Monday, August 13, 2007

Should I Go To The Heathrow Protests?

... Is a hypothetical question, really, cos even if I supported them, there are far more pressing demands on my time during the school summer holidays. But it's a hypothetical worth pondering anyway, and I've pondered to the conclusion that I shouldn't.

I'm not one of the saddos who have been phoning Radio 5 all day denying the existence of climate change, slagging off hippies or not giving a toss about the environment. But I do have a problem with a flat opposition to air travel without differentiation.

I think the fact that many working-class people regularly travel abroad is a Very Good Thing. From my parents' generation where only the rich set foot outside these shores, we have progressed to a society where most people in most developed capitalist countries have seen a bit of the world. That's good for quality of life, for broadening horizons, and - union jack boxer shorts notwithstanding - for integration and internationalism. I have no desire to curtail it by objecting to airports or demanding hikes in taxes on flying.

Sure, air travel is not environmentally friendly. But how about curtailing the bloody thousands of probably-unnecessary business flights by people who could almost certainly do their business on a webchat but see world travel as a perk of the top-flight job? How about changing the ridiculous fact that it is cheaper to fly from London to Glasgow than to take the train? And how about changing that fact not by pricing up air travel but by taking the railways back into public ownership and slashing fares?

Maybe Heathrow shouldn't be expanded, but until the protesters make it clear that their demand is not that everyone should holiday in Clacton not Morocco, then I'll not be joining the camp.