Extinction Rebellion (XR) targeted Luton Airport over the weekend to protest against plans to expand the airport. The environmental protest movement unveiled banners within the terminal, and then occupied a roundabout on the approach road to the airport.
The protest included activists from Luton alongside members of XR from the region, united in a call to cancel the expansion. No arrests were made.
Luton Airport’s current proposal calls for a doubling in passenger numbers, from 16 to 32 million passengers a year. While plans have been postponed because of the Coronavirus and its effect on the aviation industry, XR insist that they should be scrapped altogether. Flying is a major contributor to climate change, which is already causing widespread devastation in many parts of the world. The airport expansion would also cause a rise in noise pollution, air pollution and traffic, as well as claiming large sections of Luton’s Wigmore Park.
“Floods in India, fires in California, Louisiana counting the cost of storm Laura – and Luton Airport is expanding” says local activist Jeremy Williams. “Expanding the airport is utterly irresponsible at a time of climate emergency.”
“We understand that the airport supports council spending, and how important that has been during a decade of Tory austerity,” says Williams, a Luton resident. “But we cannot continue to grow and depend on that income at the expense of future generations, of the world’s most vulnerable people, and of those who suffer today from the noise and pollution from the airport.”
Protests were held at other airports across the country on Saturday, including Gatwick, Stansted and Bristol. XR will turn their attention to London and Parliament from Tuesday September 1st.
C.S.I. EARTH INVESTIGATE HOMEBASE ECOCIDE
A Luton branch of Homebase was the target of a protest on Saturday for continuing to sell the potentially deadly RoundUp weed killer. Members of “C.S.I. Earth” taped off an area of the store as a crime scene in a theatrical display to highlight the toxic effects of the RoundUp weedkiller on humans bees and the wider ecosystem.
Extinction Rebellion Luton conducted the action to target chemical manufacturer Bayer, owner of the RoundUp brand and manufacturer of the active ingredient glyphosate. Glyphosate is also used in other brands of weedkiller marketed for home use, as well as widely used in agriculture and urban weed killing.
RoundUp was purchased by Bayer from Monsanto in 2018, despite doubts about the safety of the RoundUp formula, which also contains other chemicals. The doubt was sufficient enough for the State of California to add it to their list of known carcinogens in 2017.
While Bayer admits no liability or wrongdoing, they did recently reach a $10 billion settlement for 95,000 US cancer patients who claim their disease was caused by RoundUp. Further to the human risk, Glyphosate has been shown to impact the development of young bees and could contribute to the failure and death of bee colonies. With the global population of bees in decline, Glyphosate is one of a number of chemicals widely used in agriculture that are suspected to be responsible. The loss of bees, a critical pollinator, could cause crop failure and famine.
Extinction Rebellion Luton asks that Homebase and other suppliers follow the good example set by B&Q and withdraw RoundUp and other Glyphosate based weed killers from their shelves, to ensure the health of their customers, bees and our ecosystem. Bayer themselves are even marketing Glyphosate-free versions of RoundUp which can be stocked instead.
Saturday the 1st of August saw bridges in Luton draped with banners and campaigners with placards as Extinction Rebellion Luton joined forces with Trees4Luton and local residents in support of the ‘Save Vauxhall Way Trees’ campaign, to prevent the felling of a mile and a half of roadside woodland along Vauxhall Way in Luton.
The sound of horns from supportive drivers rang along the length of the road, as drivers shared their dismay at the unnecessary plan to replace the wildlife corridor, a woodland habitat for bats, owls and hedgehogs with a dual carriageway and large multi-lane junctions. Campaigners ask for the scheme to be dropped, considerably redesigned, or applied only to the section closest to the airport, to preserve as many trees as possible.
The council is accused of ‘green-washing’ the plan with a new joint walking/cycle path that is unnecessary as cool, quiet woodland walking and cycle routes already exist on parallel roads. The council declared a state of Climate Emergency in January and committed to becoming a carbon neutral town by 2040, but critics say that the council’s attitude so far does not reflect this, as they continue to push for airport expansion and road expansion to sustain it, cutting down hundreds of mature trees essential to mitigate pollution and carbon emissions from the town.
“I have contacted the council and met with them about these plans, but been ignored” Says Steve, Hartsfield Road resident for 30 years who joined the campaign after meeting protesters on Saturday, “I am happy that others feel the way I do about our community and the nature around us. We need to press home the value of keeping green spaces for all to enjoy”
“The two potential future developments used to justify the plan, airport expansion and a 1000+ home estate on Eaton Green Road, look highly unlikely to proceed” Said campaigner Mark Rees, “so all we are saying is, give trees a chance!”
Join our Campaign to stop this beautiful wildlife corridor from being destroyed.
Sign the petition: change.org/VauxhallWay
Join our FB Group Save Vauxhall Way Trees
XRLuton fully support the “Save Vauxhall Way Trees” campaign.
Come along to Wigmore Park on Saturday 18th July, 11am, to meet for Samba Band rehearsal – skills not needed, just a drum or next best thing, or just a willing to take part in related actions 🥁🥁🥁
Follow this link to sign the Change.Org petition: http://chng.it/ZCKSPxBJ
Join the Facebook Group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/3626396450704257/?ref=share
Today (Thursday 25th June 2020) the Climate Change Committee deliver their progress report to government. At the same time, activists from Extinction Rebellion marched through Luton Town Centre to deliver letters to the town’s MPs and Council leaders, demanding action on the climate emergency.
The CCC report is expected to confirm that government has failed to introduce policies to support its own target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and without a step change in climate policy, the target will not be achievable.
Letters will remind Luton Council it has formally declared a Climate Emergency and pledged to reduce Luton’s emissions to net zero by 2040. Similarly, no policies have been formed, or actions taken.
The Coronavirus has presented the council with major funding problems, however the climate emergency must remain a priority for the sake of present and future generations of Lutonians.
“All that is needed to tip the climate into catastrophe is a return to normal” said XR Luton member Jim Peacock. “If the government does not act now, it will be in dereliction of its most basic duties to protect its citizens. Ignoring the crisis will only highlight that they are more interested in propping up a toxic, exploitative system. It could cease wasting money on airport expansion to help pay for essential services, benefitting the climate at the same time”.
Letters were delivered by hand to Luton Labour’s offices, with activists making a go-slow walk from the town hall. Letters were also delivered on behalf of members in isolation.
Today’s action in Luton was part of a nationwide protest, as similar letters were delivered to MPs across the UK. It marks the beginning of XRs campaign for a post-lockdown climate recovery.
XR Luton ladies were invited to a Precious Pearls event for women, at High Town Methodist Church.
It was a great event with lots of interesting speakers, then there was a piano player, singing and dancing, making this quite a giggle! The emphasis was on caring for Mother Earth, and it was wonderful to hear that so many women are aware of the Climate Crisis and want to be part of the change we all need.
We set up a stall with Rachel’s beautiful table cover, and our new leaflets which show Extinction Rebellion are more than a group of complainers – we are searching for solutions and have some of the answers to create our future. Lot’s of positive conversations and connections made with this community.
Thanks Ann for organising the event, hope to see you for another one soon!
Physicist Dr Robert Basto will appear at Luton Magistrates Court this week charged with not leaving the airport when requested (bylaw 2.24) after attempting to hand out leaflets alerting people to the climate emergency.
Dr Basto’s arrest took place at London Luton Airport on 18 January 2020, where Extinction Rebellion protesters were preparing to march from the airport to the town centre, to demonstrate against the proposed airport expansion.
Dr Basto entered the terminal building with other demonstrators to hand out leaflets. Police stated leafleting was not permitted and arrested Dr Basto as he approached a member of the public with a leaflet.
He will attend a plea hearing at Luton Magistrates Court this coming Thursday 20 February at 2:00pm, where he intends to plead not guilty.
Dr Basto said:
“Whilst handing out leaflets may be against the bylaws at Luton, being arrested is a heavy handed and extreme response to the peaceful act of informing people of the dangers we face.
Leafleting has been allowed at Gatwick and other airports. Luton Council own the airport and have declared a climate emergency in January, so I hope they will reconsider this policy of not allowing passengers to be informed of the detrimental effects of flying.
We are at a critical point in human existence, we have little time to avoid catastrophe due to the destabilised climate. This is a time when courage is needed to face up to the challenges ahead and accept that change is needed, both by industry and individuals – we urgently need to reduce the amount of flying we do.”
Rob Basto, 72, from Reigate, Surrey has been campaigning on issues relating to the climate emergency for nearly 20 years. He was one of the “Heathrow 13” who blocked the runway at Heathrow airport in 2015 and has also campaigned against fracking – the use of environmentally damaging techniques for the extraction of oil and gas in the UK.
Dr Patil Mead, a supporter of Extinction Rebellion from St. Albans who was also in the airport says:
“The climate & ecological emergency is a health emergency. As a doctor I feel unable to stand by knowing the well-recognised public health effects of climate change, particularly in view of the more immediate & specific health effects of the aviation sector in airport locations. Luton Council’s own 2018 report highlighted 86 excess deaths in the vicinity of the airport, even before the proposed expansion.
The lack of value for the health and lives of those based in Luton is both medieval and criminal. Action taken to highlight this disproportionate effect on normal people is not the moral crime here. The draconian response from the airport authorities to conceal their ethical crime against local residents demonstrates the complete disregard that the establishment has for normal, hardworking people.”
Nigel Harvey a supporter of Extinction Rebellion from St. Albans who was also in the airport says:
“We are in a climate emergency. We are running out of time to make the radical changes needed to tackle the crisis. We must face what David Attenborough described as irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies. And yet, Luton police and airport management would not even allow us to peacefully distribute leaflets to travellers. It beggars belief. It is immoral.”
Luton Council own 51% of London Luton Airport. The council declared a climate emergency in January this year.
The Heathrow 13 from the campaign group Plane Stupid blocked the North runway at Heathrow for around 6 hours in 2015. They were found guilty of aggravated trespass and given 6 weeks suspended custodial sentence.
“What passion and creativity!”
“A riot of colour and sound!”
“How can seven people dressed in red have such a powerful impact?”
These were some of the comments heard in Luton Town on Saturday, at the end of a day when about 150 people marched from Luton Airport to the town centre, singing, drumming, dancing and showing the town that airport expansion is just wrong.
The demonstration had been organised by Extinction Rebellion, and for the first time in Luton, the Red Rebels were seen, silently and mysteriously mourning both the animals that will die if climate change is not halted, and the people already dying as a result of air pollution.
Yet the Red Rebels were also triumphant:
The demonstration was a mixture of sorrow and triumph. Sometimes the music for the walkers was hauntingly beautiful. At other times, there were drum beats, dances, slogans and chants.
“Say no. Say no. Say no to airport expansion”, came the chants again and again.
There was acknowledgement of achievement, as well as protest.
“The Council HAVE been listening to us”, declared Extinction Rebellion member Jeremy Williams, when he spoke to the public at the end of the demonstration. Luton Borough Council has finally declared a Climate Emergency. Nevertheless, Extinction Rebellion will continue to lobby the Council, pressing them to stick to their intentions.
“We aren’t just about demanding action from other people and protesting about stuff”, he explained. “We’re going to work with the Council all the way. We want to be constructive, and part of the solution”
Steve Lyall, another member of Extinction Rebellion, explained some of context for the day’s demonstrations. He told the public about the huge impact airport expansion would have on the health of our town and of the region. “We cannot let this happen”, he insisted.
Extinction Rebellion is dedicated to drawing attention to the climate crisis. Here in Luton, the council CHOSE TO DELAY declaration of a climate emergency, rather than join the many councils that have. They are considering a plan, but why wait?
Then there is the proposed Luton Airport expansion. Recent consultations conveniently ignored the impact of flights and road travel from calculations, which will obviously impact noise, pollution, traffic, AND the climate. The Council/LLAL (they are one and the same) have exaggerated job creation, plus we have a taxpayers bill of £446m and counting. Crazy!
As if all this wasn’t enough, in December 2019 Luton was named the pollution capital of the United Kingdom (citation: Birmingham University). We have reviewed pollution monitor data, and have serious concerns; the readings, locations monitored and data management among them.
It’s driven us all MAD!
We are holding Operation: Mad Hatter in Luton on Saturday, 18th January 2020
We have friends from across the UK joining us for this family friendly action, with the simple aim of drawing attention to our flight plight. Some of the things you can look forward to:
- Discobedience – dance in defiance. Watch out for the first appearance of Michaela the Trailer
- Samba Bands – for the festival flavour
- The mysterious Red Rebels, floating through various Town Centre locations
- Luton crowd favourites: the Elephant, Anti-Aircraft Staff, the Reaper, and maybe Mister Oak…
- The Judge is coming! An Ecocide trial for the Council and the Aviation industry
Note this is a family friendly, non-disruptive action. There will be surprises! Come and join in, everyone is welcome!
Join and share from the Facebook event page or get in touch below.