More runways is so last century

Aviation is one of the  fastest-growing sources of global-warming gases

Share
Related Topics

The global emergency of climate change is hard for humans to get to grips with because, although it is urgent, it is not immediate. Thus we built some wind turbines but then the recession came and we decided that this was pushing our electricity bills too high. Similarly, there was once a green case against the expansion of Heathrow airport, but in recent years the debate has been crabbed and confined by a narrow view of economic growth.

The big problem with Sir Howard Davies’ inquiry into airport capacity in the South-east, the interim findings of which we report exclusively today on page 10, is that it starts from the assumption that there is not enough of it. Thus the whole debate has been about where in the South-east to build new runways rather than whether we need them at all.

The Independent on Sunday has always taken the view that we do not. This is not an anti-business argument, nor an attempt to deny the importance of market forces. Air travel is growing partly because aviation fuel for long-haul flights is untaxed, which is why aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of global-warming gases. It could be said that the world’s taxpayers are subsidising environmentally unfriendly activity that would otherwise be uneconomic.

That is why we have long argued that building more runways to meet predicted demand would simply be to build a “better 20th-century infrastructure”. And that, in turn, is why we argue that we should use the airport capacity we already have more efficiently rather than build more. This has another important advantage in that it would use market forces to spread economic activity around the country. Instead of further reinforcing the advantages of the South-east, we should allow the pricing of scarce runway capacity around London to push flights into the under-used but excellent facilities at Birmingham airport and points further north.

This ought to be part of a greener future. There may be a conflict between making money and protecting the environment, but money is only one part of the quality of life, and the environment is another. This is a good time of year to recognise this essential truth, while we prepare for our annual festival of consumerism.

As the economy recovers and technology continues to amaze, educate and entertain – we should do more to ensure that our material advance does not steal from our children’s future. We also report today on the growing volume of electronic and electrical waste, as we constantly upgrade our phones, tablets, computers, consoles, televisions and white goods: this waste of high-end circuitry and heavy metals is at the same time both a threat – to human health and to the environment – and a resource that could be recycled and reused.

This is not a pious plea for self-denial but a pragmatic call for an understanding of a wider definition of the quality of life. We want to rediscover not the virtue of thrift but the quality-of-life benefit of thrift. Thrift is part of a better way of life: reducing consumption, reusing, recycling and even repairing things, rather than adding toxic and nearly functional products to landfill sites.

Just as we recognise that the acquisition of ever more material possessions is not the only measure of human happiness, so we should understand that ever-expanding air travel is not essential to human progress.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

LSA (afterschool club) vacancy in Newport

£40 per day + Travel Scheme : Randstad Education Cardiff: The Job: Our client ...

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: You must:- Speak English as a first lang...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: There's a crackle in the Brum air

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Obama has admitted that his administration underestimated the threat posed by Isis  

Syrian air-strikes: Does the US have the foggiest idea who their enemy is?

Kim Sengupta
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style