History will be kind to Heathrow climate protesters who stop us flying

(The Guardian, 4 Sep 2019) Activists plan to release drones near the airport. Their possible arrest is a small price to pay for fighting the climate crisis.

Obedience is dangerous: it has facilitated every form of institutional oppression and violence. Every advance in justice, peace and democracy has been made possible by disobedience. Ethical progress is unlikely when we do only what we are told.

We owe our right to vote, our freedom from servitude and subjection, our prosperity and security to people reviled in their time as lawbreakers and reprobates. Breaking the law on behalf of others is a long and honourable tradition. Next week, a few dozen unaffiliated activists intend to start something they call Heathrow Pause. They will each fly a toy drone within the restricted zone around Heathrow airport. The drones will fly nowhere near the flight paths, and never above head height, ensuring they present no risk. But any drone activity forces the airport to suspend all flights. The activists know they face arrest and possibly long prison sentences.

Their plan is to launch their drones consecutively, stopping flights for as long as possible: perhaps for several days. In doing so they seek to denormalise one of the most destructive activities on Earth. Once unthinkable, then a bizarre novelty, then an extraordinary luxury, then a hope, then an expectation, flying – and flying frequently – is now treated as a right. Worldwide, the number of flights is expected to double in 20 years. In the UK, if aviation growth is unchecked, it could soon account for most of the carbon we can afford to burn, if the government is to meet its obligations under the Paris agreement. Even current levels of flying make a nonsense of international commitments. Yet everywhere governments are seeking to expand airport capacity.

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The Guardian, 4 Sep 2019: History will be kind to Heathrow climate protesters who stop us flying