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Class warfare and flying

Posted by Richard D North in Campaigning / Global Warming / Green / Money / Rights on 14 January 2009

Why we posted this: George Monbiot is quite funny – if a tad over the top – on the way the middle classes are taking most of the advantage of cheap flights. But the squabble over flying is also mostly a middle class affair – like most arguments.

The original story:
“This is indeed a class war, and the campaign against the Aga starts here”
George Monbiot
The Guardian
14 January 2009

Summary of the stories:
George Monbiot’s column criticises middle class consumption habits and asserts that the climate damage they will cause will mostly afflict poorer people. He cites the Aga (an expensive cooker and room-heater). But he also takes on the “no frills” flying revolution. He quotes authoritative data that whilst all classes are flying more than they used to, there hasn’t been much change in the share of flying done by the well-off.

GM also looks at the class warfare aspect of the argument over climate change and notes that the Marxists at spikedonline seem to be caught in a paradox as they defend the rights of middle class people to damage poor people.

livingissues comment:
George Monbiot is surely right that the better-off do much more climate damage than poor people (and he might have stressed the degree to which most damage by well-off people is discretionary whilst much of the damage done by poor people is unavoidable).

However, whilst it is popularly believed that the main effect of low-cost flying was to unleash a working-class flight to the sun, in fact almost everyone in all classes is doing more flying. It really ought not to be a surprise that the proportion of poor and rich people flying has not much changed.

The data GM seems to be using says that about 60 percent of leisure flying is done by people earning over £46,000. About 40 percent is done by those earning less. This may not be hugely just, but it is not very surprising.

Interestingly, the data also suggests that much of the increase in flying is amongst people travelling on business, and it seems that the big increase here is amongst the less well-off passengers.

GM is right that spiked online are vigorous – and seemingly paradoxical – in defending the freedoms of consumers (rich or poor) against the anxious nay-saying of the environmentalists. But he perhaps overlooks the value of spiked online as squib-merchants. Besides, spiked and others are surely on the money when they argue that environmentalism is in large degree an argument between affluent greens and affluent consumers, and that these are often really the same type of person and even the self-same person.

But then much protest has a middle class accent. Does now, allways has. See here for a wonderful video about a charming protest at Heathrow.

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