Anyone who has been employed in aviation or studied aviation history knows that airports, airlines and manufacturers rely heavily on political support and governmental subsidy. In fact, a whole new industry has developed in recent decades to feed this relationship. Just like the scandalous ‘banksters’ who created new ways to steal money, today we have many opportunists who set up various airport schemes so they can get rich quick. They scheme to connect private money and public authority, mutually benefitting all involved parties — but, not the citizens. They dress it prettily as a ‘collaboration’. Always, the promoters are careful to present only the positive spin, while knowingly staying quiet about the negatives.
This works fine (not for us, but for the schemers) when people lack critical thinking skills, or when they are too tired (or too burned out or too busy or too distracted) to participate candidly in public decision-making. So, we are lucky that some critical thinkers care enough to speak up, and to form new groups like the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM).
Aerotropolis is the aviation equivalent of Walmart. Each new project is conceived in a boardroom, then implemented with a mountain of financing and political leverage. Sometimes, darker tactics are deployed (e.g., kickbacks, bribes, threats, etc.). Once the development is done, you have a monstrous economic engine quickly draining the life out of hundreds of older family businesses (and, often doing so while receiving huge tax waivers and other public subsidies). Sure, the new monster creates a few new jobs (after destroying more than a few old jobs), but the new jobs tend to be mostly at the lower end of the wage spectrum.
Just as with other self-serving, cronyistic adventures, with airport projects a scant few get filthy rich. And, what do the locals get?
- it is not uncommon for tens of thousands of families to be forcibly displaced. And aviation abuses eminent domain everywhere — not just in the darker ‘less democratic’ corners of the world, but increasingly in the hollowed-democracy heartlands of even the most advanced economies.
- farmland and natural habitat is destroyed, along with other declines in environmental quality. There is the air pollution and noise pollution that will always be associated with fossil-fuel-powered aviation (and worse yet for our climate future, each aerotropolis is consciously designed to maximize the rate of human consumption of fossil fuels). There is the land pollution via pesticides to ‘efficiently’ manage ‘wildlife hazards’, followed by wholesale killing when that fails. And, there is the use (and misuse) of de-icing and other aviation chemicals.
- there is the loss of former open space when huge acreages become fenced off. On the other hand, locals get to ‘look at’ miles of this fenced-off open space every workday, during long drive commutes from their distant ‘almost-affordable’ residences.
- whatever control the locals had BEFORE the project, once it is built, the locals almost ALWAYS lose that control. The corporations (and captured faux-regulators like FAA) take over, operating out of view.
And someday, if the distant Board and CEO decide to nudge a different profit margin, they may just move on to a greener
taxbreak pasture. This has happened many times in aviation. Cincinnati ([KCVG] … thanks, Delta!), St. Louis ([KSTL] … thanks, American!), and Pittsburgh ([KPIT] … thanks, USAirways!), are three extreme examples. And it continues in a more subtle form today, as operations are increasingly concentrated into a dozen or so fortress hubs. We are now down to the ‘final four’ (American-USAirways, Delta-Northwest, Southwest, and United-Continental), and FAA looks the other way while airline officials carefully coordinate schedules to avoid any real competition.
Here are two PDF’s from the new organization. Scroll through the first window to see the invitation to join GAAM, written by Anita Pleumarom in Thailand. Scroll through the second window to read an analysis of the impacts caused by the Aerotropolis projects, written by ‘Plane Truth’ author Rose Bridger.
- What is an Aerotropolis? — March 2011 Post by Mike Barnes, at Oregon Aviation Watch
- Aerotropolis (wiki) — the concept originated in a 1939 Popular Science article. It faded, but was rekindled by John Kasarda in the 1990’s.
- Aerotropolis Business Concepts — John Kasarda’s business
- The Frowniest Spot on Earth — Will Self’s review of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next, by John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay, posted at the London Review of Books.