Friday, 28 December 2018

The drones (?) of Gatwick


Gatwick Airport was put out of action for, I think, 36 hours over three days during the pre-Christmas rush  by alleged sightings of drones flying dangerously over the air corridors.  I have no informed comment to make over the obvious questions:

  1. Why is not the sale and operation of drones strictly regulated?
  2. Why is such a technologically proficient nation unable to catch and disable the drones within minutes?
  3. Why, with all our superior technology, are we now unsure as to whether there were any drones at all?
Doubtless there will be a full enquiry and in the fullness of time excuses will be given and we'll be told that no one was to blame (cf Albert and the Lion) but we'll be better prepared next time.

What interests me is, if there really were drones, who was responsible?

I hoped it would be some sort of Echo-warriors rather than a foreign power with evil intent.

Travelling by air is one of the most environmentally unfriendly this we can do.  If you need convincing about this then  look  here and here (there are plenty more) for facts, figures and suggestions.

During my "year abroad" when I was studying French in Pau I was surprised that many of my fellow students, mostly in their late teens and early twenties, used air travel as causally as I would hop on a bus.  For them it was quite normal to take a return flight to the UK (and perhaps elsewhere) for a birthday party, a family weekend, even just to see a Harry Potter premier.

Some years ago I subscribed to an organisation, I can't remember now what it was called, which had the motto "Live simply that other may simply live."   

Among the usual paths to virtue such as  wearing clothes  until they are worn out rather than just out of fashion, putting on an extra jumper rather than turning up the heat, eating locally produced food, even growing your own, walking and cycling rather than driving, etc., was the recommendation that we should limit ourselves to one return flight a year.

I dropped out of the organisation becasue, after a year or two, I found the newsletter  to be somewhat repetitive variations on the same themes, but I've tried to stick with most of the guidelines and especially of limiting myself to an average of one return flight per year.

Most of my friends are responsible citizens who worry about climate change, pollution and the depletion of natural resources, and bequeathing  a sustainable planet to future generations, and urge the government via their various political parties to do something about it.

Yet many seem to have a blind spot about air travel and happily go flying off  to exotic parts two or the times a year.

In this area, as well as many others, in addition to urging action on our governments we need to take action ourselves by changing our own lifestyles.  The usual excuse is, of course, that one individual or family is not going to make much difference.

But, as one of our supermarkets advertises, "Every Little Helps."

And every little helps to change the climate of opinion.

Illegal and disruptive action such as closing  down airports at holiday times may not be the best way, but, as the suffragettes showed, it may be a necessary way.

Whether environmental activists were responsible for the disruption we don't yet know.  But whether they were or not, I hope we will receive the message.  Whizzing hither and thither by air is not a God given right, put something that should be used sparingly, or not at all.

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