wondering if there’s another alternative which still enables you to go on holiday with the kids once a year.

Janine has had a careful think about this already, and comes down on the side of not attending, albeit in thoughtful fashion. She is concerned precisely about travel once again becoming a preserve of the rich, and as a consequence is reluctant to support the protestors, at least until they make it clear that they don’t support this outcome. She says:

“I think the fact that many working-class people regularly travel abroad is a Very Good Thing. From my parents’ generation where only the rich set foot outside these shores, we have progressed to a society where most people in most developed capitalist countries have seen a bit of the world. That’s good for quality of life, for broadening horizons, and – union jack boxer shorts notwithstanding – for integration and internationalism. I have no desire to curtail it by objecting to airports or demanding hikes in taxes on flying.”

She is of course quite correct to say that travel expands the mind, and is tremendous fun to boot. As someone who has been fortunate enough to visit several countries other than the UK, and to live in one of those for some time, I can honestly say that I found all of those experiences tremendously valuable. However, if the cost attached is of the pollutants partly stemming from mass air travel eventually reducing all of these places to devastated wastelands that future generations will not be able to enjoy, then is it really worth it just for the sake of my enjoyment?

Janine does seek for alternatives around targeting specifically business air traffic, and she does acknowledge the reality that climate change is a problem. I’m far from accusing her of being a Nigel Lawson-style climate change “sceptic”. However I simply cannot see how purely slapping restrictions and taxes on business traffic, with no concomitant restrictions on leisure travel, would adequately tackle the issue. And let’s face it, no one ever really suffered a collapse in quality of life because they had to holiday in Scotland rather than Spain.

An altogether more hard-line stance on the camp comes (perhaps predictably) from Ethan Greenhart of Spiked Online magazine, who seems to think the whole thing is totally risible. Posing satirically as someone who supports the camp, he says:

“We Climate Campers are taking on the World Capitalist Oil-Producing Neocon Superstructure that privileges the right to sunbathe over the right to life… we’re calling for LESS choice and LESS freedom in the name of saving the planet from the poisonous gases of the holidaymaking hordes. My chant during the Climate Camp week will be: ‘What do we want?’ ‘A 65 per cent reduction in all forms of greenhouse gas emissions by 2017, a minimum tax of £1 per mile on all short-haul flights under 600 miles, and greater investment in pro-cycling policies including the painting of at least a 175cm cycle lane on all major thoroughfares!’ ‘When do we want it?’ ‘Now!’”

Of course, I’m aware of the RCP’s rather wacky politics on this issue, and therefore of the probable roots of Ethan’s indignation. However, what he says isn’t simply nonsense, at least in the context of the misanthropic tendencies in sections of the Green movement. If there’s a solution to this issue then it has to square to circle of firstly (and obviously) actually working, but secondly also being humanitarian.

Would I support the camp? I think there are two issues here, both of which lead me to the conclusion that I would do so. Primarily, I would support the camp because I believe that climate change is an overriding issue affecting every man, woman and child on this planet. I think that protests of the sort that this camp represents (whether or not their politics is somewhat flawed) serve to highlight the issue in the minds of a general public who would often seemingly rather talk about anything else. And secondarily, I support the camp on civil liberties grounds – for its right to be there per se. The police are proposing to use anti-terror legislation to dislodge what is essentially a group of dog-on-a-rope crusties from a field full of tents. If this is the kind of responsible use of such legislation that the Blair government promised, then I’d hate to see them using it recklessly.

So support the camp, go visit the crusties and if they say something you disagree with, discuss it with them. You might get muddy feet, but it’ll be far more productive than sitting at home and sulking.


  1. David said,

    I find this an incredibly patronising view of a movement that is actually living what it believes in, rather than simply waiting for the glorious revolution to solve all our problems…
    It’s a long time since I discussed environmentalism with a socialist, but it’s nice to see the old patronising arguments of “misanthropy”, “miguided”, “dog on a string” and “reduction of choice” being trotted out once more.
    This post takes me back to the days of Newbury when I used to hang out with Militant. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  2. Will said,

    Stopped reading this when you mentioned Spiked magazine and linked to some dimwitted fuckfaced article by them.

  3. Matthew said,

    Isn’t the evidence that the cheap flights are most used by the middle classes. The middle class/hippie vs. honest toilers deprived of cultural opportunities argument is just a stereotype.

    The other argument is the one posed by Monbiot – because of the legal restrictions and threat of terrorism argument this is now a battle about democracy and the limits of political action as well.

  4. Andy Newman said,

    Matthew is correct here. The idea that most working families are enjoying foreign holidays every year is simply not true – but there are many better off people who take several holidays per year.

    There are several potential egalitarian solutions to this – one of which would be an individual “carbon ration”.

    Volty does seem stuck in the past.

  5. John Angliss said,

    I think I’ve worked Will’s position out: he’s extended his “no platform” policy to include everyone except Jim Denham and Christopher Hitchens…

  6. modernityblog said,

    From the BBC article “air travel is a major factor in greenhouse gas emissions”

    It might be one of them, but it is NOT alone, nor the greatest culprit.

    One of the worst offenders is Chinese industrialisation and pollution.

    I will bet that if tomorrow we stopped flying **any** aircraft into the UK or out, that it would have negligible effect on the overall greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

    Climate change is a world problem and the best viewed from an international perspective, certainly not from the Not In My Back Yard point of view.

    There is a slight stench of Little Englandism in many initiatives taken by environmentalists in the UK, not least the recent Soil Association discussion over the importation of products from Africa.

    I think that the parochialism, which is so embodied in many environmentalists needs to alter, climate changes in international problem and has to be tackled accordingly.

    Nowadays, the effects of climate change are often felt directly by those in the developing world, rising tides and altered weather patterns are doing away with peoples’ very existences (islands are nearly overrun by the sea).

    The West needs to start remedial work in this area, urgently and less posturing in tents.

  7. John Angliss said,

    Ought the Chinese to be allowed to develop to a similar level as the West, and if so, how much are we willing to subsidise them to do it cleanly? I say ‘yes’ on egalitarian grounds to the first question and I think the second answers itself.

    Vegetarianism is a good start in terms of reducing carbon emissions: if you gave up carbon-intensive beefburgers you could fit in the odd long-haul flight here and there. Or plant a tree, as the late great George Orwell recommended before this whole malarkey even started.

  8. voltaires_priest said,


    Eh? I do support the protestors, as I thought I’d made very clear.

    And if you can’t take a bit of banter in the course of an article that broadly supports you, then how do you plan to take on the airport security and police, who will be a lot harsher than I am?

    Mr Newman;

    I don’t think it’s such a stretch to imagine that Ibiza isn’t exclusively full of voluntourists and hooray henrys. Let’s be honest with ourselves here.

    John A;

    Fuck that. Meat is nice. And any fucker tries to tell me that teetotalling is ecological, I’ll run wild on their ass.

  9. modernityblog said,

    JA wrote:

    I say ‘yes’ on egalitarian grounds to the first question and I think the second answers itself.

    sigh, China gave up any pretense of egalitarianism when it forcibly annexed Tibet

    if we are truly serious about climate change then we need to forget this faux relativism, and deal with the worst culprits

  10. voltaires_priest said,

    It’s not relativism to refuse to hold the people of a nation responsible for the crimes of a dictatorship though, surely? And besides, what would that have to do with economic development?

  11. Will said,

  12. David said,

    you said:

    Eh? I do support the protestors, as I thought I’d made very clear.

    And if you can’t take a bit of banter in the course of an article that broadly supports you, then how do you plan to take on the airport security and police, who will be a lot harsher than I am?

    never said you didn’t “support” the camp or the activists, just that I got a bit nostalgic over the arguments that you used…

    I thought my reply was also a “bit of banter…” I certainly don’t think that you or other socialists are the “enemy” here. But then neither are the Heathrow security and police (or holiday makers, of whatever class).

  13. Sunny said,

    I’m most probably heading down tomorrow…

  14. modernityblog said,


    indeed it isn’t

    but with the issue of climate change, you need to have objective criteria for judging the worst offenders and that leads to China/US, etc irrespective of anything.

    if you are going to be more lenient with a particular nation then you need to state openly why and what logical basis?

    China is one of the world’s worst polluters, the Chinese ruling elite were warned years and years ago that many of their projects were environmentally ruinous, counterproductive and would lead to death and disaster. They ignored any warnings.

    Yet the Chinese leadership consciously chose this path.

    So it is bit late on in the day to start pleading for them.

    Look up the three Gorges dam and the Yangtze River.

    See http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2000/03/31/archive/main178697.shtml from 2000


    “China now no. 1 in CO2 emissions; USA in second”



    ” The case is emblematic of China’s confused attitude to solving its environmental problems. For more than a decade, Mr Wu, 40, was lauded by the country’s leaders as he fought pollution from local chemical plants.

    But his family believes his troubles began when he began to agitate about Yixing, the nearest town, being named a “model city”, a largely ceremonial award that local officials hoped would show that pollution was under control.

    He was arrested at night a week before he was to travel to Beijing to complain about the award, and charged with trying to extort $6,000 from local companies by threatening to expose them.

    “There is a growing crackdown on activists, especially at grassroots,” says Mark Allison, China researcher at Amnesty International. Several campaigners and lawyers have been arrested or put under house arrest over the past year.”

  15. Will said,

    Sunny Hundal is a hippy as well as being willing to put up with antisemitism as long as it serves a ‘good’ cause.

  16. Will said,

  17. voltaires_priest said,

    Sunny Hundal is a hippy as well as being willing to put up with antisemitism as long as it serves a ‘good’ cause.

    Wot you on about?

  18. Will said,

    Can you not read like? thicko.

  19. Jules said,

    I’m sure he can read your politically motivated smears Will but that doesn’t stop them being bullshit.

  20. Lobby Ludd said,

    A slightly longer quote than that cited in Will’s link is:

    “To put it another way I don’t criticise the MCB to bring joy to annoying people such as Melanie Phillips, Rod Liddle, Richard Littlejohn and Jon Gaunt, etc. I do it because the MCB, like other such “community leaders”, ends up hurting those it should be protecting. Similarly, I support Independent Jewish Voices because Israel’s foreign policy hurts both Jews and Palestinians (the latter more, obviously) regardless of whether it boosts the anti-semites or anti-Zionists.”

    The Sunny Hundal’s full articleis at:


    l leave it to those that can read to decide whether “Sunny Hundal is a hippy as well as being willing to put up with antisemitism as long as it serves a ‘good’ cause.”

    Personally, I think Witchfinder General Will is talking bollocks again

  21. modernityblog said,

    I have read Sunny’s output for a fair while and can find no antisemitic content.

    He might have chose his words a bit more carefully, but I give him a clear bill of health.

  22. Will said,

    I didn’t call him an antisemite you thick fucking cunts. When did reading and comprehension skills become out of bounds for so-called socialists.

    You should read the comments to the post at the ‘Trots’ I link to above — here’s one:

    It all depends on who the targets are to Sunny. Would he be so supportive of material useful to the BNP?

    “Criticising minority communities is a tricky issue for many people. But sometimes it has to be done”

    You’ve never said that before, about any other minority community. Taking the whole Jewish community to task is ok? You vehemently defend the Muslim community against “Islamophobia”. Yet you’re not bothered about anti-semitism?

    he’s a self satisfied twat and repugnant in the extreme. As are the majority of fuckwits who correspond on these pages.

    Fuck the lot of you ignorant fuckheads.

  23. Lobby Ludd said,

    That’s all right Will – you shouldn’t take things so hard.

    I was a bit like you when I was your age, it sometimes feels like everyone is against you doesn’t it? But really, you shouldn’t get so overwrought, it’s OK be be wrong sometimes, we all are.

    I know you take what your Mum calls ‘ all that silly political stuff’ seriously, and so you should – but I think that perhaps you should listen to yourself sometimes, all that bad language won’t make you friends, now will it?

    Anyway it’s getting late – now why don’t you try and get a good night’s sleep. I’m sure things won’t seem so bad in the morning.

  24. Will said,

    Ignorant prick. Nothing addressed by you as per usual.

  25. Lobby Ludd said,

    Will, when people disagree with you in print, whether they are right or mistaken, you simply resort to obscene insults.

    I cannot believe that you do so in everyday life, since this would regularly entail potential or actual violence directed at you.

    You adopt a silly pose, you are not infallible, and your pompous insulting manner negates anything positive you may have to say.

  26. Will said,

    Prick of the highest order.

    Still haven’t addressed the critique.

    What a fucking wanker you are.


  27. Lobby Ludd said,

    What particular critique are you talking about?

    Oh shit, I actually don’t care.

    Behave yourself you silly little boy.

  28. Will said,


    You obviously can’t fucking read as well.


  29. Lobby Ludd said,

    Will, you have exclude yourself from any kind of sensible discussion.

    I don’t care, but I think anyone close to you will.

    You are not behaving sensibly and although this is ‘cyberspace’ it will still matter to those who care about you.

  30. Will said,

    Lobby *

    What a cunt.

    You still haven”t even attempted to refute my charges.

    You are a trolling bastard. As far as I’m concerned, any fucker who comments on a blog who doesn’t have a blog of their own is a trolling bastard. And you are a trolling fucking bastard bar none.

    Filth. Go fuck yourself.

    (Probably a swappie cunt so only worthy of wiping the shit off the soles of my feet on).


  31. Lobby Ludd said,

    Will, what charges?

    I have no intention to continue this, you silly little boy.

  32. voltaires_priest said,


    Sunny isn’t someone who “doesn’t mind anti-semitism” and your link proves nothing of the sort.

  33. Will said,

    You are a silly little liberal loving twat.

    Fuck off.

    And fuck off again.

  34. voltaires_priest said,

    Why don’t you fuck off, you fucking Walter Mitty?

  35. The abuse of terrorism « Anti-German Translation said,

    […] different category. Ambivalent though I am about the Heathrow airport protestors (see VP at Shiraz and Janine at Stroppy for more on such ambivalence), they are not “environmental […]

  36. you suck said,

    Modernity blog is a fucking hypocrite for criticizing the chinese for following the footsteps of west so they can lift billions out of poverty while he sits at home consuming 5 times as much resources as the average chinese. seriously, shut the fuck up

  37. sandra said,

    MZxeyi gjsRt3i9fkls03GsAc

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