The volcanic ash saga gives us a taste of what things will be like if we don’t develop markets and aviation policies fit for the 21st century.

The Birmingham Post’s editorial this week criticised Birmingham Friends of the Earth, for pointing out that whilst inconvenient for many, the volcanic ash saga has at least resulted in a huge reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a demonstration of other ways of doing things.

Of course the impacts of this crisis – on stranded and stressed friends and colleagues, laid off airport workers and producers of air-freighted fresh food in developing countries – range from ‘no fun at all’ to ‘livelihood-destroying’. But this is exactly why we need to start viewing differently the part that aviation plays in all our futures.

It does not demonstrate that we should continue to pursue the aviation growth agenda to which Solihull International Airport and Birmingham City Council appear to be committed in spite of its legally proven inadequacy in the light of climate change policy. Continuing with aviation growth as if nothing has changed, will see similar sudden crises in the next few years – without any need for Icelandic volcanoes.

We need to start a sensible and measured adaptation of our aviation growth plans and our food strategy now, and supporting those in developing countries to create internal and external markets in goods that are appropriate to a fuel-scarce future. 

Karen Leach