Anna's blog

Biofuels a solution? you're pulling my...

Let's be clear, we at Plane Stupid don't like getting our kit off, not in this sort of weather, but we're prepared to go to some lengths  to get word out about the bare faced cheek of biofuels.

The launch of the countries first commercial biofuel flight from Birmingham is a terrible departure for aviation. While the industry claim that biofuels offer a greener future for flights, respected environmental and social justice organisations from Friends of the Earth to The World Development Movement and Christian Aid believe that they will make a bad situation worse. Why?

Because waste veg oil as a solution just doesn't add up. Demand from road transport vehicles for recycled oil currently far outstrips supply. Optimistic estimates suggest that at best the UK produces enough waste veg oil to replace 0.6% of UK vehicle diesel. With road transport being much more efficient than flight, anyone with basic maths can see that used veg oils will never be a viable solution. A recent article in the aviation trade press highlighted that many insiders don't think the groundless hype will stand up to scrutiny either.

The first commercial biofuels flight launch followed a delay of some months, after Thomson found they couldn’t source enough used cooking oil even for one short haul flight a week from one airport. They ended up importing it from the States. Not only that, but they have recently announced, without explanation, that they won't be running the once a week commercial biofuel fights to Lanzeroti they proudly promised to the media and customers. They're now promising to run daily flights from the new year.

So what was the stunt all about? The industry is legally obliged to meet carbon reduction targets, and currently, biofuels are registered as being a way to collect carbon brownie points. This is despite widespread recognition that the only commercially used options are based on nasties like palm oil and jatropha, which have already been responsible for the trashing of vast tracts of rainforest. They are a massively inefficient way of making fuel that destroys the very ecosystems we need to control runaway climate change. While encouraging massive land grabs that rob the worlds poorest people of their homes and food. Thomson think that by softening up the public with recycled oil, they can get a nice green sheen on the term 'biofuels' before turning the system over to the neocolonialist disaster of mass plant oil imports.

Those of us who took part in the action had spoken directly to colleagues in Columbia the previous month who described the devastating impact palm oil production was already having on the forest they lived in. 7 hours in the cells and a charge of 'causing an annoyance' pass quickly when you can still hear their voices in your head.

Video of Take VAT action at Heathrow airport

Chaotic scenes at Heathrow airport as police chase protesters round the terminal building. By the time they were chucked out - there point had clearly been made. Big ups to You and I Films for this one. Read the full action report here.

Exit through the departure lounge

A painting of Bristol Airport sunk beneath a kitsch seascape appeared on the walls of Bristol City's museum today. Plane Stupid received a report at 12.30pm that a painting, which appears to be a Banksy, had been spotted next to the recently closed exhibition on aviation.

The graffiti artist has previously enjoyed a close relationship with the institution, his exhibition there in 2009 featured several modified landscapes and drew round-the-block queues. But Banksy's reputation is built on his talent for the subversive, and it seems that he's returned to pass comment on 'Flight', the recent aviation industry exhibition.

We're not surprised that Banksy would want to throw a cheeky word in on this one. Expanding Bristol Airport at a time of climate crisis is a seriously dark joke. The unprecedented flooding on Pakistan and Australia have painted a pretty bleak picture of what all our futures could look like.

Minister Eric Pickles recently decided to approve the tarmacking of greenbelt land to expand Bristol Airport, which is expected to add 30,0000 more tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year.

We just can't afford to keep heating the skies. Especially when so many of us can't even afford to heat our homes. It's crazy to put taxpayers' money into new roads for Bristol Airport at a time when public services are suffering massive cuts.

To add insult to injury, as anyone whose been keeping up to date with their Airportwatch reading will know, the west country can expect the airport to export money and jobs from the tourism industry. The UK's annual 'tourism deficit' from aviation is estimated to be at around £17 billion every year. This figure doesn't take into account the loss of revenue created by the lack of VAT on aviation fuel, which effectively subsidises the industry by about £9 billion a year. Almost enough to buy a Banksy...

Grow Heathrow defiant in face of eviction threat

The squatted community garden in Sipson, Heathrow has been served a court summons for eviction. Don't worry though: we've no intention of leaving.

On the 1st of March this year we reclaimed a neglected plot of land called the Berkeley Nurseries in Sipson on the planned site of the 3rd runway.

For the last six months we've worked with residents to rejuvanate the former-market garden: shifting 30 tonnes of rubbish, growing seasonal food, hosting permaculture workshops and a banquet attended by 80 people as well as supporting the successful No Third Runway campaign.

Grow Heathrow is part of a budding land movement in the UK connecting struggles to take back control of our food production. In building resilient communities to environmental and economic crises we want to defend real alternatives to the systems of false democracy and corporate greed.

We are in negotiations with the landowners for long-term community ownership, and so for the while we ask you to support us in the upcoming struggle by:

Please email if you have any skills, ideas or experience to contribute in resisting this threat.

Please forward to your networks and post on your blogs.

With love,

Transition Heathrow

Moving roads for airports - Birmingham gets critical

While the country holds its breath to discover what our oh-so-functional democracy will deliver in the next few days, it seems that new runways at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick are way down the agenda, if not totally dead in the water. Airport expansion outside of London is likely to be the new front line for aviation, so this weekend Manchester and Birmingham activists were out and about.

In Birmingham on Saturday we faced down farcical planning and rain. Students representing universities from across the Midlands gathered with folk from Birmingham Critical Mass, Friends fo the Earth, Coventry Peace House, and the Greens to take a sound system for a ride along the A45.

We started from outside Birmingham City Council, who, along with Solihull council, recently decided to move the road so that Birmingham International can expand. The council has failed to reveal exactly how much they intend to spend on this inspired project, but it's looking like £32 million of public money. That's £32 million just to prop up the profits of a buisness that intends to subject residents in the area to the emissions and noise polltion of 17,000 new flights every year.

It was a damp but often joyous 10 mile ride to the airport. We shook off our cycle cop escort after the first mile or so, and proceeded with some fine bike dancing and much ringing of bells to the A45, where we experienced the underbelly of incoming planes up close and personal. With blossom, snacks and many innovations in the assisting of heavy trailers up hills, it was a good day for new alliances and possibilites.

Southend on Sea in need of seasonal solidarity


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.

Sticker Frenzy - national results now in for 48 hrs of Subvertising

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.

In the Most Ridiculous category Reading's brilliantly random use of an axe head was cutting edge stuff, but overall the winner must be Brighton for their inspired re-workings of bland pretty women shots and insolent children.

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.

Revolution disguised as gardening

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.

For more information about permaculture, check out the Permaculture Association.