27 Aug 2010

Exclusive: a campaign for a world-wide ban on military air shows

I recently covered the spoof Royal International Air Show Tattoo website which was taken down following demands on the internet provider (see here). Well now there are moves to set up a campaign for a world-wide ban on military air shows.

Some may have seen in The Guardian a piece by Kaye Stearman where she writes about the Farnborough Air Show (Photo taken from that site). It is worth a read if you want to understand what these shows are really about...as she says: "Farnborough sells itself as a great day out, but, like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, Farnborough disguises its deadly intent beneath a friendly exterior...The military delegations attending Farnborough are government invitees. They include repressive regimes such as Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The presence of such countries makes a mockery of the UK's much-vaunted system of arms export controls, which supposedly restrict arms sales to "responsible countries"."

Kev's Climate Column has recently sent an email to Neil Carmichael - see it here - or read below. The jist of it is that he is starting a campaign for a world-wide ban on military air shows. Well such campaigns have to start somewhere - as a first step this will hopefully raise awareness about the realities....

Letter to Neil Carmichael from Kevin Lister:

Dear Neil Carmichael MP,

I have read with interest the offer in the Stroud News and Journal you made this week to adopt a charity that you wish to support in the coming year.

I offer you a proposition:

I am starting a campaign for a world-wide ban on military air shows and would welcome your engagement and support. To understand the seriousness of this proposal, I ask you to consider the wider picture and imagine of what would happen if we were able to make it a success, and the path that it could lead to. Please read on:

1. The inescapable conclusion is that runaway climate change which will lead to the loss of most life on this planet by the end of this century is inevitable with business as usual. Despite this, no country has succeeded in making the required deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and no worthwhile international agreements have been achieved that have led to any carbon reductions. The appalling outcome from Copenhagen was but the latest in a series of disappointments and is made even worse by the revelation in the Guardian’s August 4th article that loopholes in the current agreement are so large as to make it worthless to the point that it will simply allow emissions to continue rising. The situation is so dire that the Copenhagen Accord is widely accepted to be a step backwards from the already ineffectual Kyoto agreement.

2. There are two interlocking and fundamental reasons that no worthwhile agreement has been made. Firstly no democratic government feels it has the mandate from its people to insist on the lifestyle changes necessary to allow the CO2 cuts we need - in fact none are even prepared to start the discussion. Secondly, agreeing to the cuts would compromise the power base that the developed world has over the developing, and that power base is delivered by the military-industrial complex which needs to be continually fed with vast amounts of fossil fuel.

The desire to hold on to this power base led directly to the “Danish text” at the Copenhagen Conference demanding that the developing world make cuts in their CO2 emissions in exchange for financial aid from the developed. This was a racist attempt to push for a two-tier emission world where the powerful continuing emitting whilst the weak are paid to die.

3. To have any realistic chance of combating climate change, we must make significant emission cuts now and at all levels of our society. The only way we can do this quick enough is to cut all unnecessary consumption. Whilst we may make progress on renewables and nuclear technologies in the long term, we no longer have the luxury of time on our side to implement these solutions. Even with the best possible scenarios, these much hyped new technologies will not provide the energy we need for our society to operate anywhere near its current standards and levels. Finally, unless there are restrictions to consumption, the fossil fuel savings made will simply be squandered elsewhere, such as the ridiculous sale of A380 Super Jumbos as private jets.

4. As our global society becomes increasingly unstable due to the combined effects of over population, resource shortages and climate change we will move towards a worldwide arms race which will exacerbate the underlying problems. These issues are already evident in the many conflict zones of today. As worldwide tension builds it will become increasingly unlikely that we will ever reach the international agreements that our survival depends on and which is already proving so hard to achieve. In the face of this continuing failure, rather than enlightening our population of the problems and seeking to educate them on the solutions, we do the opposite by glorifying war and fossil fuel consumption.

5. The glorification of war and fossil fuel consumption comes in many guises, from adverts for cruise holidays in the Caribbean, F1 racing and military air shows. However, it is the military airshows that stand out as a particularly pernicious target. They combine unwarranted displays of power and fossil fuel consumption together, with a government blessing that implies cutting CO2 emissions will always be someone else's job.

6. Given the above, achieving a worldwide ban on military air shows and other unnecessary displays of force is vital for the following reasons:

a. All long journeys start with a single step. To expect the worlds nations to agree on the massive cut backs necessary in a single step, such as that proposed at Copenhagen is fantasy. Better by far to try a series of small steps which lead to the end goal, and where each step allows confidence to be built up so the next step can be taken. So far, not a single significant step has been taken, not at Kyoto, not at Bali, not at Copenhagen.

b. Banning military air shows is an easy first step. No one suffers, all countries can be involved, it is verifiable and the logic is clear and obvious. Further more, it has precedent with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and Strategic Arms reduction agreements which were made at the height of the cold war and which are credited with saving us from nuclear Armageddon.

c. Governments around the world, but especially those in the developed nations, would be able to determine if they have the mandate from the people to make cuts in living standards and expectations necessary to achieve the greenhouse gas reductions that we need.

d. As airshows are predominantly events carried out by the powerful nations, it would send a message to the developing world about our determination to cut emissions - it is an action that is the polar opposite to the destructive Danish text of the Copenhagen Conference. This single action will speak louder than all the words that can be delivered and will be heard by leaders and populations alike.

e. The Fairford Air Tattoo, like many other similar events, is a shameless attempt to glorify militarisation, to seek a mandate from the tax payers to continue funding the arms trade, and to recruit our young people into the forces. This leads to self fulfilling prophesies where governments of the day become infatuated with the war machine at their disposal and are more inclined to wage war. You may remember Hans Blix’s recent statement that “George Bush was high on military” prior to the second Gulf War. This attitude in both our leaders and population at large is especially dangerous when we are rapidly moving to the brink with critical resource shortages, mass migration and other mounting pressures around the world.

f. A ban on military air shows can quickly be followed by similar bans on provocative military exercises, such as those being held off the Iranian and Chinese coasts. These lead directly to increased tensions and arms races around the world, at a time when we can least afford such distractions. The recent reports of China's development of new anti-aircraft carrier capability in direct response to the US exercises off their coast is a case in point. These weapons which deliver mass death within seconds massively increase the chance of an accidental holocaust, whilst simultaneously diminishing the chance of achieving successful agreements on climate change.

g. If tensions can be reduced, then a space opens up for the kinds of intentional agreements that are so urgently needed, such as the introduction of carbon rationing or carbon taxation. Defusing of tensions is the first step to sapping the lobbying strength of the military-industrial complex that worked so hard on undermining the last Copenhagen agreement and it will allow recognition that we must enter a difficult era of international co-operation rather than international competition.

The global response to climate change is reaffirming the ferocious law which states, "To he that has, will be given; from he that has not, will be taken away." Failure to challenge this law will lead us to world wide chaos and anarchy, yet challenging it will be the first step toward a genuine solution to climate change. Providing the right governance that we need in a planet afflicted by limits requires courage to do the things we would never expect nor imagine and to have the vision to see the path ahead.

This initiative needs political and activist support. If you are willing to provide the political support that is needed, I will explain to you the next steps that we are taking.

Finally, it has widely been stated that we need a crisis to galvanise the world wide response to climate change. This summer we have witnessed the deaths of thousands and destruction of the way of life for millions. If now is not the time, then when is?


Kevin Lister


Russ said...

Quote- "Even with the best possible scenarios, these much hyped new technologies will not provide the energy we need for our society to operate anywhere near its current standards and levels"

why is this so?

Anonymous said...

Like fossil fuels, uranium is running out. The number of turbines and solar needed is huge - they can provide a significant chunk of energy - and energy efficiency also - but we have to change our lifestyles as well. The ever more growth in our energy use is just not possible.

Russ said...

The Earth receives over a petawatt of energy from the Sun...what exactly is the limit to the number of windturbines and solar panels that can be built?
Do people in wind turbine factories get too tired?
Is there some sort of limit on the number of windturbine building factories, that can be built?

I really don't see how we are going to change our lifestyles, except by force, of law, or circumstance.

Saying we have to change our lifestyle just makes people feel that there is nothing that can be done, where as if we set out to meet our present, and future, energy demands with renewables, people might feel that there is something that can be done...

Anonymous said...

People are going to be forced to change lifestyles by rising fossil fuel prices.

Agree with last comment: see Wind farms could power half of Britain’s homes, but jobs could go overseas:

Anonymous said...

1. It will take more time than we have to build a renewable energy infrastructure.

2. It will take huge amounts of fossil fuel to build an renewable energy infrastructure

3. It is not just about CO2 from electricity generation, as this is only one part of the pie. It is also about stopping CO2 emissions from transport, agriculture, manufacturing, heating for homes and stopping other HCF gases from air conditioning, etc.

4. We either change our life style, or we all die the way thousands of others have died this summer through climate change related disasters.

I.C. said...

Publish more when you know about the campaign please

Anonymous said...


please contact tc.hogg@tiscali.co.uk

Philip Booth said...

In what capacity do you want people to email?

Anonymous said...

Please see http://www.riat-nt.blogspot.com/

for the mass complaint being sent to the charities commission.

Please sign the online petition and submit your copy of the complaint to the charities commission at the address below.


In the tick box section 8, you should tick the following:

Charities deliberately being used for significant private advantage

Where a charity's independence is seriously called into question

Serious non-compliance in a charity that damages or has the potential to damage its reputation and/or the reputation of charities generally

Serious non-compliance in a charity which, left unchecked, could damage public trust and confidence in the Charity Commission as an effective regulator

Anonymous said...

I really feel that attempting to ban air shows is a wasted effort,an easy target and churlish. The effort is also clearly a case of a minority forcing its ideas on a majority who enjoy these once a year events.

Far more difficult is to act on over population and consumerism. Those are the causes of the 'warming' trend not air shows

How about a ban on more than one child? Do I hear gasps from the human rights lobby.

Ban long distance travel and freight on the motorways and replace it with electric rail?

A fundamental shift in thinking is required before we can consider the banning of an annual event as a victory or that it contributes anything to combat global warming

Andy said...

I think the last comment has some point about the need for other actions as well - but airshow is not an easy target but it is important. How else can we get people to see the need for change rather than glorification of such weapons - the Tattoo's purpose is after all to legitimise these weapons like depleted uranium?