Passengers flying over East London now have a new landmark to spot. A group of activists known as the Anthill Mob left the Camp for Climate Action earlier this week, climbed a 100ft tor in Thamesmead and sprayed 'Climate Crime' in indelible paint.
The message - believed to be large enough to see from aircraft flying overhead - comes as a gentle reminder to passengers to stop flying so bloody much. London City Airport recently received local authority permission to expand its commercial flights from 80,000 to 120,000. The airport aims to increase this total to 176,000 by 2030, despite vocal and organised opposition by local people.
A spokeswoman for the group, Penny Pitstop, said that "We are only months away from talks in Copenhagen and big business cannot get away with thinking it can pollute its way out of carbon reduction."
The high-flying habits of the wealthy often come at a severe cost to local residents. Newham - where London City Airport is based – is one of the most economically deprived areas of England. Residents not only fail to reap any significant benefits from the airport but they’re having to deal with the ground level impact including high rates of asthma and respiratory diseases, as well as constant noise.
"It’s now increasingly the champagne-sippers of society who can afford to maintain their commitment to the aviation industry. This is particularly so at London City Airport where most of the flights are business-related," Pitstop continued.
Ask almost anyone under 30 what got them into politics and protesting, and I'll bet you a fiver they mention the Iraq war. For me, nothing symbolised the arrogance of Government more than a war no one wanted, which achieved nothing except the slaughter of hundreds of British troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
So BAA's latest PR campaign, destined for page 13 of local newspapers everywhere, makes me go a special kind of angry. We've already endured them press releasing the launch of the Bike to Work scheme as being part of a carbon reduction strategy; now we're subjected to Operation Patchwork Quilt.
OPQ is a hearts and minds spectacular, in which BAA took all their old security guard uniforms (otherwise destined for the rubbish bin) and gave them to Help for Heroes, a charity which seems dedicated to ignoring the single easiest way we could help the troops - getting them out of the war - in favour of blind patriotism and flag waving. Somewhere along the line they were dutifully stiched into quilts to be given to injured soldiers.
Now I'm sure everyone injured in Iraq and Afghanistan (soldiers and civilians alike) is crying out for a quilt, and that BAA's gratutious attempt to appear part of the community has touched their hearts. After all, a new quilt is a perfect replacement for having an arm or a leg blown off by a roadside bomb in a country you can't find on a map where no one wants you to be - especially if you come back to find your once peaceful village is now under the flightpath of a newly expanded airport.
An interesting turn of events: last year Future Heathrow paid for an advert claiming that a third runway would not increase pollution or noise. Fast forward several months, and the Advertising Standards Agency has just ruled the advert misleading. Naughty naughty!
The normally placid ASA "noted Future Heathrow and BAA firmly believed that the noise and air limits would not be breached, but considered that the evidence we had seen was not sufficient to justify an absolute claim that noise and pollution would not increase following the construction of a third runway." Given that this evidence came from BAA and the Government, they're basically saying that the Department for Airport Expansion and its Ministers were lying.
I feel strangely vindicated, because around about the same time four colleagues and I were prancing about on the roof of Parliament, trying to say exactly the same thing. Sadly we got convicted and fined, while Future Heathrow was merely told not to run the advert again. A bit late really, given that a) they ran it over a year ago and b) they'll just get a new advert made, but I suppose it's the thought that counts.
Oh this is very sweet: the cops wrote to the Camp for Climate Action, asking them nicely to tell them where the party will be happening. And the Camp wrote back, via t'internet.
It's a great video, but all the better because it's so very, very true. I've been at all the Camps so far, and the only problems we ever had were caused by over-zealous cops out to bash some hippies and look cool in front of their mates. Seeing how they've acted at Climate Camp makes me wonder whether the entire police force is made up of thirteen year old boys out on the pull - all bravado and swagger with no brains behind it.
This is in no way inspired by a bunch of my friends getting arrested for 'police obstruction' only to have the case thrown out of court once it became clear that the cops had made the whole thing up... oh well, there'll be some hefty wrongful arrest claims in the next few months, I'll bet.
Anyway, if you're around on Wednesday, come take part in the very exciting Camp for Climate Action Swoop! Basically pick a colour, meet somewhere in London for 12pm, then scamper through the streets, parks and underground network following a series of text messages. We think the cops have agreed to play, so if they catch you, you're out!
When historians of the future look back on the 21st century, there a few things more likely to puzzle them than the aviation industry's ability to spin. How, they will wonder, did anyone ever fall for the idea that Air Passenger Duty - which will add £11 to a short haul flight, and by 2011 a pitiful £60 to a flight to Bangkok - was an unjust, ignoble stealth tax?
But for certain facets of the media, this is the greatest outrage yet inflicted on the world. Sod climate change, starving millions and bankers wiping their pampered bottoms with our taxes: charging people a token amount for flying (while exempting them from any fuel duty or VAT) is the root of all evil. Never mind that Ryanair and others charge you more than that to check in and sit down: it's all the Government's fault.
Complicit in this bullshit is a whole army of people who quite like being in the paper. A while back some numpty at ActionAid tried to justify air-freighting produce on the grounds that it alone was keeping Africa from starvation. She'd decided that a few jobs working with highly toxic chemicals in intensive agriculture was worth the continent slowly drying up from climate change and had failed to grasp that most of the farms are owned by rich white people who give sod all back to the local economy. Sadly the global South's agriculture is not being run by an anarcho-syndicalist collective which shares the wealth and work equally. (Perhaps we'd do better encouraging starving people to eat the beans they're growing for us, rather than sending them over here because we can't bear to just eat seasonal produce.)
The latest publicity addict is Ajaya Sodha, "the chairman of Key Travel, a travel Management company that works in the not-for-profit sector". In a piece in the Times, headlined 'Lives could be saved with money lost to the 'green' travel tax', Sodha claims that development charities are unable to cope with plane tickets increasing and are cutting back their trips abroad. With nothing to gain from a cut in taxes (except more profit for his "travel Management company") Sodha suggests that we should lower (or at least not increase) APD and that doing so would save loads of lives and stuff.
Bollocks. People in Africa are not dying for want of a few NGO types being grounded because of sky-high taxes. They are dying because we keep giving loads of money to dictators, selling weapons to anyone who wants them, stealing all their resources at gun point and allowing murderous companies to operate with impunity. They're also dying, and will be doing so at a growing rate, from climate change: 182 million by the end of the century, according to Christian Aid.
There's something slightly creepy about sending Westerners over to Africa to teach them how to cook and farm. I'm sure that every trip over is purely altruistic, and no one is in the air because they kind of fancied a holiday somewhere exotic which they can justify on work grounds. Seriously, why not train people in Africa to do the work, instead of puffing up the passports of the thousands of International Development graduates SOAS churns out every year?
So if we really want to help Africa, we should: a) stop flying there on culture trips, b) stop buying shit made from stolen African resources, c) stop the arms trade and d) stop trying to steal their grain to make bio-fuels, e) stop climate change before the whole continent becomes a pressure cooker and, most importantly, f) ignore self-serving idiots writing in the Times.
Last week I foolishly lashed out at Mandelson, Airbus, and anyone within reach, annoyed that tax-payers' money was to be spent propping up Airbus while the Vesta workers got handed P45s. Turns out I was wrong. Airbus is one of the good guys, or so their advert in the National Geographic claims.
There's no need to worry about aviation's emissions, because "Airbus sees the bigger picture, and works to minimize environmental impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, lowering fuel consumption, and creating quieter, more efficient aircraft." Doesn't it sound lovely? Hold on a second: reducing greenhouse gas emissions? How on earth does an aircraft do that? Does it suck up and capture the carbon as it flies, like a giant carbon-hoover with wings?
Oddly enough Airbus are simply lying: their emissions, and the emissions of any company which uses their aircraft, are increasing. In fact the whole industry's emissions are increasing, because they keep getting more and more people to fly - partly because misleading adverts like this, with cute chameleons on them, tell people that flying's OK really, because it's like green and stuff.
But the Advertising Standards Agency has woken from its slumber and agreed to make a ruling (after some not inconsiderable persuasion by a colleague). I'm not holding out too much hope - the ASA is as toothless as a new-born - but it's about time someone did something about ridiculous greenwash adverts. Ideally something involving a tin of paint and some creative 'touch ups', but anything would do.
I'm speechless: Mandelson, Prince of Darkness and proud wearer of custard, has just offered Airbus £340 million to keep producing planes. Meanwhile Vestas has closed and 400 hundred green jobs have been lost. Is anyone else getting angry?
I'm finding it quite hard to write anything intelligent or rational about this. I don't want to see 1,200 people who work for Airbus out of work. But I also know that there are hundreds of people on the Isle of Wight who are unemployed because this Government refused to support the only windfarm manufacturer in the UK - and that one of those companies tackles climate change, while the other makes it worse.
Tackling climate change means making tough decisions. Given a choice, this Government and the vested interests it represents will make the wrong decision every time. Mandelson, and everything he represents, has no place in the world we want to build. We need to kick him, and his crony mates, as far from power as we can (and an extra punt for good measure).
While single-issue campaigning is fantastic at exposing a problem, it can't give the systemic critique we so desperately need right now. As hard as we try, Plane Stupid can't do much about the banking sector, labour rights or the theft of resources from the developing world. That's why we need broader campaigns which can show how capitalism and the systems which support make our lives a misery - and help us take action against it.
Conveniently there's loads you can do over the next fortnight if you're as worked up as I am. There's the Climate Camp Cymru this weekend, and the Earth First! Summer Gathering next week, both of which offer workshops, skill-sharing and camp fire chats about how we get out of this mess. Then the Camp for Climate Action kicks off, swooping on a secret location somewhere in the M25 for a very long weekend of naughtiness. Get busy!
This summer, the biggest heavyweights of climate change will face off in a media-friendly extravaganza. In the red corner, emitting 22 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, the UK's single biggest emitter of CO2... Drax coal-fired power station. In the blue corner, weighing in at 13 million tonnes, rising contender and the largest investor owned emitter of CO2... Ratcliffe on Soar coal-fired power station. Who gets blockaded? You decide!
Later this year a whole mob of direct activists - and you - will be descending on a coal-fired power station, and closing it for a short while. Previously these things have been done under the cover of darkness and secrecy, but that can be a bit exclusive. It's hard to get new people to join this growing movement when you can't tell anyone what you're up to!
So the Climate Camp, Climate Rush and Plane Stupid have decided to throw back the covers and expose ourselves to the world by organising a very public day of mass action for the 17-18 October. The target is being voted on, right now, on t'internet. We want to know: where would you rather blockade?
So get voting, get packing, get ready: the Great Climate Swoop is coming to a power station near you. I've no idea when voting will end, but I can guarantee you that someone will win and that there will almost certainly be bunting. Seriously, we've got boxes of the stuff now.