Joe's blog

Manchester Plane Stupid vow to fight on

Two Manchester Plane Stupid activists who blockaded the road entrance to the World Freight Centre of Manchester Airport have been found guilty of obstruction of the highway. The group remain united and have vowed to continue the fight against the aviation industry.

The two defendants, Mark Howarth and Amanda Walters, had pleaded not guilty to the charge on the grounds that their obstruction of the highway was a reasonable use of the road considering the significant impacts on local homes and globally in contributing to climate change - caused by the proposed expansion of the airport. The court heard how the defendants had tried other means of redress prior to the protest action in May 2010 but that these methods had been ineffective as of yet in halting airport expansion.

On Monday, nine other defendants involved in the protests pleaded guilty and received fines and costs averaging around £340 each.

Speaking after the case, defendant Mark Howarth said:

"The battle against airport expansion at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick was won because ordinary people came together, joined forces and took on the aviation industry. We've linked up with residents in Manchester and Heathrow and we'll continue to challenge Manchester Airport's expansion plans".

The public campaign 'Manchester Airport on Trial' lives on and the defendants have received support from all kinds of different people and communities including support from Independent journalist Johann Hari, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Labour MP John Mcdonnell and Conservative Party MP Zac Goldsmith. The 6 who went airside and used armtube lock ons round the wheel of a plane will stand trial seperately for aggravated trespass in Feburary 2011.

Day one of Manchester Airport on trial

There was a huge show of support for defendants at Trafford Magistrates Court this morning for the opening day of Manchester Airport on Trial.

Despite freezing temperatures people from all walks of life came down to the courthouse to wish them well. Pete Johnson one of the residents whose home faces demolition joined the supporters and defendants outside the courthouse with colourful banners. The case has galvanised support from a broad range of supporters from local members of the public, local groups, academics, barristers, writer and journalist for the Independent Johann Hari, and prominent national politicians such as Heathrow Labour MP John McDonnell, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Conservative Party MP Zac Goldsmith.

Eleven local campaigners were in court facing charges of obstruction of the highway. Nine of the eleven pleaded guilty unable to bear the cost of a trial and were sentenced at 1pm today. The court heard now the protest had been a 'response to a flawed planning process' and the 'democratic process being thwarted'. The judge handed out fines of an average £300 each before opening the prosecution.

Ali Garrigan, from Manchester Plane Stupid said:

"Today the defendants have taken responsibility for the protest, been accountable for their actions and will pay their fines. Meanwhile, Manchester City Council refuses to take responsibility for the emissions from the airport by excluding them from its Climate Change Action Plan and the aviation industry gets a free ride by paying no tax on it fuel."

The trial continues tomorrow and is set to be an interesting day. Amanda Walters and Mark Howarth, the two defendants pleading not guilty, will be asked to tell the court what effects the expansion of the airport will have both locally, such as on the residents at Hasty Lane, as well as internationally in terms of CO2 emissions and climate change.

Local councillor Martin Eakins will also be speaking to highlight the local democratic deficit and resident Pete Johnson from Hasty Lane will talk about the threat to local homes.

For daily updates check out

Environmental justice website launched

Welcome to the amazing Environmental Justice website that has just launched:

Over the past year a movement has developed using creative and empowering methods to highlight the deep-seated reasons we need to take action today. The reality that climate change, poverty and pollution aren't a mistake - fossil fuel industries and the politicians who turn a blind eye to their impacts rely on the unequal burden place on ourselves and our communities to uphold unequal power in the UK today.

So We Stand - a people's movement organising for empowering social change to develop multiracial politics and self defence strategies to better our lives and communities - are calling for individuals to listen to the voices, witness the images of how we are forced to live and watch the videos of different stories and then more importantly - stand up to take action.

From Heathrow to Grangemouth to Merhyr Tydfill this is just the start. Through this project we realise that we are not alone in this fight. In order to tackle these growing problems we must join the dots between social and environmental problems. We have lived for too long while greed and addiction to profit has brutalised our way of life. Those days are long gone and we must fight for justice, a way of life free from poverty, climate change and pollution.

'Biggest pre-emptive arrest' court case begins


The court case of the 'biggest pre-emptive arrest' of climate activists began today in Nottingham. A year and half after being pre-emptively arrested alongside more than 100 other people, 20 activists have begun what could be a month long trial.

The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass for planning to safely shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station for a week and in doing so stopping 150,000 tonnes of CO2 from being emitted. The activists are going to be admitting the intent, however they maintain that they are not guilty of a crime.

Their defence is based on the argument that the activists acted out of necessity, to prevent further death and serious injury. 300,000 people per year already lose their lives due to the effects of climate change and half a billion are at 'extreme risk'. This is why the protesters felt the action at one of the biggest polluters in the country was extremely necessary.

Experts such as James Hansen, the high profile scientist who is the head of NASA's Goddard Institute and Caroline Lucas MP, leader of the Green Party, will be giving evidence in court to support the 20 activists who remain on trial.

Plane Stupid backs these brave protesters who took action to put the people and the planet ahead of profits for dirty coal companies.

Rebecca Quinn, 32, who was one of those arrested in April but later had the charges dropped said:

"Climate change is hitting those least responsible for it the hardest. Low-lying island nations are already seeing salt water encroach on their farm land, and in recent years we have seen an increasing frequency of extreme weather events. Coal is the dirtiest method of electricity generation, and must be stopped. To avoid a climate crisis, we must put people before profit. In the face of government apathy and the failure of the Copenhagen conference, it is ordinary people taking direct action who are desperately trying to avoid a bleak future of flooding, drought, crop failure and water shortages."

For updates from court check out the website:

Reframing race and climate change

CtrlAltShift Blog #6 - In the last of the CtrlAltShift/Plane Stupid blog series, Dan Glass from Plane Stupid Scotland and from new project So We Stand explains why we should never succumb to racial or climate injustice, why we should never forgot those lost in the battle and why we should fight on, as a unit, for a better generation...

The convergence between racial equality and environmental justice is becoming clearer every day. As runaway climate change intensifies, every hour people from overseas continue to knock on UK immigration office doors. They do this not because they have damaged their own homes or are bored of their cultures, but because the nations in whom they seek solace have disrupted their way of life (in one way or another).

Carbon-intensive lifestyles in the West have caused floods, droughts, resource wars and continued exploitative exploration throughout communities in the global south. In my own opinion, non-white communities in the developing world bear the brunt of environmental justice. Meanwhile, at home in Britain, communities who work in high emission industries also face the worst. Before runaway climate change really hits home in the UK, as it has done already for people all over the world, we have a tiny bit of breathing space to understand the interlinked nature of its impacts. In the age of the "Big Society", when it is supposedly our duty to help our neighbours, how do we being to understand these issues and mould society into what we want it to be?

In the UK, fresh evidence highlights that ethnic minorities are more exposed to low air quality - a social consequence of carbon heavy industries. As research develops, the battle-lines are being drawn. Whether we're talking about communities living daily with pollution from London's major airports, witnessing the building of gas plants in many major British cities, or referencing inner-city poverty in areas of multiple deprivation across the UK, non-white communities often come off worse. What's more, the poor are being hit ten times as hard as the rich during the imminent budget cuts which we are told are 'across the board'.

Every day, people are being violently oppressed when trying to stop the impacts of environmental exploitation. We remember Ken Saro Wiwa and others who bravely challenged Shell's oil exploration in Nigeria, who received the death penalty instead of being listened to. We remember those people all over the developing world caught in the firing line for challenging environmentally destructive 'development'.

It can be disheartening to witness the continuation of a carbon-heavy, and psychologically unstable system. I wish it was simpler. For me, it is almost possible to wade through the congealed mass of society and see the isolation which is tearing apart its collective spirit. It is, however, still possible to wade through and pick up floating pieces of community cohesion, of youth support, celebration of ethnic diversity, of dignity. But the beauty lies in the interconnected nature of environmental justice - once you unravel one string in the massive tangle that is the problem, it makes it easier to understand the rest.

And how exactly can we hope to agitate, radicalise and empower ourselves for our common goals? Our strength will come in understanding the consequences and implications of those taking action to counteract structural oppression and injustice. Many people experience exploitation, environmental or racial, because certain social structures and policies that interweave their lives are controlled by and benefit disproportionately elite groups at the expense of the masses, limiting people that want to take action on their concerns.

Whenever you hesitate to open the newspaper for fear of fresh daily diagnosis of environmental and social problems, when your stomach churns at the racial or environmental injustice perpetuated by those in power, there is something you can do.

Patrol the police, hold them to account and help them swerve their line of vision to the real corrupt criminals, those lining their pockets at the expense of people and the planet. For us all to stop carbon heavy industry expansion, state repression against environmental refugees and more, we have to understand and support where people are coming from.

Movements mutate and develop by engaging in each others struggles. Fighting for climate injustice becomes the same battle as fighting for racial, class and gender equality, through struggling for the right to voice our concerns, to protest and ultimately - to exist in peace and dignity.

There's your Big Society! There are hundreds of projects out there and a lot to be excited about, from anti-racism projects in your local community to UK wide networks for environmental justice. These interconnections and links are our starting ground in addressing injustices that have raged for generations.

The key to organising in our communities

CtrlAltShift Blog #5 - Jimmy Kerr - Fighting airport expansion has never been easy. At a time of economic turmoil, when people are worried about their livelihoods, the battle for our communities becomes even more challenging. All of this means that Plane Stupid, CtrlAltShift and others must not only be inventive when it comes to organising within our communities, but must fully capitalise on the inspiration created by our actions, integrating our own organisational skills into the momentum that the actions create.

I live near Glasgow Airport, where Plane Stupid Scotland has developed a strategy of building an alliance of groups from a wide range of backgrounds. Each group is involved in different forms of struggle, and will be willing to come together to fight climate change, supporting Plane Stupid's actions and eventually becoming a network of self sustaining and mutually supportive organisations.

This strategy began to take shape in 2008, as the Scottish Government consulted on expanding Scottish airports. Under the aegis of Plane Speaking we held public consultations ourselves, exploring the concerns of residents affected by the proximity to airports. The events were well attended and lots of groups were keen to do something, but there were few ideas of how to move forward and virtually no appetite for direct action. It was clear that we would have to be inventive if were to build any sort of momentum towards creating the network of self sustaining groups that we had imagined.

We then organised a speaking tour with people from the Heathrow campaign who crossed the country holding meetings. It was hoped that these communities would somehow organise themselves on their own, and although this proved difficult, a new kind of network was beginning to take shape. This was a network not of active direct action groups as such, but a network of allies, ready to at least engage with the idea of climate action and, crucially, to lend vocal support. We were beginning to pave the way for the acceptance of climate action and more importantly the creation of a set of alliances that would later explode into life.

It was our closure of Aberdeen Airport that changed the game. Groups that had previously been silent on issues of aviation and climate change now raised their voices. Where I stay in Paisley, just a mile from Glasgow Airport, all kinds of groups including the local Transition Town, the local Trades Council, trade unions and local leftists all gave public support for the Aberdeen action. The same thing was happening across Scotland. Feelers were being put out, enquiries were being made, groups were taking an interest and previously inactive individuals from the places we visited in 2008 were discovering new appetites for climate justice.

The most exciting aspect of this new buzz was the way that different groups were joining the dots for themselves. Anti-poverty groups were making connections between aviation subsidies and fuel poverty, anti-racist groups were angry about the racial effects of global warming and even religious groups began raising their voice, questioning the wisdom of airport expansion as we approach precipice of unstoppable climate change. It was clear that we had to capitalise on this new momentum and try to bring these fledgling allied networks to life. This was the underlying motivation for a public campaign around the trial of the Climate 9.

It was a campaign that really brought different groups out into the open, providing genuine opportunities for collaboration and community organisation. Our original goal of creating self sustaining local groups to fight airport expansion is still some way off, but the seeds of activity are growing, and taking unexpected forms. From collaborations with film makers, to working with human rights lawyers, to creating a legal book for future activists, to completely separate projects like So We Stand, a new network of allied groups fighting poverty, racism and climate change through popular education, activities continue to spread and grow stronger. With this solid foundation, and this new momentum, Plane Stupid Scotland can now set about the task of going back to our communities, with new allies and new perspectives on the links between aviation and climate change.

The important lesson from the Climate 9 experience is that it doesn't matter how knowledgeable you are about organising resistance. It doesn't matter if you know how to organise a world cafe or have an in depth understanding of the work of Paulo Freire. If people don't believe in what you are doing, then your best efforts will be wasted. I believe now more than ever, that people are motivated to act primarily through inspiration, and that creating a bold, audacious action is worth more than a thousand public meetings. The challenge for the Climate 9 now is to use that inspiration and our organisational skills to finally create a strong self sustaining network...

Singing for cheap flights


This is great! Something to cheer us all up for the weekend. I wonder if Micheal O'Leary has seen it - can't imagine him singing along!

Vote for Plane Stupid to win the ViralVideoAward 2010

Time is running out to vote for our Polar Bear Video to win the Viral Video Award 2010. There are 3 prizes up for grabs and we are still in with a chance to win all 3 of them.

The video if you have not seen it, features polar bears falling from the sky with the message being that flying has a major impact on the environment, especially here in the UK where we fly twice as much on average than any other country in the world.

If you need to watch the film for a reminder here's the link:

If not please get voting: