Launch of UK air freight report - photo by Denis Walker
Plane Truth is a critique of
the aviation industry, taking an international perspective and addressing the social, economic and environmental
impacts. Aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas
emissions which cause climate change. Minimal improvements in aircraft fuel
efficiency are outpaced by growth, and use of biofuels, made from plants, feeds
edible crops to planes, exacerbating world hunger.
The book also considers local environmental impacts from health damaging air pollutants, de-icing fluid leaking into waterways and programmes to deter birds in order to prevent collisions with aircraft. Air cargo, carried in the bellyhold of passenger planes and dedicated freighters supports the globalisation of manufacturing, and extreme oil projects. Citizens of Africa fly the least, but the accident rate is appalling, and carriers awarded contracts for humanitarian aid have also delivered illicit weapons.
Expansion meets with vigorous opposition from host communities, concerned over high levels of health damaging pollutants and paving over farmland and wildlife habitats. The purported economic benefits, in particular for host communities, are doubtful. Continued aviation expansion, in the face of rising oil prices and the global economic downturn, is enabled by an extraordinary level of subsidy.
One day I was reading The Grocer,
a trade magazine, and saw an article
announcing the opening of a ‘perishable centre’, a
refrigerated facility for importing food, at Manchester Airport, near where I live. Flying
food around the world emits high levels of greenhouse gases which cause climate change. I got
involved in opposing aviation expansion and wrote a report on
air freight for Airport Watch, the umbrella organisation supporting
local groups throughout the UK.
I began to write a book about the air freight of food, and ornamental flowers, which are in the same 'perishable' cargo category. But the supply chains are incredibly complex and entangled with other types of cargo, and passenger flights. So I ended up writing a book about the aviation industry more broadly. Now I am taking the work forward. Aviation is an economic, social and environmental justice issue, and I helping to build a global movement against unsustainable expansion.