It's the Mayday bank holiday- where else to be but by the seaside, fighting petty government bullying and airport expansion?
Southend on Sea are having a Carnival Against Corruption on Monday, at 12.30 in Priory Park, and they'd love it if you could come along. The residents anti airport expansion group have been mounting such a determined campaign that the local Tory MP is insisting that they disband- on the basis that no one should campaign against a project that the council have approved...
Not content with the recent underhand legal tactics mentioned in blogs past, the authorities intimidation reached new lows last week when 7 people were arrested and held them for 4 hours without charge, for simply speaking out in a public council meeting.
So if you have an idle hour, come for a stroll in sunny Southend- there'll be a pedal pulled sound system, facepaints for the kids and a bunch of brave people that need back up.
A lot of people had a lot of fun last Thursday and Friday. Folk were out in force from Bristol to Brighton, from the City to Heathrow, Reading to Truro. With Easyjet launching their campaign the day before we struck, the timing couldn't have been better. For those who've been waiting with baited breath, here are the competion winners:
In the Most Creative category the prize must go to team Met for the elegance which is 'Vote Volcano'. The judges were not only impressed by the topicality, and funky raw aesthetic, but also by the innovative use of materials: take out your underground sign, turn it round, draw on the back, pop it back up again.
Now the Quantity section, awarded for most individual stickers posted. Team Circle claimed to have posted up over 63 stickers, and while they failed to produce full documentary evidence of this, a return journey by tube proved that their coverage had indeed been spectacularly extensive. However City Crew must claim the laurels for managing to cover both the central London area during the Wide Game, and their own patch independently.
Most Audacious was a tough one. Team Picadilly employed gymnastics to get a sticker on the Total signs at Kings Cross, despite heavy pedestrian traffic. Bristol finished their billboard piece while the billboard next door was being posted up (you can see the official guy's van in the photo). Team Circle got the poster with coppers that greets you as you enter St Pancras station. And City Crew got one on most of the approaching signposts to the airport.
Overall winner in this category must go however to Team Kamikaze, who took on the giant Cathay Pacific billboard opposite Algate East station. As traffic on the A11 patiently watched from the traffic lights, gentlemen dressed as workmen walked along a hardboard fence and stuck up their addition of 'Huge Emmissions' then slipped quietly away into the dawn without incident, despite having to cycle back with a ladder under their arms.
Think you can do better? The season is just beginning, and there are few things as satisfying as the comedy dismantling of millions of pounds worth of advertising. Get out there and stick 'em up.
Plane Stupid has deposited a large mound of manure outside the south London HQ of soft drink giant Red Bull, because they've applied for planning permission to build an aerodrome opposite London City Airport.
Three activists, dressed as ‘avenging air hostesses’ in wigs and mini-dresses the same colour as the company’s logo, crowned the mound with placards reading: ‘Red Bull-sh*t’, ‘Red Bull gives you (plane) wings’ and ‘No second runway by stealth.’
The company claims that the new control tower, runway and helipads would support its annual air race on the River Thames. But there are growing fears that the company is working with London City Airport and Newham Council to introduce a new heliport and permanent runway for private jets through the back door.
"We believe Red Bull’s claim is bullshit and we’re telling them so," said spokeswoman Elizabeth Baines. "London City Airport is positioning itself a major hub for City executives. We suspect that Red Bull’s planning application is an underhand way of helping the airport to attract private jet and helicopter users. That way, City Airport's owners won’t have to deal with fierce opposition from people in East London who are sick and tired of the noise and pollution from the airport."
London City Airport has been feeling the heat recently. Local campaign group Fight The Flights has launched a High Court bid to stop the airport from expanding its flights volume by 50%. Six local councils have publically supported FTF’s bid. The Greater London Assembly’s Environment Committee is also holding a probe into the effects of the expansion.
"We insist that Newham council turns down this planning application. Red Bull may have high flying ideas but this time we think their wings should be clipped," Elizabeth added.
Two permaculture teachers, enthusiastic about Grow Heathrow, gave a free three day course there earlier this week. It was attended by over 20 people including local residents and supporters from further afield. Proving the maxim that resistance is fertile, some of the attendees are planning to start an eco-village land squat in West London later this month, armed with knowledge from their visit.
Permaculture is a set of approaches to help us create a permanent culture - on which land and food systems sustain life rather than being ravaged in the persuit of profit, and in which there is no space for aviation. It's about working with natural systems rather than against them, both in our relationships with soil and plants, but also with each other, with social and political systems. It's revolution disguised as gardening.
Recently, I was featured in The Independent’s ‘Green Issue’. I was nominated in the ‘Campaigner’ section as a result of the work I’ve been doing with Transition Heathrow, opposing the proposed third runway development. (She won - Ed.)
I was honoured to be put forward, of course, but it did bring home to me one of the massive problems the environmental movement is currently contending with. The perpetual search for a “saviour” to prevent us hurtling head on towards catastrophic climate change is not only doomed to failure but is, I believe, downright dangerous.
Focusing on one person can make everyone else feel like their contribution doesn't count. That they might as well not bother, because someone else has it covered. Away from the limelight, countless others work and strive just as hard, but are overlooked in favour of the obsessive celebritising of an individual and their efforts. This damages our movement twice over. First, it disempowers all those other people and devalues the extraordinary efforts they make. And second, it wholeheartedly fails to recognise the collective actions required from all to overcome the systemic problems we’re facing.
This focus on individuals is nothing new. Whether by their own attention seeking or through the focus of the media-friendly human interest stories, history’s narratives have always favoured names. But the real stories of social change are stories of mass movements. Emelline Pankhurst did not achieve universal suffrage single-handedly, just as Nelson Mandela didn’t cause the breakdown of apartheid on his efforts alone. Likewise, for the five Plane Stupid activists atop the Houses of Parliament or the fifty on Stansted’s runway, there were many others who, though less visible, were essential to facilitating their actions.
Maybe it is the focus of the mainstream media on individuals that neglects the true story? Or perhaps it’s individuals, furthering themselves as a result of an earnest desire to promote the agenda of our cause? For a movement that espouses the ideas of direct democracy and uses consensus-decision making to ensure that everyone has an equal voice, however, this perpetual focus on individual “celebrities” is counter to the very ethos we hold so dear.
To have any hope of a better future for ourselves and coming generations, we need to be ploughing our energy into building a movement that includes everyone, and addresses all the urgent issues confronting us. Rather than relying on big name leaders, we all have a part to play: not just activists or environmentalists, but each and every one of us.
As the activist and author Rebecca Solnit argues in her book Hope in the Dark ‘Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope… Anything could happen, and whether we act or not has everything to do with it’. We need to be confronting economic inequality and challenging social injustice worldwide, and we need to be doing this collectively.
This need not seem like an insurmountable task. It starts on a local scale. On land the government wants to see under tarmac as a third runway for Heathrow airport, a small group of us have been living in a former market garden which had been left abandoned since cheap imports made local food production uneconomic. Rather than the site of one of the world’s most polluting industries expansion, we along with many local people want Sipson, Harlington and Hamondsworth to be a model of what a low impact and socially responsible future might look like.
In whatever ways we can, we should be coming together to raise consciousness and take action. Bringing together different disciplines and developing strategies that work in our communities is central to our empowering of each other on common ground between environmental justice, race, class and gender.
By striving toward a future that embraces the 'we' rather than the 'me', that celebrates community not celebrity, that really empowers people, we would be building a movement that is actually sustainable, that actually has a hope of confronting some of these issues, and that actually has a chance of winning.