GOB 81 – Rio & Reality

GOB 81 – Rio & Reality

(This article first appeared in the September 2016 edition of ‘Birdwatching’ magazine)

Do you remember the Rio dictum ‘Think Global, Act Local’?

How about NIMBY – ‘Not In My Back Yard’?

Not everyone does. My local Green Party is railing against a plan to resurrect our local airport, which shut down a couple of years back. They are supporting turning the site into housing and recreation instead. Bravo, you may cry! Houses and jobs before foreign holidays and unnecessary overseas food imports. I’m sure they are the very thoughts of the local greens. Oddly, given it is our backyard, the majority of the locals want to see the airport back

Step back and mix a little realism with a lot of globalism. The airport is close enough to London to relieve some of the pressure to create another runway at one of the major London airports. Think back and recall that this used to be the busiest freight airport in the country with a runway big enough to deal with Jumbo Jets.

Yes, but the take-off and landing is over the sea. What is more it’s over an important mudflat; an SSSI with thousands of waders and wildfowl.

Think again, there is no history of bird strike here. Moreover, the birds were as numerous when it was a busy airport as they are now that the tarmac is untouched by landing gear. They are more affected by our massive off-shore wind turbine array.

The infrastructure exists, wide roads joining motorways and a close railway line an extension to which would be low impact. Many permanent jobs would be created where unemployment is currently disastrously high.

Aircraft emissions would be the same, but a local solution has far less environmental impact than the devastation to rural land and existing homes that developing Gatwick or Heathrow further would cause, not to mention the colossal expense and disruption.

Think about those houses and leisure facilities again… promised jobs are few and twenty years down the line. More housing will draw in more people without employment and put a strain on overstretched utilities. In this case a non-existent water table is already being drained dry by Europe’s largest area under glass supplying 15% of the countries peppers, tomatoes and so forth.

That monstrosity employs only part time labour most of which goes to short term visiting Europeans, who earn for six weeks or six months before leaving the country again.

The proposed housing is not ‘social housing’ and it’s not even going to have built in solar panels or water conservation measures.

Did I mention that those wanting to re-open the airport want to create the world’s first aircraft re-cycling operation? Instead of parking redundant aircraft in the dessert – the aviation equivalent of landfill, parts and materials could be re-used.

There we have it agriculture and housing being championed by conservationists because they think its greener than an airport, which, when you look deeper and wider, is just not the case. In the real world expanding aviation is about where and when, not about ‘if’.

What has this got to do with a leisurely stroll in England’s green and pleasant land with your binoculars?


The beauty of birds includes all the redness of beak and claw. Flesh tearing and cannibalism are as much part of avian life as pretty feathers and charming song. We have to understand everything that natural life encompasses to appreciate the wonder of nature, not just the Hollywood version. When it comes to the ‘real’ human world we need to delve deep into the realities too, not just hug trees and aspire to veganism.

Don’t get me wrong, passionate opposition to so-called ‘progress’ has its place. But we have to judge every development in the round not jerk our knees thoughtlessly. The weeds growing between the solar panels in your local ‘sun farm’ may be better for the planet than the chemically coshed monoculture they replace.

Hear the Podcast:

Rant it out!