Belfast Telegraph

Pie in the sky

By Lindy McDowell

Things I can't stand about eco-warriors. The face paint. The fairy wings. The clown outfits. But, above all, the pompous, obnoxious, holier-than-thou attitude.

Not that this is unique, of course, to the eco-protesters.

Whether they're trying to save the planet, save animals or save our souls, there's a breed of people out there who a) think they know better than the rest of us and b) have taken it upon themselves to shove their views down everyone else's throats - whatever it takes.

The eco-warriors, as they like to call themselves, aren't a whole lot different from those annoying wee men you used to see on street corners preaching fire and brimstone and wearing sandwich boards warning that the wages of sin was death.

Except that today we're promised the wages of air pollution is global annihilation. Which is much the same thing as the sandwich board promised only super-sized.

Gathered at Camp Heathrow are undoubtedly a number of well-meaning, earnest and concerned souls. But their ranks are swelled, as these protests always are, (see also Animal Rights, Make Poverty History and Any Opportunity to Have a Go at the Yanks) by serial growlers out for a riotous time and the type of posh upper crusty who neither knows nor cares about the ultimate target of their actions.

Taking on the air travel industry might seem like a noble cause. All those rich, impersonal multi-nationals.

But the real target here isn't the big business interests. It's the paying customer. And the vast majority of the customers paying for air travel these days are at the cheaper end of the food change.

Air travel was once the prerogative only of the well-heeled. Then the era of the package holiday opened up the skies to the ordinary five eight. Working families scrimped and saved all year for their two weeks on the Costas.

That's been superseded in more recent years by the arrival of no-frills air travel with prices comparable to a hefty taxi ride.

But this we're told is a monstrous thing. Certainly it leaves, we're told, a monstrous carbon footprint. But, actually, cows giving off methane gas are causing far, far more damage in terms of climate change than passenger jets.

And, ok, so cows supply food. But cheap air travel has its advantages, too. The world has been opened up to people who would otherwise never have been able to see it - the young, the elderly, the low-paid.

Amid the mega-rich celebrity clique demanding action on climate change there's not much evidence of lifestyles being curtailed - or air travel being abandoned - as they lead by example.

It's that old Do As I Say, Not As I Do thing.

The people they want to stay at home are not themselves - perish the thought, darling - it's the working class family off on their once a year sunshine break, it's the young budget traveller, the couple who don't go out at weekends so they can save for a few short breaks in those European cities they saw on the telly.

All the hysteria about global warming and the rush to be seen as cool and green has been allowed to eclipse a simple truth about cheap air travel - and it's one that many people are now too cowed to admit.

Travel is a wondrous, mind-expanding, barrier-removing jewel.

The fact that it is now open to more people than ever before should be a cause for celebration - not protest. The fact that, in particular, it is now open to the less well-off should be especially welcome.

This is not the same thing as saying we should do nothing about aircraft emissions. Like cow flatulence it's surely something the scientists can work to limit and control.

Curtailing the air industry - confining it, in other words, to the wealthy and the powerful - is short-sighted and plain wrong.

Nobody is suggesting that until Daisy the cow is certified eco-friendly, we should cull the herds and people should just stop feeding their faces.

Yet it's a different attitude when it comes to feeding their desire to discover and learn about the rest of the world out there.

Travel, they say, broadens the mind.

Try telling that to the self-satisfied, closed minds in the eco-army ranks at Camp Heathrow.

Forgotten heroes?

A great wee programme on UTV during the week with Dan Gordon tracing the life and contribution to nursing of Ulster woman Agnes Jones.

Agnes transformed conditions and nursing practices in the Liverpool workhouse to which she dedicated herself. Her heroic work was saluted by many, including the great Florence Nightingale herself.

But what struck me as most amazing?

The fact that until this programme I'd never even heard of Agnes Jones.

At the risk of sounding like that wee, old man in the TV ad after he's had his first ever bottle of Coke, it's left me wondering, who else from here haven't I heard about?

What the nell ...?

In an interview in this newspaper this week, celebrity republican Nell McCafferty remarks that Ireland appears to have united without any of us realising it was happening.

She cites north/south co-operation on agriculture, Aer Lingus setting up shop at Aldergrove and Ian Paisley arguing that local pigs should be exempt from restrictions on English animals.

If only we had copped on earlier that this would have been enough to end the so-called struggle ?

A joint strategy on foot and mouth, a southern business expanding north - and Ian Paisley recognising the right of local livestock (along with the rest of us) to choose a British or an Irish label.

A new dawn?

Large comedy actress Dawn French says she believes she'll die at an early age. Perhaps if she cut back on the chocolate oranges?


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