October 9, 2019

We Are Genuinely Sorry

We Are Genuinely Sorry

It's been announced today that Extinction Rebellion are preparing to shut down London City Airport for three full days beginning on Thursday morning. Three days into the protests, and multiple road closures later, the rebels are certainly making their mark on the City.

The European Commission for Climate Action has released statistics stating that more than 2% of global emissions are down to jetsetting alone. By 2020, global international aviation emissions are projected to be around 70% higher than in 2005. To make things more intense, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) forecasts that by 2050 they could grow by a further 300-700%. In response to these findings, Extinction Rebellion have initiated the following action:

In the biggest mass participation action of the International Rebellion, the Fly Today, No Tomorrow action will involve a ‘Hong Kong style’ occupation of the terminal building, lying, sitting or glueing-on in front of the departure and arrivals gates. Hundreds of participants have already signed up to nonviolently use their bodies to close the airport, and are willing to sacrifice their liberty to achieve this aim

The airport, based by the river Thames, welcomes an average of 4.5 million fliers annually. This means that the shut-down could cause an extimated 12,000 people to miss their flights each day that the disruption takes place. However, the airport is informing customers that they can handle the situation with an online banner which says:

We are aware of Extinction Rebellion’s threat of protest at London City Airport from Thursday 10th October and are working with the Metropolitan Police to ensure the safety and security of our passengers, as well as minimising any disruption to journeys. If you are booked to travel, you should continue with your plans and check the status of your flight with your airline up until, and on, your day of travel.

-London City Airport

Now, this protest may seem harsh. Couple that with the number of people sitting in traffic jams while roads are being held up, and one might ask whether the resulting petrol fumes are contradicting what the entire movement is fighting for.

But actually, despite what's going on in the City, the rebels don't want to have to do this. Maybe they wouldn't block roads or shut down airports if the government would take five minutes to listen and act the way that a democratically elected government should. In my interview with John, I was surprised to hear him say:

We are sorry. We are genuinely sorry to inconvenience ordinary people like you and me. We don't want to inconvenience people and we don't want to be inconvenienced. But let's look at the bigger picture. Climate change could kill millions of people.

I've also been contacted by rebels who tell me that protests are always put second if an ambulance or fire engine may need to come through. So as much as photographs can show the streets as hectic, things like the singing shown above and poetry performances makes up a big part of the rebellion. And wouldn't we rather have songs in the street than broken windows and anarchy?

This is the third article of a five-part series of interviews with John that I will be broadcasting every day this week encouraging the discussion about climate change and protest.

Kit Taylor