Thursday, 29 January 2009

honour the protesters

Although I’ve given up reading and watching the news for the time being I was tempted to read about the announcement of the third runway at Heathrow last week. Partly because my two oldest daughters have been protesting against it, dressing up as suffragettes, flashmobbing with T shirts, dancing the conga in Terminal 1 and so on, bless them. I’m especially fascinated by Geoff Hoon, transport minister. How can this intelligent man use such weak arguments that are clearly against the climate targets that Britain has fought so hard to pioneer? He does seem keen to engage in a discussion about the matter, however, and in an interview in the Guardian, made the point that since people want increasingly to take cheap flights, the government should provide more runway capacity. He is right, in a way, although such free market behaviour is also one of the problems. And though it’s great that the rich and famous such as Emma Thompson are adding their weight to the debate, as Geoff Hoon points out, if they continue to fly with abandon, as the wealthy do nowadays, this only adds to the sense of confusion, cynicism, despair and lack of empowerment from ordinary people.

It boils down to a kind of stalemate, where neither the leaders nor the people want to make a stand that says, we have to fly less, we have to consume less. We have to care enough about the rest of the life on the planet to each, willingly, change our lives.

It’s two years since I took a flight pledge and it continues to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Right now, I’d love to be in Cuba, just walking through the streets and absorbing all that is a foreign culture. The warmth, the sounds, the smells, the food, the music. The way people treat each other, the human and plant culture, every tiny, subtle detail. This is food for my being. I can afford it; nobody is stopping me, except a little voice that is just telling me to be one of those people that draws the line.

At his inauguration on Tuesday Barak Obama called on Americans to become less self indulgent. His position was celebrated as being hard won by the Civil Rights movement decades before, where people agitated (mainly peacefully) with passion for equal rights that only seemed obvious and right to them at the time. Although climate protesters these days are being arrested, belittled and ignored, I see a future where the many courageous people who decide to make a stand today for the future of the planet will be celebrated and honoured.

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