I didn’t plan to publish a post today, but then something happened that made me very angry – the UK government backed plans for a new runway at Heathrow airport. It may seem like a silly thing to get worked up over, but its impact will be huge.
One MP said the new runway would be “good for everyone”. Meanwhile, 700 families are set to have their homes demolished to make way for it, and half of one village will be destroyed. The government is offering compensation to the affected residents, as if any sum of money could make up for the loss of their homes and community.
Unlike many major airports, Heathrow is situated in a densely populated area, and thousands are already affected by noise and air pollution. In the UK, more than 40,000 people a year die as a result of air pollution, and the new runway will only make things worse; there will be hundreds of thousands more flights a year, and 50% more flights over London.
According to the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, “There are more people affected by noise because of Heathrow than people affected by the airports in Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich and Madrid combined.” He also points out that air pollution around Heathrow is already above the legal limit.
There are hundreds of schools along the flight paths from Heathrow – one has even built shelters in the playground to protect children from the noise. It’s worrying that such measures are necessary, even more so considering that an additional 124 schools will be affected after the expansion.
One of the main arguments for the runway seems to be “Other European airports have more runways than we do”. It’s like a bizarre form of keeping up with the Joneses, culminating in the destruction of the environment.
Supporters of the plans insist a new runway is necessary to boost the economy and create jobs. They argue that Heathrow is currently stretched to its full capacity and needs to put on more flights.
How short-sighted we are to put the growth of the economy before the health of our planet. How ignorantly we claim to need more planes, when air pollution is killing thousands. Rather than encouraging people to fly less, we’re about to spend millions enabling them to do the exact opposite.
Popular tabloid The Sun called those objecting to the plans on environmental grounds “Green loonies”. What a world we live in, where those fighting for the health of the planet are considered mad, but those destroying it are perfectly sane.
On a more positive note, it’s still not certain that the plans will go ahead; the public consultation is still to come. With many Conservative MPs also opposing the expansion, there’s still hope.
I encourage you to read up on the Grow Heathrow protest camp, situated in an abandoned market garden in a village set to be demolished. They’ve created an almost self-sufficient community hub, growing their own food and using renewable energy. It’s a shining example of the way things could be.