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I got arrested for my climate protest at an airport – here’s why I’m doing it again

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You might know me as the man who climbed atop a British Airways plane at London City Airport earlier this year.

Whilst I was up there, I live-streamed my adventure on my phone to tell the world that while UK Parliament had declared a climate emergency, they were simultaneously backing expansion of airports, road infrastructure, and other carbon-intensive projects.

Today, I’m going to be taking a stand once again, by joining in Extinction Rebellion’s ‘Bikes against Bulldozers’ action, which will see cyclists congregate around a bulldozer at Heathrow Airport to protest the building of a third runway.

Why cyclists, and why are we congregating around a bulldozer? There’s one simple reason.

When he was elected to Parliament in Uxbridge in 2015, Boris Johnson promised to fight against the expansion of Heathrow airport. He went as far as saying: ‘John McDonnell, I will join you. I will lie down in front of those bulldozers and stop the construction of that third runway.’

So, since our prime minister seems to need to be reminded to keep to his word, we’re doing just that.

Last year, I became a climate activist because it felt like the only logical option. Before becoming involved in Extinction Rebellion, I asked myself, ‘Do we face a crisis of unprecedented scale?’ The answer was a resounding ‘yes’. Almost all of the world’s scientists agree on this.

Next, I asked: ‘Is our Government doing what’s necessary to protect us?’ For me, the answer was a clear ‘no’. 

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If our governments won’t protect us, who will? We will have to protect ourselves. We have no choice but to come together and initiate transformative change that will put the wellbeing of all living things above profit and economic growth. 

History tells us that, whilst not guaranteeing success, non-violent civil disobedience offers us the best chance of bringing about change. Our Government is set to miss most of their biodiversity targets next year, and is planning to carry on burning fossil fuels for 31 years. 

It is clear that we, the people, must get out onto the streets to force action on the scale and speed that scientists are now saying is necessary.

It was my daughter who woke me from my sleepwalk and alerted me to the extent of the climate crisis. Like many, I was blissfully unaware of the mass extinction of species, increase in severe weather events, and their combined effect on our ability to grow the crops on which we depend for our survival.  

Just before Extinction Rebellion’s occupation of five London bridges last November, I met my daughter for a catch up. I knew instantly there was something not right. She was utterly grief-stricken after reading a scientific report saying that ground-dwelling insects had depleted by 98 per cent in the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico.

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She explained how alarming the statements from the scientific community were becoming. That the UN had warned, ‘Stop biodiversity loss, or we face our own extinction’.

There began my activism. Since then, I’ve blocked roads, spray-chalked government buildings, walked into Heathrow airport with some parts of a drone in my rucksack, and climbed on top of an airplane. 

And it is working. 

The climate and ecological crisis has moved right up the agenda for politicians, media and ordinary citizens. I’m not going to claim that this is exclusively due to the work of Extinction Rebellion, but the movement has definitely generated a sense of urgency around an issue that many others have been campaigning around for years.

So I’m proud to take part in the Bikes Against Bulldozers action today. Since the age of five, I have loved riding bikes. Despite the fact that I’m almost blind, my brave mum was happy to come with me on my first road ride. Cycling has been my independence – I once cycled solo from Land’s End to John o’ Groats in six days.

Now, 50 years on from my first road ride, I’ll be mounting a tandem bike for the ride from Hyde Park to Heathrow.

Well, almost to Heathrow – after all, my bail conditions for my arrest at City Airport dictate that I must not go within one mile of a UK airport. I’m still standing up for what I believe in, but this time, to avoid a further arrest, I’ll be dismounting my bike and stopping just outside the exclusion zone.

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