The Independent on Sunday has rated John Stewart the top environmentalist in its Green List of 100 eco-activists. Little known outside of the UK, and not so well known here either, this recognition of his efforts is an example of the way the environmental movement succeeds. Deeply committed individuals toil without thought of personal reward in areas that were considered unfashionable. Like many others, for years he has been working, unknown and unrecognised except amongst a small circle.
As his latest cause, he is the head, and sole member of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (Hacan) which is opposed to the expansion of Heathrow Airport and the building of a third runway. This is part of a large coalition of people who believe that airports are becoming too big and destructive. The climate camp in 2007, where environmentalists were protesting at Heathrow, provoked a huge media response and brought him into the public eye.
Stewart started out his unplanned career as an activist opposing the expansion of road building in the '80's first in London and then the rest of the country. The expansion of the roads in London would have required the demolition of old houses to make way for the highways. That group was called Alarm ( All London Against the Roadbuilding Menace). In the countryside, woods and forests would have been covered over. Almost 600 new or improved highways were being proposed and he acted as a mediator and negotiator amongst the 250 campaigns being waged. As a result, public opinion shifted and finally only 50 of the projects survived.
Now the government has decided to allow 70,000 more flights a year at Stanstead Airport so this should make a further call upon his skills. A name to watch in the coming months. :: Independent on Sunday
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