The Anti-Airport Movement Has Gone Global

The Anti-Airport Movement Has Gone Global
Demonstrators in Western France protest against a project to build an international airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, near Nantes, Nov. 17, 2012 (AP photo by David Vincent).

On Oct. 14, just two weeks before the start of the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, an unusual organization commemorated its fifth anniversary: Stay Grounded. The group, founded in 2016, is an international activist network of more than 170 smaller protest movements from across the globe. Through “mutual support and exchange of experiences,” it hopes to inspire and guide collaboration around the shared goal that brings its members together—namely, reducing “aviation and its negative impacts.”

In the years since Stay Grounded started work, it has made a case for seeing anti-airport social movements as a truly global phenomenon. From Peru and Uganda to the United States and India, disparate groups of citizens have organized against the environmental and local impacts of airport land development. Stay Grounded’s research has so far investigated 80 airport-related conflicts and identified 300 more for further investigation.

So far, the struggle against airport projects is far from a unified one, but Stay Grounded and groups like it, including the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement and the U.K-based AirportWatch, are actively working to change that by building linkages between similar movements. What is notable is that they’ve displayed an ever-growing capacity to unite actors from across the political spectrum. The movement’s top-line, single goal—a moratorium on airport construction and expansion—is fueled by a comprehensive set of underlying motivations. Among other things, they seek to reduce or prevent air traffic, emissions from aviation, biodiversity loss and deforestation, noise pollution, real-estate and land devaluation, the displacement of Indigenous communities and the endangerment of archaeological sites. 

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