Anti-flying activists: plummy-voiced enemies of progress

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Science & Tech

This morning three young greens blocked the tunnel to Heathrow terminals 1, 2 and 3 in protest against plans to build a third runway. To put it another way: three anti-flying activists, those most plummy-voiced enemies of progress, those most entitled and eco-pompous of millennials, caused delays to thousands of people. People who will have been flying to funerals. Or to business meetings. Or to meet lovers. Or to explore the world and get wrecked in the process. But then, what are the needs and pleasures of common people who take to the skies in comparison with the haughty virtue of the environmentally switched-on?

The activists are linked to Plane Stupid, a little group of eco-worriers who might look like extras from a Larry Clark movie but who sound like characters from Downton Abbey (the upstairs ones). This silver-spoon set thinks flying is the worst thing in the world. It harms the environment. Even worse it lets uncouth, uncultured oiks travel abroad when they should be happy with donkey rides in Blackpool. The impossibly middle-class founder of Plane Stupid has said that ‘our ability to live on the Earth’ is being jeopardised by ‘people [who] have a stag do in Prague’. Hmm. I wonder who he means?

Plane Stupid has also said there’s too much ‘binge-flying’ today, thanks to a ‘proliferation of stag and hen nights in Eastern European destinations chosen not for their architecture or culture but because people can fly their for 99p and get loaded for a tenner’. The poisonous anti-masses contempt drips from every word. Such jaunts abroad by dumb chavs who don’t understand art might be ‘good fun’, says Plane Stupid, ‘but [we] can’t helping thinking of those 180million Africans [who will suffer the consequences of climate change]’. Oof. What’s worse than casually branding working-class Brits destructive creatures whose overseas hen nights are propelling the world to doom? Doing so in the name of saving from harm an amorphous mass of African victims. Every anti-mass, foreigner-pitying prejudice is writ large in the anti-flying set. Climate-change alarmism has clearly breathed life back into the colonial-era white-saviour complex.

This morning’s Heathrow blockade, that teen-tantrum inconveniencing of contemptible ordinary people who think flying is an acceptable activity, follows earlier flash protests at Stansted (their least favourite airport, because it’s where Ryanair is based, and we know who flies Ryanair) and also a Black Lives Matter / Plane Stupid blockade at Heathrow in 2016. These people really think, like even more patronising, less thoughtful versions of Bono, Mr Africa himself, that their spoilt raging against progress and industry and the expansion of the ‘human footprint’ is helping the poor of the world. Of course, it does the opposite. It contributes to the increasingly mainstream hostility to economic growth and sacralisation of ‘sustainable development’ which  helps condemn the people of the Third World to a subsistence lifestyle that is then cynically and outrageously dolled up as a good, earthy, eco-friendly, Fairtrade way of life.

Flying is not the top cause of carbon emissions. And yet it’s the thing that most riles youthful, agitating greens. That’s because it is the clearest manifestation of the thing they really despise: man’s defiance of nature; man’s arrogant insistence on transcending the boundaries imposed on us by Mother Nature and learning to fly, exploring the world, seeing and doing things we would never been able to do in that simpler, apparently better pre-industrial era. Airplanes’ burning of fuel is only partly why they hate flight: the main reason is that flight shows how far we have conquered the natural world, and how serious we are about allowing more people — even poor people! — to traverse the planet. They rage against runways, but it’s human endeavour that really freaks out their small, parochial minds.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked.

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Topics Science & Tech


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