Can the climate justice movement ground the fighter jets celebrated at air shows?

CF-18 flyover in Toronto. Photo: synestheticstrings/Wikimedia Commons

It’s air show season again.

A number of them are coming up soon: the Abbotsford International Airshow August 9 to 11; the Canadian International Air Show in Toronto August 31 to September 2; the Aero Gatineau-Ottawa Air Show September 6 to 8; and the Peterborough Air Show September 21 to 22.

All of them feature military aircraft.

Notably, the CBC reports, “The U.S. Air Force F-35 demonstration team will visit Ottawa in September on the eve of this fall’s federal election — just as the competition to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s starts heating up.”

“The stealth fighter is one of four warplanes in the $19-billion contest, which was formally launched with a request for proposals by the Liberal government on July 23,” the article adds.

The $19 billion that is to be spent on 88 jet fighters that burn copious amounts of fuel each second they are in flight is another waste of billions of dollars on top of the $4.5 billion spent on purchasing the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline (and the billions more it will take to expand that pipeline).

The Leap Manifesto calls for “cuts to military spending.”

The U.K.-based Campaign Against Arms Trade has an “arms to renewables” campaign that says money now spent on subsidizing the arms industry would be better spent on renewables and that in turn would be better for workers, the economy and world peace.

And Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, has argued that a Green New Deal needs to fight U.S. militarism. She cautions, “Wars and the military render impossible the aspirations contained in the Green New Deal.”

People have protested against air shows as a symbol of militarism for years.

In September 2010, a Toronto Star headline read: Protesters want “outdated” air show grounded. That article noted the critique of the “antiquated event” highlighted that the air show “pollutes the environment, disturbs residents and promotes symbols of militarism.”

In a 2016 opinion piece in the same newspaper, Craig Damian Smith commented, “in a city with a large population of refugee newcomers and people who have experienced the trauma of war it is insulting, invasive, and violent.”

“In Toronto, people affected by war are not an insignificant minority. This includes newcomers who aren’t refugees, Canadians, and family members struggling with inter-generational trauma,” he wrote.

It is my hope that Extinction Rebellion, Our Time, Fridays for Future and other climate justice groups will also see the need to challenge air shows as relics that serve to promote the militarism that accelerates climate breakdown and misdirects public funds away from the priority of building a green economy. MORE

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