Thursday, 22 March 2007

Plane stupid

I'm quite happy to change my personal habits to reduce global warming, but some of the daft knee-jerk suggestions from politicians take some beating. In particular English politicians have proposed swingeing taxes on short-haul domestic flights which according to them are an unnecessary self-indulgence.

As usual they are blissfully unaware of far-flung parts of the United Kingdom like Northern Ireland where flying is the only practical way of getting over the Irish Sea and across huge swathes of the Other Island. Are we seriously expected to go by ferry and train, paying a lot more, taking a hell of a lot longer and arriving exhausted and stressed-out? Not me if I can help it. And when did the politicians last take the ferry? Insensitivity and hypocrisy.

What the politicians should really be asking is why so many basic household items - flowers, food, computers, clothes - are flown or shipped thousands of miles into Northern Ireland when they could just as easily be produced locally. It's absurd that Mother's Day flowers (probably grown by downtrodden mothers) are casually jetted in from Africa. Or that potatoes (that rare delicacy fresh to Irish palates) are despatched from the Middle East. Or that vegetables (cultivated in areas of serious water shortage) are winged over from Spain.

I could go on, but my question is - isn't this type of traffic a lot less justified than the movement of human beings visiting their relatives or potential customers?

And why are politicians focussing on planes rather than cars, which produce much heavier pollution and are proliferating rapidly on Northern Ireland's roads? (Jenny and I didn't own a car at all in London, but here we need one each because of the miserly public transport.) Answer - because motorists provide huge tax revenues for the government and public transport doesn't. They don't want to kill off such a nice fat cash cow.

So if anyone's waiting for a better bus and train network that actually takes them where they want to go, and cleans up the environment, they'll be waiting a very long time. If I were you, guv, I'd take good care of the motor. You'll be needing it for a wee while yet....

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