How can we bring people back down to Earth?

Ask Ethan: Our eco-columnist disagrees with Tony Blair – it is practical to stop flying.

Ethan Greenhart

Topics Science & Tech

Dear Ethan,

Tony Blair has caused a bad stink by declaring that he will continue taking long-haul flights to holiday destinations. He says it is ‘impractical’ to stop people from flying. Is it, Ethan? You and I know flying is a bad thing, but how can we actually bring people and planes back down to Earth?

Will Nelson

Dear Will,

Blair should be put on trial, not for his invasion of Iraq, but for defending long-haul holiday flights. Not for being ‘Bliar’, but even worse, for being ‘Bl-air’ – a man who shamelessly defends the mass-murdering aviation industry.

He is complicit in crimes against the planet, or what I call ‘grimes against humanity’. As other eco-writers have pointed out, man-made flight is causing death and destruction on a scale that will make the Holocaust look like a mere blip of barbarism, and ‘genocide and ethnic cleansing look like sideshows at the circus of human suffering’. By mouthing the airline industry’s poisonous propaganda about ‘fun’ and ‘holidays’, Blair has made himself the Goebbels to the industry’s Hitler, responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths. And for what? So that he can play air guitar at a Bee Gee’s house and his citizens can puke cheap beer on to a stripper’s tits in Prague (as I have overheard them boasting about their antics).

He’s wrong, too: it is practical, not to mention Earth-shatteringly crucial (literally), to ground all planes. We just need the gumption to do three things….

Flying has always made me sick. The last time I was on a plane – when I was eight and my parents took us to Spain – I vomited on my mother’s hair. Back then they called it ‘cabin sickness’; now I know it was an instinctive reaction by my moral system against the Great Injustice of Flight. I literally blew chunks of indignation. Even today, I’m one of few green activists who turn down invitations to debates overseas; I receive hardly any, of course, because they all know of my unshakeable principles.

George Monbiot – who would be my hero if I believed in such an elitist concept – says flying across the Atlantic is as unacceptable as child abuse. I’d go a step further and argue that flying anywhere is the equivalent of Satanic Ritual Abuse. If the impact of carbon emissions can be measured in the currency of kiddie-fiddling, then a Briton who takes a return flight to America (1.42 tonnes of CO2) is a predatory paedophile, and those who fly to destinations such as France (0.2 tonnes of CO2) are like those schoolteachers who have misguided flings with 14-year-olds.

Airline pilots and flight attendants are the Ian Bradies and Myra Hindleys of the aviation industry. Don’t tell me ‘They’re just doing their jobs’! That is what some people said about the SS guards who pumped Jews with Zyklon B – an evil gas which, as we know, had a devastating impact on the beautiful countryside around Auschwitz. (Yet still we don’t include the Nazis’ Holocaust of Trees in the annual Holocaust Memorial Day, which shows yet again just how speciesist our society remains.)

It seems obvious to me, and this is my first step to stopping flying, that we need a Flight Offenders Register, where we record the details of every person who flies anywhere for any reason. I have already kickstarted such a campaign. Recently I’ve been organising protests outside the home of a local paediatrician who flies to his holiday home in Tuscany TWICE A YEAR! As my placard, designed by Sheba and the kids, says: ‘Hey paediatrician! What is the point in saving children’s lives for a living when you kill the equivalent of 7.2 children in the Third World during your hols?’ (I’m pleased to say that these anti-flying protests have attracted the exuberant interest of people from nearby poor council estates, who shout colourful slogans such as ‘We don’t want evil paediatricians here!’ and ‘Burn him out, burn him out!’ I understand their fury.)

The worst are those budget holidays facilitated by no-frills airlines for low-morals people. My carbon calculator tells me that every Stag Night in Prague – taking into account return flights for eight people, the cleaning products required to remove their vomit from the streets, and the impact of their unthinkingly-discarded condoms on the local water supply – causes 1.4 per cent of a full hurricane in Bangladesh. So it takes only 71.4 Stag Nights to cause a full hurricane in Bangladesh, which can kill scores of people. Is that a price worth paying for the privilege of exploiting a worker in the sex industry in some dive off Wenceslas Square?

Cheap flyers kill more people every year than al-Qaeda, which makes me wonder: what’s the real difference between a tourist and a terrorist? As my brave fellow journalist David Nicholson-Lord said of the Bali bombing, ‘given that there’s good reason to regard tourists as the shock troops of development and post-colonialism, it’s not really surprising…that they find themselves targeted by anti-Western militants’. Maybe more such attacks will wake holidaymakers from their stupor and encourage them to opt for Bognor Regis instead of Bali or Bologna.

This takes me on to my second step to stopping flying – no, not more terrorist attacks, silly! We need eco-taxes, and big ones. Sheba tells me the average family in Social Classes D, E and F sets aside around £600 for their annual holidays. We must therefore tax flights to the tune of £650. This will price out the most destructive flyers, saving the skies from their carbon and the streets of once-beautiful places like Faliraki from their piss and puke.

In the meantime, I’m delighted that the youthful protesters of Plane Stupid use direct action to stop a certain class of people from holidaying the world into another Holocaust. Let us ground Ryanair – or Aryan-air, more like! Let us smash EaSSyjet. Today, standing in front of a jet on a runway is the equivalent of obstructing a tank in Tiananmen Square! But the Plane Stupiders must go further, and heed my third step to stopping flying: build protest camps on runways. Like the inspiring women of Greenham Common we must erect tents and shelters to prevent flights from taking off and landing. After all, today’s planes carry something just as toxic as nukes: selfish, uncaring people who are leaving a skidmark on the planet.

Will, flying is for birds; flying in planes is for sinners and genocidAIRes.

Ethan Greenhart is here to answer your questions about ethical living in the twenty-first century. Email him at {encode=”” title=””}. Read his earlier columns here.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Science & Tech


Want to join the conversation?

Only spiked supporters and patrons, who donate regularly to us, can comment on our articles.

Join today