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13 Flights Cancelled, 9 People Arrested as Climate Activists Protest Runway Expansion
Thirteen activists from the group Plane Stupid chained themselves together on the northern runway at the London Heathrow Airport in England this morning protesting the runway expansion saying, "We cannot meet our climate change targets and build new runways at the same time."
Activists wore armlocks and laid on the runway, where police brought heavy machinery to cut them free, according to the Guardian.
The statement released this morning by Plane Stupid challenged the assumption that expanding Heathrow fits with the UK's climate change goals and argued that "if the aviation industry paid more of its environmental costs then there would be no pressing need for a new runway."
"Building more runways goes against everything we're being told by scientists and experts on climate change," said Ella Gilbert, an activist from Plane Stupid. "This would massively increase carbon emissions exactly when we need to massively reduce them, that's why we're here.
"We want to say sorry to anyone whose day we've ruined, and we're not saying that everybody who wants to fly is a bad person. It's those who fly frequently and unnecessarily who are driving the need for expansion, and we cannot keep ignoring the terrifying consequences of flying like there's no tomorrow. No ifs, no buts, no third runway. And we mean it."
Sarah Shoraka of Plane Stupid told the Guardian that the group re-formed since the release this month of a long-awaited report that recommended a new runway should be built at Heathrow to provide “urgently required” capacity.
“We thought we’d won this fight, because David Cameron said ‘no ifs, no buts’ there would be no runway at Heathrow,” Shoraka told the Guardian. “We thought it was off the table and then the report came through and we thought: ‘We’re going to have to fight this all over again.’”
“We need to insert climate change into the narrative, it’s been absent from the whole debate ever since the report came out,” she said.
According to Plane Stupid, the airport expansion is a terrible idea because:
- We cannot meet our climate change targets and build new runways at the same time. It's a choice between the two. This should be very simple to understand.
- We already fly more than any other country per head.
- Nine of the ten most popular destinations out of Heathrow are short-haul including to places such as Manchester and Paris. There are already very good existing rail alternatives that we should be using instead.
- 15 percent of the UK population take 70 percent of the flights. Building new runways will only benefit rich frequent flyers who are burning the planet for unnecessary leisure flights.
- Airport expansion will have terrible implications for noise pollution and air pollution.
- Local communities face being wiped off the map entirely by a third runway at Heathrow.
- Aviation gets huge tax subsidies and pays no VAT. Why are we propping up an industry which is highly damaging to the environment at the exact time we need to be reducing our carbon emissions?
- The huge advertising budgets of the aviation industry have tricked the public into believing we face an airport capacity crisis.
- Additionally, the employment benefits of expansion have been overplayed. Claims that airport expansion will create thousands of new jobs are based on unreliable statistics. Airport expansion actually results in more UK tourists going abroad, which creates a "tourism deficit."
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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