Anna's blog

No Fucking Way

Would you like to give this man the shirt off your back?

BA's Willie Walsh and the other airline bosses want us to bail them out. Possibly to the tune of £20 million for every day of disruption. That's £100 million so far. For an industry that has never paid tax.

They're applying to the EU and national governments, who have apparently already approved a working group on the issue, thought they've generously said that the "European Solidarity Fund" would be the most likely source of support.

At least the banks only screwed over our economy: the airlines are busy screwing over our future and yet when God acts, who do they expect to fork out? Maybe all those teachers who are about to be made redundant, and those patients in wards that are about to close, should try and engineer an earthquake to secure their jobs?

Propping up a sector which is condemning us to runaway climate change would be obscene even if we had the resources to do it. But we don't have the resources to do it, and any government even contemplating giving money to BA & Co. is declaring war on the electorate and public services.

The idea is so mind-bogglingly-laughably-off-the-scale-insane that we can barely believe it's not already been dismissed. Lets be clear about this - We Are Not Happy. We suspect that a lot of other people that have never even thought about aviation before will be quite annoyed too.

Don't imagine any of us will come quietly.

Plane Stupid issues 48hr subvertising challenge

It's that time of year when every airline starts aggresively advertising for your business. Well, we've had enough. Plane Stupid is inviting all of you to take part in its very own subvertising competition.  From Thursday 22nd April - Friday 23rd April, we'll be launching 48 hours of sticker-whacking, subvertising, adbusting pandemonium.

The aviation industry spends millions every year telling us that we're no good to anyone unless we keep flying with them. So it's time to hit back! Like tobacco adverts, aviation advertising needs to become a thing of the past. But until then, let's subvertise. Any poster, advert or billboard is fair game.

Whether you're a first time activist looking for an easy way-in, or an old timer looking for some light's time to take to the streets and reclaim some public space. Taking part is easy:

  1. You can download a choice of designs from our Flickr site, or use your design skills to make your own.
  2. Print them out on standard, non divided, A4 sticker paper (available from most printers and stationers).
  3. Then find your nearest aviation advertisement.
  4. Stick 'em up punk!
  5. Take photographs, set up a new temporary email adress in an internet cafe (under a pseudonym) and email your images to

The group who stickers the most adverts in the 48 hour period wins. Wins what? Prizes! We got the bumper crop of 5 spray cans, Culture Jam by Kalle Lasn, Do It Yourself, A handbook for changing our world, by the Trapese Collective and Scribbleboy by Philip Ridley to give away.

Of course don't feel limited to individual stickers, think big! You can write your own message on large stretches of blank wall paper to cover whole bill boards. Make up some wall paper paste, get a paint roller, a stick it up. If necessary - attach the roller to a broom handle for those hard to reach places. Helpfully, there's some great how-to guides on t'internet.

One last point. Please be respectful about where you sticker. Corporate nasties are fine.....but the local old people's homes may not appreciate your art on their walls!

Use your head, and remember to dress well for the occasion - caps and scarfs are the in thing this subvertising season. Some officers of the law may be convinced that subvertising is borderline illegal, so take a friend as lookout, keep an eye open for CCTV and don't get caught.

The camp, the bling and a cat called Andrew

Last week, without any fanfare or proper consultation Southend-on-sea declared that they would be expanding their airport. Southend is an hour up the line from London. It used to be the East End's top holiday destination, but like so many British seaside towns it's lost out to cheap flights, and the fall of tourism has left it with an interesting growth industry: determined resistance to the ravages of its clueless council. For a flavour of what might be in wait for the airport, here is the story of a cat, a king, and a camp called Bling...

Some years ago in Southend preparations for a road widening scheme uncovered an internationally significant archaeological site: a Saxon King's burial ground. The council decided to raid the treasure and continue with the tarmac. In outraged tribute to their forbears' desecrated goldie looking chains, the locals decided to set up Camp Bling. For 4 years they occupied the land and mounted an incredibly inspiring grassroots campaign, that saw treehouses go up and 100 residents storm a private council awards ceremony.

Eventually the council backed down, and last summer an agreement was made to limit the road widening to a token gesture of 20 metres. The site carefully packed away their defences. Then a couple of months ago the council explained that, while they wouldn't be taking the burial site, they would be going back on their word and expanding 160 metres of road. So camp was set up again, at Cuckoo Corner. Lads who had been too young to be involved in Bling sat up the beautiful beech that was threatened.

For the last three weeks people have occupied the space 24/7, holding off the chainsaws and building a small but sturdy activist centre. On the three Saturday nights before possible eviction, dozens of locals lined the road in readiness. But then the council decided to make a vicious twist with their possession order for the land- just two days before the stated court date, they posted up a hit list of 12 people who they demanded should appeared in conjunction with the case.

Many of the people summoned to court had never even stayed on the site, and one of them, well, one of them was a cat (who had featured in newspaper articles about camp Bling). But it seems that a spot of brazen incompetence doesn't immediately stop Southend council getting their way, and the judge demanded that everyone who showed up to the court case pay costs for the privilege of doing so, and threatened them with contempt of court (and the resulting loss of their assets) if they decided to protest against the tree felling.

On Saturday, just one day after Whitehall gave the final rubber stamp to airport expansion, the bailiffs came in early with fencing, security guards, cutting crew and cranes. Within a few hours the mature trees that had graced the area for over a century were decimated. 50-100 residents gathered in spontaneous protest despite the council's bullying. One man made a bid to lock onto the extraction vehicles but was pulled off.

Camp Bling and Camp Cuckoo have always been clear that their stand was about more than trees and history, however important they know both to be. Ten years after the council tried to pointlessly widen a road, half a dozen trees have been lost from a project that proposed to take out well over a hundred. And many hundreds of people have seen that resistance is fertile, that stupid decisions can be fought, and that land can be won back.

Sticker fun with Plane Stupid

Plane Stupid Towers is delighted to announce our collection of sumptuous stickers. If you are lucky enough to have access to a computer and printer all you'll need is to download the designs from our flickr site and print them out on standard, non divided, A4 sticker paper (available from most printers and stationers).

Ok, so one or two of them are in the tradition of somewhat abraisive satire, but with designs ranging from the cutting edge illustration of Ben Whitehouse, to the classic 'government health warning' label, we hope there's something here for everyone.

In no way are these stickers intended to go on airline adverts, airports, or other places where they might cause people to think about the impact of flying. When going out and about with them we urge you to wrap up warm, making sure you wear a nice hat and scarf for any cctv cameras.

If you happen to see any of our stickers in interesting locations, please take a photo and email it to us, we'd love to compile a gallery.

Grimshaws targetted for involvement in Heathrow third runway

Grimshaws, the architects firm which portrays itself as greener than green, the people who designed the Eden Project, were appointed late last year as architects for the third runway at Heathrow. No wonder three young men blacked-out their glass-fronted offices on Clerkenwell Road with tar.

Grimshaws thought the most sensible thing to do on the one year anniversary of the Government giving the go-ahead to the third runway was to have a high-level meeting with BAA. Imagine their surprise when they found their six-metre plate glass windows entirely blacked out. Not an auspicious start.

If Grimshaws thought this was just another job, then they've bitten off more than they can chew. The suave, award-winning Sir Nicholas Grimshaw has seriously underestimated the determination of thousands of people to stop the third runway ever being built. Actions like this are going to become common place as people recognise that our Government is not doing enough and start taking action themselves.

But this is not just a message to Grimshaws. It is to any firm that bids for work on the third runway. Heathrow's expansion is a poisoned chalice. Just leave it alone.

P.s. the image above is, of course, a cleverly constructed metaphor. See the tar pit. See the elephant, which is representing Grimshaws. See it struggling in the tar. There's an astute political message in there somewhere.

Why aviation decisions this week will be a COP out


Cop 15 is a talking shop of the world's power elite, which is going to produce a 'deal' that will make a lot of bankers rich through trading pollution permits. What would a 'good deal' for aviation look like? Well there are some progressive ideas on the table from the Least Economically Developed Countries, who clearly have the most legitimacy.

A global levy on flights might be a good start, with the proceeds going into an adaption fund for the most vulnerable people. But it would probably need to be administered by someone other than ICAO - the former aviation industry bosses who currently run the international body responsible for aviation at the Climate Change talks who have presided over an unprecedented rise in emissions from flying.

The most radical proposal with any chance of success is the EU's one for +37% increase in aviation emissions by 2020. Which when you consider that the UK is supposedly committed to an 80% cut in all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is ridiculous.

Nobody should rely on the talks at COP15 to sort anything out; what really matters is what happens on the ground with new runways, motorways, coal fired power stations and the rest- which ordinary people have the power to change.

London City Airport gets a makeover


Q: What do you get if you take an idiotic government policy, add a dash of self serving business interest, a sprinkle of corruption, a handful of cash incentives and a short sighted local council, rub them all together and leave them to bake in one of the poorest boroughs in London?

A: London City Airport!

When central government asked all airports in the country to figure out the most effective way to shit on local communities whilst increasing carbon emissions as much as humanly possible – otherwise known as putting together an airport masterplan – London City Airport's owners, Global Infrastructure Partners, began rubbing their grimey money-grabbing palms together with glee. Their time had surely come!

And to be honest, they're doing a pretty good job of taking the piss. Heathrow's third runway may be threatening to bulldoze 700 homes, create a carbon emitting monolith and wipe out any possibility of meeting any climate change targets whatsoever. But do BAA have the self serving arrogance of LCA's owners with their audacious claims that a 50% increase in air traffic from City Airport - achievable only by enticing the business elite to pump increasing levels of noxious emissions and noise across one of the poorest and most polluted areas of London - will actually benefit the local community?

Luckily, even though the airport has bought out the local council (or is it that the councillors have bought the airport?...), and despite their determination to bribe the local community and ignore the fact that we're heading for climate catastrophe, the rest of us are fortunate enough to be able to see through their lies.

So it comes as no surprise that City Airport has been getting a bit of a makeover lately. A little reminder that this battle has only just begun. They'd better watch this space...

What's wrong with biofuels?

Environmentalists are often accused of being a little hard to please. Along comes this great techno fix and we stubbornly question its credentials. We start mumbling about corporate greenwash and false solutions, and ask who stands to benefit. Is the latest solution intended to prevent climate change or to line the pockets of corporate bastards?

Virgin's ventures into biofuels are a great example of this dilemma. The government told us that aviation can’t expand unless it miraculously becomes sustainable - so last year Virgin launched a spectacular stunt, flying from London to Paris on a plane which used 5% biofuels. It was widely hailed by the press as a revolution in the skies; one which would solve climate change and doubtless wipe out jet lag as well. But there are several reasons why Virgin's pilot will never be rolled out widely.

Not only do most of them require more carbon to produce than oil based products, but agrofuels have a catastrophic impact on the ecosystems we rely on to absorb greenhouse gas emissions. The need to grow fuel has exascerbated the already widespread deforestation of the world's ancient woodlands as greedy profiteers send in the bulldozers. As more land is taken from long-established forests and turned over to fuel mono-crops, the earth becomes less able to turn CO2 into oxygen. This is very bad news indeed.

It's not just the planet which is being killed by agrofuels: people around the world are being forced off their land so that western agrobusinesses can grow petrol-plants. Widespread commercial biofuel production has turned land which should be used to grow food used for fuel production and indigenous people driven off the land into extinction. The impact of this is stark: every year an estimated 100 million people die as a result of the rapid introduction of biofuels around the globe. As the UN recognised, agrofuels are the driving force behind last year's food crisis.

Faced with this, Virgin conceded that first-generation biofuels may not be the final solution, but have conveniently found the answer: ‘second-generation’ biofuels. These are sold as a refined and scientific solution to the failings of first-gen agrofuels, but with a great caveat: even if they don’t work, "the history of aviation is full of people doing the impossible".

Unfortunately second generation biofuels have exactly the same destructive impact as the first generation. First there's the issue of supply: the plane needed 150,000 coconouts to fly from London to Paris, despite being only 5% agrofuel. Imagine the amount of land needed to fuel all the planes departing Heathrow.

Aviation may be full of people "doing the impossible", but there are some things which simply can't be done. In 2003, Sir David King, then chief scientist for the Labour government, stated that there was no green alternative to aviation fuel. There still isn't. Rolling out a full programme of biofuel aircraft would lead to deforestation, food shortages and millions of climate refugees. Ask yourself: are you willing to give up eating to fly to Spain?