The pollutants spread by planes are a major issue. They make a significant contribution to global warming, yet they are excluded from international negotiations, such as the conference taking place in Paris. As a result, aviation’s expansion is unchecked by concerns about climate change.
…This exclusion is ridiculous, not least because aircraft emissions have a particular role in heating the planet, due to the height at which they are released, and the multiplying impacts of the water vapour and other gases the planes produce. Gases that sometimes form contrails in the sky.
…The most vocal people protesting against aviation emissions have no interest in their contribution to global warming. Quite the opposite. Many of those now denouncing the pollution of the skies see climate science as part of the problem: a conspiracy by corporations, military planners and other nefarious interests to control the skies.
…So on one hand we have a real threat, measurable and attestable, that is caused by an identifiable industry and persists as a result of the indifference and short-termism of the world’s governments. On the other, we have a conspiracy, attributed to forces unknown and interests unspecified, so powerful and pervasive that it extends from Mark Zuckerberg to the Paris terrorists. Why does it seem to be harder to generate interest in the real issue than the improbable one?
The real issue – global warming caused by aircraft emissions – calls on us to act. Reducing our impacts means flying less; something that few people are prepared to do. It involves an exhausting battle against a powerful industry and unresponsive governments. It means reading boring papers, attending boring meetings and engaging with a level of political and technical complexity that many people find repulsive. There’s plenty of grind and precious little glory.
…onspiracy theories. They make sense of what can sometimes feel like a senseless world. They tell you that you are among the elect: aware of a grand scheme that other people (or sheeple or sleeple as the conspiracy sites often like to call them) are unable or unwilling to see. It tells you that you are a lonely crusader fighting evil of the kind that’s otherwise encountered only in films about superheroes.
And if hardly anyone reads your website, it only goes to prove how important you are: why else would the authorities go to such lengths to limit your followers?
It also absolves you of the responsibility to act. Sure, you might feel moved to create a website, take some photos, perhaps sign the odd petition or even attend one or two noisy demonstrations. But you don’t have to change anything, because somewhere, buried deep in the forebrain, is the knowledge that there’s not really anything to change. You get the glory without the grind.
Perhaps such movements are also a response to a sense of helplessness. In a world so complex, chaotic and badly governed that its most dangerous predicaments often seem intractable, it is paradoxically comforting to believe that godlike powers are in control, even if those powers are malign.