Related topics

Pro-Heathrow demo challenges Carbon Cult killjoys

Cheap flights for all

As eco warriors descend on Parliament this afternoon to protest against the expansion of Heathrow, an obscure counter demonstration will be taking place. It's quite unusual: Modern Movement will be demonstrating in favour of something, not against it: cheap travel.

"What we want to counter is the small number of green campaigners who are making a lot of noise on this issue, and who are making it seem like reducing the number of people who can fly is the biggest struggle of the century," says student Alex Hochuli, who co-founded the new group. "The majority of people aspire to travel, love travelling, and want to have more of that."

Hochuli says he's against the "moralisation of flying" and points out that even if you take CO2 seriously as an catalyst for Thermageddon, flying contributes only 3 per cent of UK carbon emissions. So it's hardly worth objecting to on rational grounds.

What could it be, then?

There's more than a whiff of snobbery about environmental objections to mass travel. In a TV show tonight, the toff historian Tristram Hunt (son of Lord Hunt of Chesterton, a climate modeller) mourns the age of motoring before the working class got behind the wheel.

"As the working classes gained access to the motor car, they celebrated their mobility by buying up plots of land in beauty spots and coastal resorts across the south coast," he wrote on Monday. Oh no! "The historicism, aestheticism and idiosyncrasy of motoring were abandoned."

Today, plebs enjoying cheap flights cause a similar revulsion amongst the pious Green bourgeoise. Hochuli also has a sideswipe at the budget airlines for not doing enough to promote the cause of mind-broadening travel opportunities, in an interview here.

But while snobbery is a plays a large part of the eco warriors rhetoric, it can't explain it all. Try on this thought experiment.

Suppose for the sake of argument that cheap flights are bad, and many internal flights are unnecessary, and instead we decided to build a Maglev train service linking British cities. What a wonderful thing that would be. Who do you think would be the first to object to it?

The anti-flying campaign reflects a deep hostility to modernity and progress. The earliest "ecological" thinking early in the 19th Century was to inspire the mystical "blood and soil" movements in Germany, which held that science was evil. From there, it's hard to escape the circular argument that anything that improves our lot is bad for the planet, and must be discouraged.

The eco warriers rally at 10 Downing Street at the same time (5:30pm), as Modern Movement. More details here, and an interview with Hochulli here here. He's good value.®

Sponsored: Driving business with continuous operational intelligence