Posted: September 26th, 2011 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Media | Tags: activism, climate camp, direct action, Plane Stupid, transition | No Comments »
Transition Heathrow jumped on board the transition town movement at a very different stage to most. Where did it all begin?
Four years ago in the small village of Sipson 700 homes faced being completely wiped off the map by a third runway at Heathrow making Heathrow Airport the biggest single source of emissions in the country . In August 2007, the now famous Climate Camp set up in Sipson – one of the three Heathrow villages (alongside Harlington and Harmondsworth) which faced destruction and the loss of livelihoods. Was there support for the camp? Yes there was, as Christine Taylor local resident explains here:
“It came at a time when the campaign against the third runway needed a boost. Local people had battled against expansion plans for years, mostly with passive petitions, polite letters and a little genteel placard waving. It wasn’t until 2002, when hundreds of homes were threatened, that the No Third Runway Action Group (NoTRAG) was formed. Yet we were still playing by the rules, while BAA and the government appeared to be planning to move the goalposts.”
Plane Stupid shuts down Stansted Airport
Another key group which needs to be mentioned when thinking about where Transition Heathrow originates from is Plane Stupid. Plane Stupid – a direct action network against airport expansion and short haul flights, played a big role in the successful campaign to get the third runway stopped – amongst other victories which included scrapped expansion plans at our other major airports; Gatwick and Stansted. As part of the anti third runway campaign one of Plane Stupid’s projects was Adopt-a-Resident; a scheme which partnered local residents with activists from across the country – the idea being that if the bulldozers showed up activists and residents would stand side by side to stop them. This is when we really started to get to know the area – the people, the community, the history.
Of course we need to stand up to corporate climate criminals such as BAA but for many we didn’t feel like this was enough. It is daring, brave and scary facing arrest by putting your body on the line to create change but a far more overwhelming task is creating more longer lasting change. The need for a long term vision based on community resilience in the Heathrow villages was clear and luckily enough someone had a plan. As part of a university project someone from Plane Stupid had drawn up a long term vision for the Heathrow villages – and the vision was called Transition Heathrow. All it needed was some people to move down there.
And so six of us did. In October 2009 six Plane Stupid members moved into Harlington and set about setting up a Transition Town – a very daunting task having only read Rob Hopkins’ “Transition Handbook” and not knowing much else. Firstly we just observed. We went to all the local meetings and found out what made the community tick, what people’s interests were and more importantly where we should be putting our time and energy. One thing that was immediately clear was that there were no community spaces – nowhere for people to come and discuss all the plans and ideas that people had while the runway was still on the cards.
We had been cycling past this abandoned plot of land every week with three broken greenhouses on it when one day we decided to stop and have a look – the site was in a state but looked perfect for everything we wanted to do; growing, setting up a community space etc. We asked the local community about the idea of squatting it and to our surprise we were overwhelmingly told to go and do it.
Grow Heathrow before and after
And this is where I sit now writing this blog. On land that was to be tarmaced we have created Grow Heathrow – a squatted community market garden which offers a positive alternative to the power structures that build runways on peoples homes for profit. We now have a base from which everything happens and where the ideas of making the transition to a low-carbon post-oil future spring off from. A year and a half on and the site has been transformed from a derelict mess into a thriving hub for local residents and activists to meet up, share knowledge and share practical skills for a future threatened by climate change and peak oil.
This blog was taken from the Transition Network website as part of their new social reporting pilot project.
Posted: August 25th, 2010 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Events, Media | Tags: activism, direct action, Plane Stupid | No Comments »
Nine Plane Stupid protesters who shut down Aberdeen airport on the morning of March 3rd 2009 appeared in court today to finally receive their sentences. The judge and court took the protesters’ urgent message on climate change seriously and gave out very modest fines ranging from £300 to £700 each adding up to a total cost of around £4000 – £5000.
Crowds of activists, local supporters and press gathered outside Aberdeen Sheriff Court at 10am for the sentencing hearing of the Climate 9, the group recently found guilty of Breach of the Peace for occupying the city’s airport last year. During the two week trial in June, expert witnesses explained how aviation emissions are fuelling climate change and detailed some of the local effects, including flooding impacts.
In anticipation of the sentencing one of the trial’s expert witnesses Dr Geoff Meaden said:
“Society’s problem is that, other than through civil disobedience, there are often no legitimate means of getting governments (at any level) to ‘act correctly’ or to act in the best long term interests of people, environments or indeed the planet. In the absence of such a ‘jury’ or ‘commission’, then we have to be glad that there are groups such as Climate9 who are bold enough to bring to the public’s attention existing injustices.”
Since the trial the group has also received support from communities around the world, suffering from climate change effects, with commitment to keep the 9 active in taking action to stop runaway climate change. The group have vowed to continue their campaign highlighting the danger of aviation carbon emissions.
Dan Glass, one of the Climate9 members said:
“Against the backdrop of the Copenhagen Summit failures and new waves of climate chaos, all over the world people demanding climate justice have complained to the politicians and to the judges. It’s time we did something for ourselves. The Climate9 will not uphold increasing state and police repression and camouflage the struggle that is climate injustice. The Climate9 provide an opportunity to spread the need for urgent action, to halt airport growth and to challenge the authorities with pride and confidence. Whatever we received today, this climate court trial won’t be the last time. Our future and the health of every species is too important to leave it in the hands of the few.”
One such group is The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland who passed this in the AGM in response to the Climate9 movement.
“Affirm that there are times when non violent direct action involving potential and actual civil disobedience in the form of deliberate lawbreaking, may be regarded as a legitimate approach to expressing the Gospel.”
2 days before sentencing one of Britain’s best-known defence barristers also threw his weight behind the Climate9 before they were due to be sentenced in Aberdeen Crown Court. Michael Mansfield QC said
“As I write one fifth of Pakistan, already blighted by earthquakes, is covered with flood waters threatening the health and safety of over six million people. Without conscientious and principled protest which focuses on the undoubted factors which contribute to this decimation of the environment, the urgency of the problem will not be addressed. I trust these entirely legitimate and selfless objectives will be reflected in the way the Climate 9 are judged by the court.”
Jimmy Kerr, one of the Climate9 members said:
“The trial generated public support from many corners keeping up the pressure on the legal system to one day recognise the importance of environmental action. Indeed we need to keep that momentum up. There is so much knowledge to be shared as a result of this case, from and legal issues, to public health to popular education and much much more. We can offer talks, workshops or advice and you can help by arranging an event and inviting us to take part.”
Posted: July 14th, 2010 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Plane Stupid | No Comments »
For me, Transition Heathrow was born of a desire to take my activism to the next level. I’d been involved in environmental activism, in particular with Plane Stupid, for a few years, and had seen the incredible impact that genuine community based campaigning such as our ‘Adopt a Resident’ scheme could have. The campaign matched up residents whose homes were threatened by the expansion of the 3rd runway with activist groups from across the country who promised to support them if the bulldozers came to knock down their homes.
Moving into the area myself seemed like the next logical step. And so, together with a group of 5 other PS activists who shared this slightly terrifying vision, I upped and moved last year into the village of Harlington.
The project itself had a good grounding – Paddy had managed to blag doing a project as a part of his MA which basically set out all the strategic thinking behind why Heathrow was such an interesting case study for this sort of exercise, and all of us had become regulars in the local area, attending events and getting to know the locals. Our rationale was that Heathrow had the potential to become an iconic point of positive resistance, of transition justice and a high profile example of a grassroots solution to climate change and peak oil because it brings together so many different emotive issues: the destruction of community, health impacts of aviation, the environment.
The reality of changing our lives, of living the campaign on a day to day basis, has been far from what I expected. The first 5 or so months of our time here were spent embodying the first permaculture principle: ‘Observe and Interact’ (with the odd milestone intersecting that, like our “holiday” to Copenhagen), before we kicked off our biggest endeavor so far at the beginning of March and squatted an abandoned market garden site, reopening it as a community space called ‘Grow Heathrow’.
Rather than the uphill struggle against overwhelming odds that I expected when we decided to take the battle over the 3rd runway, and wider issues besides, to BAAs doorstep, we have found ourselves welcomed with open arms.
For the first time in my life I actually feel a part of a geographical community. The local residents have been incredible, supporting us, mucking in at Grow Heathrow and working with us to shift the monumental amounts of rubbish that were on the site. We are now at a point where we have two fully glazed greenhouses, more corguettes and tomatoes than you can shake a stick at, and a declaration that the 3rd runway is officially dead in the water.
Last weekend all our hard work came to a head, when we hosted an entire area at the local Hayes Carnival. It was a glorious day, in baking sunshine, that saw us roping off our own patch of the park with meters and meters of bunting, setting up a solar powered stage, a bike powered smoothie maker, a growing area, and last but not least a solar cinema that was hosted by Just Do It, showcasing some fantastic films. Whilst it was a totally exhausting experience, Hayes Carnival was a measure of our success so far, bringing together residents, activists and local politicians to demonstrate the strength of a united community.
The fight is by no means over – our original desire to make the Heathrow villages a beacon of sustainability remains, as does the need to support this community that has been blighted for so many years by the overhanging threat of airport expansion. The runway may be long gone, but we’re not going anywhere.
Posted: June 28th, 2010 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Media | Tags: activism, direct action, Plane Stupid | No Comments »
Last year the Climate 9 stopped tonnes of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions by disrupting operations at Aberdeen Airport. You can see leaked footage of the action by clicking here. After deliberating for 4 hours, the majority of the jury in Aberdeen- the ‘oil capital of Europe’, found them guilty of breach of the peace. They will be sentenced in August.
The court of international opinion has come to a slightly different verdict, with messages of support flooding in from those on the frontline of climate change and commentators like John Pilger and Mike Mansfield QC.
This is the first time since the failure of the Copenhagen process that evidence of the dangers of climate change and aviation emissions have been presented by climate experts to a jury.
Speaking during the trial, expert witnesses Dr Alice Bows and Dr Geoff Meaden shocked many by explaining that the UK governements emissions targets are not radical enough to prevent future generations from experiencing catastrophic events. Like the flooding in Brazil this week, where 100,000 people have been made homeless, 1,000 peoplle are missing and at least 42 people sadly lost their lives.
These horrific events are why we must continue to take action to stop greenhouse gas emmissions, especially when the response from the government is woefully inadequate.
As one of the defendants, Jimmy, explained outside the court:
“While they talk, and nothing changes, people all over the world are starting to act. Even if it means standing up against the states use of legal intimidation. This verdict shows that the mechanisms of the establishment won’t stop run away climate change. The expert witnessess have shown that we must take effective action, the protest at Aberdeen has shown that we can.”
Posted: June 14th, 2010 | Author: Joe | Filed under: Media | Tags: activism, Copenhagen, direct action, Plane Stupid | No Comments »
The first major climate trial since the failure of the Copenhagen talks has begun in Aberdeen Sheriff’s court this morning.
Nine defendants from Plane Stupid Scotland will face charges charges of Breach of the Peace and Vandalism after closing down Aberdeen Airport in March 2009 (hyper link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/north_east/7924952.stm ). The group were highlighting the climate impacts of expanding the airport which they argue is mainly to support wealthy golfers at a proposed near by course owned by business tycoon Donald Trump.
Interest has been building around the case since Climate 9 public campaigns were launched in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and London, which have drawn global and local support for the group and helped forge alliances with social justice campaigners and racial justice movements.
The defendants are pleading not guilty on the grounds that their actions were to prevent the larger crime of runaway climate change and have assembled a witness list of world-renowned experts in climate related fields including public health consultant Jenny Griffiths and Geoff Meaden, who contributed to the successful Kingsnorth6 defence as a flooding and mapping expert. The defendants were joined outside court by around 50 friends, families and supporters.
For more information, statements of support and how you can help the Climate 9 see:
or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 077655 01687
Posted: December 6th, 2009 | Author: George | Filed under: Media, Residents | Tags: activism, Architect's Awards, Pascall and Watson, Plane Stupid | No Comments »
Plane Stupid activists along with three residents from Heathrow have targeted one of the potential third runway designers at this year’s Architects of the Year Awards held at London’s Intercontinental Hotel. Architect group Pascall and Watson, nominated for Transport Architect of the Year, have been at the forefront of airport expansion since the early 1960′s.
The activists stormed the podium and gave a short speech before offering Pascall and Watson the ‘We don’t give a Shit’ award in recognition of their 50 year aviation portfolio which includes expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, Manchester, Dublin and Abu Dhabi airports.
Other activists handed out leaflets to the audience. Once the award had been presented the activists left of their own accord.
Tracy Howard, 35 year old mother of two and barmaid at the King William IV pub in Sipson – which will be destroyed if a third runway is allowed to go ahead – said:
“We’re here today to let the architecture world know about the diverse and growing movement against the third runway and airport expansion across the country. Those involved with airport expansion will have to include this growing opposition in their designs and in their budget”.
Joe Ryle, 18, Plane Stupid activist and Heathrow resident said:
“Architects bidding for the third runway contract, or any other new runway, can expect to see a lot more of us. We presented them with the ‘We don’t give a Shit’ award both to recognise their contribution to destroying our homes and to say that trying to build a green airport is like trying to polish a turd.”
Posted: December 4th, 2009 | Author: Becky | Filed under: Media, Residents | Tags: Plane Stupid, PR Awards, Residents, Virgin Atlantic | No Comments »
Last night seven Plane Stupid activists and one Heathrow resident popped over to the PR Week Awards and hijacked a table reserved for Virgin Atlantic. Virgin Atlantic have been strong advocates for the third runway at Heathrow and expansion of Britain’s airports, which we thought they shouldn’t get away with.
Dressed in glamourous evening wear, the activists entered the glitzy awards, which celebrates the highlights of the year’s public relations work. They occupied Virgin Atlantic’s table and refused to leave.
Christine Taylor, who lives next door to Heathrow and whose mother is due to lose her home if Heathrow’s third runway goes ahead said:
“It’s crazy to build more runways around London – we already have six. My mother wants to live out her days in her own home, but the bully boys of aviation think their profits are more important. Tonight at the PR awards we gave them a taste of what it’s like to be turfed out of your rightful place.”