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6 - ‘What if…?’ A manifesto for the green transformation of aviation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 January 2024

Steven Griggs
Affiliation:
Staffordshire University
David Howarth
Affiliation:
University of Essex
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Summary

Our genealogies have demonstrated how the UK airports issue and the problem of aviation has evolved into a deepening policy controversy involving the clash of political forces, which espouse competing ideals and values. But they also show the difficulties in challenging the myths and fantasies built into the embedded narratives of sustainable aviation and the technologies of government, which seek to depoliticise and perpetuate aviation expansion, not to mention the highly organised resources of the industry and its supporters. This means that the questioning and problematisation of continued aviation expansion is ever more necessary if we are to meet the pressing demands of the global environmental crisis and the instabilities of living in the Anthropocene. Like Thomas Princen (2005), we thus ask the ‘what if?’ question. What if we were to disinvest from aviation and embark on an alternative agenda of post-growth policies? What would such an imaginary look like? What would such a transformation require? And how would we achieve it?

This chapter addresses these questions by putting forward a manifesto for the green transformation of aviation. We first identify and evaluate the two leading discourses that have emerged – ‘business as usual’ and ‘demand management’ – and which have come to frame public policy dialogue around aviation in the post-pandemic world. We argue that the expansionist logic of ‘business as usual’, which relies on the myth of technological fixes, efficiencies and offsetting, no longer provides the effective tools or policies to tackle the environmental injustices of aviation, if it ever did. But we also conclude that demand management, which offers an alternative to the discourse of continued growth, ultimately conforms to a logic of attenuation, supporting the politics of reform rather than transition and transformation. Reformist politics in our perspective leaves intact existing economic, political and social formations, simply installing one more updated version of the same operating system. Alone, it cannot fully accommodate the radical, non-linear and continual reorganisation of the politics of transition and transformation, which are necessary to bring about changes to our social identities, political institutions and practices of economic and social reproduction, as well as our underlying relations with nature, which can in turn bring about a post-growth, just and sustainable mode of aviation (Eckersley, 2021: 247– 9).

Type
Chapter
Information
Contesting Aviation Expansion
Depoliticisation, Technologies of Government and Post-Aviation Futures
, pp. 152 - 176
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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