Richard's blog

Just Do It: new documentary into the murky world of direct action movements


Time for a blatant plug: this very cool film, starring some disreputable types (i.e. us), is building momentum behind it. Just Do It is an exciting new feature documentary film that follows the mischievous and risky world of UK climate activists.

In early 2009, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Emily James began filming the clandestine activities of several groups of environmental civil disobedient activists in the UK. Allowed unprecedented access, her footage shows us the people behind the politics, providing the often overlooked human element to their story as we watch them take on the combined forces of global capitalism, run-away climate change and those pesky metropolitan police!

Their adventures will entertain, illuminate and inspire, whilst inciting you to get off your arse and change the world.

Currently in post-production and set for release in early 2011, Just Do It is a film pushing boundaries. It is an experiment in crowd-funding, group production and community-engaged documentary filmmaking. Check it out!

Newham Council is selling its constituents down the river

Over the last three weeks Plane Stupid's estate agents have been planting ‘For Sale’ signs all over East London in honour of Newham's determination to sell their constituents down the river by supporting the expansion of City Airport.

One sign reads: ‘Community For Sale: Contact Robin ‘Weasel’ Wales. Airport Owners Only Need Apply’. Another sign reads: ‘Newham Council: completely sold out to London City Airport’.

Spokesperson Nancy Birch said Newham’s mayor, Sir Robin Wales, must prove he is worthy of his recent re-election by reviewing the council’s decision to allow London City Airport to increase its annual flights from 91,000 to 120,000. Since the council gave the green light to expansion last July, residents all over east and north-east London have suffered from aircraft noise following the introduction of new flight paths.

"Sir Robin is ultimately responsible for protecting the health and wellbeing of people of Newham," said Nancy. "The air quality around the airport already exceeds EU guidelines and now, with the increase in flights, the whole of the east side of London is suffering from higher levels of noise and pollution."

Councils in Havering, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, Bexley and Barking & Dagenham are supporting a High Court challenge by East London campaign group, Fight The Flights, to stop the expansion. Residents in Greenwich and Hackney are also likely to be affected by an increase in flights.

Miss Birch continues: "Following his re-election Sir Robin told reporters, 'We have to fight to defend our people and support them the best we can.' Now he needs to practice what he preaches. We are calling for Newham Council to review its policy on London City Airport and say no to expansion."

Climate 9: you're invited to the London launch!

On Thursday June 3rd, the Climate9 are holding an event in London to launch their campaign. You'll find top civil rights and climate justice advocates and lawyers, speakers from the Climate9 Defence Committee, details of the case from the lawyers, discussion on direct action and using the courts to call for real justice and even the 9 themselves.

The event runs between 6.30-8.30pm at the Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS University, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG. Please send an RSVP to so we know how many are attending (but come even if you forget to let us know!).

Speakers include:

  • Gareth Peirce: leading human rights lawyer and civil rights champion. In a career of more than 30 years, she has appeared for, among others, the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six and the families of the victims of the Marchioness river boat disaster.
  • Suresh Grover: leading civil rights and anti-racism activist and founding member of The Monitoring Group. Over the past 25 years TMG have many led campaigns to help families including those of Blair Peach, Kuldip Singh Sekon, Ricky Reel, Micheal Menson, Stephen Lawrence, Zahid Mubarek and Victoria Climbie.
  • Matthew Todd: editor of Attitude, Britain’s best selling gay magazine, and advocate for diverse action on runaway climate change.
  • John Stewart: the Independent’s ‘Britain's leading environmentalist' and spokesman for campaign group AirportWatch
  • Liz Hosken: advocate for social and ecological justice, Liz co-founded and is Director of the Gaia Foundation, working with a global network of pioneers and visionaries.
  • Jenny Griffiths: “Climate Defence to Protect the Public Health” from the Climate and Health Council.
  • Dr. Geoff Meaden: principal Geography lecturer and key witness at the well-renowned ‘Kingsnorth6’ climate trial.
  • The Climate9 Defendants: Josie Hanson, Jimmy Kerr, Bill Boggia, Dan Glass, Tilly Gifford, Mila Karwowska, Jonny Agnew, Mark Andrews, Kate Mackay
  • Other speakers include: spokesperson for ‘Nottingham 114’.

Check out the Climate9 on Facebook

If you would like a stall please email us or call us on 075351 47478.

Plane Stupid targets Red Bull-shit

Plane Stupid has deposited a large mound of manure outside the south London HQ of soft drink giant Red Bull, because they've applied for planning permission to build an aerodrome opposite London City Airport.

Three activists, dressed as ‘avenging air hostesses’ in wigs and mini-dresses the same colour as the company’s logo, crowned the mound with placards reading: ‘Red Bull-sh*t’, ‘Red Bull gives you (plane) wings’ and ‘No second runway by stealth.’

The company claims that the new control tower, runway and helipads would support its annual air race on the River Thames. But there are growing fears that the company is working with London City Airport and Newham Council to introduce a new heliport and permanent runway for private jets through the back door.

"We believe Red Bull’s claim is bullshit and we’re telling them so," said spokeswoman Elizabeth Baines. "London City Airport is positioning itself a major hub for City executives. We suspect that Red Bull’s planning application is an underhand way of helping the airport to attract private jet and helicopter users. That way, City Airport's owners won’t have to deal with fierce opposition from people in East London who are sick and tired of the noise and pollution from the airport."

London City Airport has been feeling the heat recently. Local campaign group Fight The Flights has launched a High Court bid to stop the airport from expanding its flights volume by 50%. Six local councils have publically supported FTF’s bid. The Greater London Assembly’s Environment Committee is also holding a probe into the effects of the expansion.

"We insist that Newham council turns down this planning application. Red Bull may have high flying ideas but this time we think their wings should be clipped," Elizabeth added.

The joy of volcanoes

Thanks to Sylvie Winn at You Took That Well for this piece of genius. I actually spat cereal onto my keyboard reading it.

Nigel Lawson is an arse

Last Friday, a High Court judge ruled that expanding Heathrow was untenable in law or common sense, partly because it clashed with the Climate Change Act 2008. Residents living in the shadow of the third runway cautiously began thinking the best. But one man knew better. That man was Lord Nigel Lawson of Blaby... and that man is an arse.

Lawson - whose contribution to the climate change debate was to publish a really crap book and start a denialist organisation hell-bent on dissing UEA's research facility - spent the weekend swotting up (and, by the looks of the above photo, enjoying a rather fine glass of sherry or two) in advance of a debate in the House of Lords. Lord Adonis, who needs to show some backbone, given that everyone knows he hates the runway but has been ordered to build it, was answering questions about transport.

Enter Lord Lawson. "The third runway at Heathrow," he reminded his fellow members of the aristocracy, "has been kiboshed by the courts as the direct and predictable result of the Government's absurd Climate Change Act, which was passed with enthusiasm and complete thoughtlessness and acclaimed by all parties in this House and the Commons. Is not the only possible solution - if you think that a third runway is important and I agree with you - to put the Act in suspense?"

That's right. The runway interferes with a law designed to prevent the worst of climate change... so we should... scrap the law? Lawson, you're an arse.

High Court: Heathrow expansion "untenable in law or common sense"

It is a great day to be alive - unless you're BAA or the Government. In one of the most devastating condemnations of Government transport policy ever seen, the High Court has ruled that the case for Heathrow expansion has no economic or environmental basis. The ruling is so damning that the 2003 Air Transport White Paper - the cornerstone of the Government's aviation policy - is now only suitable for lining cat litter trays.

Firstly, Lord Justice Carnwath found that the economic case underestimated the economic impact of climate change - the external cost to society of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. The actual cost is three times larger than the figure used to calculate the economic benefit.

Two years ago WWF and transport academic Keith Buchan found that using proper Treasury calculations and doubling the value of climate change used in the Government's calculations turned the £5 billion claimed benefit into a £5 billion deficit (i.e. it cost society £5 billion). Imagine what tripling the value would do!

Having dispatched the economic case, Carnwath turned to climate change. It was ridiculous, he argued, for the Government to ignore its own legislation, i.e. the Climate Change Act 2008. When the Government rewrites aviation policy later this year, it will have to take account of climate change in a real and considered manner. This means that all airport expansion can be challenged on climate change grounds, until the Government or industry can show how having ever more planes in the sky is compatible with reducing CO2 emissions.

Finally he looked at surface access. The Government claimed that you could increase by around 40% the number of people travelling to Heathrow without turning West London into a giant car park and pushing the Picaddilly line beyond capacity. Nonsense, cried the judge, citing evidence from Transport for London which showed very, very clearly that there wasn't going to be anything like enough road or tube space for all these extra people to fit into.

As if that wasn't enough, Carnwath turned his mind to the wider idea of challenging Government policy at public inquiries. It was not enough for the Government to say "this is our policy, so shut up and take it". While some aspects of policy were cut and dry there were some grey areas which the public had the right to challenge. The need for a particular motorway or airport should be open to challenge and debate, and public inquiries were the forum for doing this.

I've read the occasional verdict in my time, and this one is sensational. It's well worth reading through the judge's reasoning, if only to see just how spurious and ill-thought out the Government's case is. For once, I have nothing but praise for the legal system... normal service to resume shortly!