Climate 9: Why closing down Aberdeen Airport was so important
Our guest writer is Jimmy Kerr – one of the Climate 9.
It is hard not be sympathetic with the public when it comes to the complexities of climate change science, especially given the sensationalist nature of our popular media and the recent all out war on climate scientists by right wing sceptics. Trying to find relevant information in academic papers can be even more confusing. This recent study of the climate effects of different modes of transport is a prime example, with aviation cited as by far the most damaging, certainly in comparison to road travel, but only when viewed over a specific timeframe. After a certain time frame, in this case 20 years, the data is all but reversed. Such peculiarities are fuel for the froth mouthed atavists that deny anthropogenic global warming, filling endless inches in the Daily Mail and air time on Shock Jock radio.
However, there is no escaping facts and the most pertinent and simple fact about aviation and global warming is that the growth of the aviation industry cannot continue if we are to stave off runaway climate change. It was for this simple and unavoidable fact that we, the Climate 9, closed Aberdeen Airport in March 2009.
Taking action rarely comes without cost and after being found guilty of Breach of the Peace in June 2010, sentence was passed on August 25th and we each received fines ranging between £400 and £700. Some activists may have seen this point as the end of the climate 9, which is after all merely a group within the Plane Stupid network, defined by the Aberdeen action. Also, in similar fashion, some activists may have seen the verdict and sentence as a defeat. However, in keeping with the complex world of climate change, where the facts are never simple. What might look like the end is actually the beginning and what might look like a defeat is in fact a resounding victory.
For us, the best part of the whole case was the spectacular breadth and depth of support that flooded in from all over the world and it is this diversity of support and the way that we were able to bring these groups together for a public campaign has already left a lasting legacy of collaboration and co-operation, spawning spin off projects and collaborations that would have never existed otherwise. This is what we mean by our action being the start of something rather than an end in itself. Our legacy is also assured by the trial, which saw a number of firsts including evidence from our amazing expert witnesses, who got to speak to the impacts of climate change, the links between aviation and global warming and the need for direct action, all without the molestations of cross examination or objection. This was an amazing first for Scotland, where getting climate evidence before a jury has been a real problem. The legal aspects of the case, including issues surrounding the right to protest will be explored in a forthcoming legal book, which we hope will be of great help to future activists.
We think that in spite of the fines and the verdict, the court case did contain a number of victories, not least the fact that we managed to close an entire airport without going to jail. The global support, the legacy of the action and the legal firsts were all victories. Then there was the fact that for two weeks, in a northerly outpost of the UK, a place that happens to be the oil city of Europe, a whole bunch of people, from the jury, the judge, the lawyers and everyone at court, to the local population and wider public through the news in the public press, were all talking about resistance, dissent and the importance of tackling climate change
We think that it’s very important that people take action to stop runaway climate change and in certain circumstances that might mean breaking the law. This is not easy. You are up against the police, the courts, the might of corporations and Governments, with all their infinite resources, including armies of spin doctors and lawyers and very often the public press and broadcasters themselves. You might get a criminal record of you are convicted. You may even spend time in prison. Yet it remains an undeniable fact, proven by the progression of history from the abolition of slavery to the suffragettes struggle for votes, that challenging unfair laws in the form of direct action remains the most effective, exhilarating and worthwhile form of intervention. It is a simple fact that there is nothing nobler and more effective than risking imprisonment for either forcing justice, or preventing injustice. It is also a simple fact, that there is nothing more unjust than the effects of climate change, nothing so important as saving our planet.