#7. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Last time I said that the only people worth listening to are people with ‘good goals’. I said that a ‘good goal’ was one that actually lowered noise and pollution. And I likely offended any number of you by questioning whether or not –you- are on the team.

I did not actually list my ‘good goals’; you know, the ones that actually –do- lower noise and pollution. As before, these were so blindingly obvious to me when I first started researching this issue I didn’t think anyone would need to be told. But it dawned on me that everyone in this region has done such a fabulous job in avoiding talking about ‘goals’ of –any- kind (good or bad) that I’d better do that. Sorry. I –never- mean to talk down to you, dear reader.

IMPORTANT: NOBODY WANTS TO TALK ABOUT SOLUTIONS. (I know you’re getting tired of the expression ‘good goals’ so I’ll substitute ‘solutions’ once in a while.) So it is very likely that no one in any position of authority OR in any ‘quiet skies’ group may has –ever- mentioned solutions.

There are only two good goals:
1. Reducing the number of operations (take-offs and landings)
2. Changing the routes

Just two. Simple. Unfortunately, these goals are absolutely ridiculous to 99% of the people you’ll talk to on the issue. To them, these are about as doable as a rocket trip to Mars. So even if they –do- bring up ‘solutions’, they will –never- mention these two particular ideas. If you bring up these goals you are likely to be laughed at or just plain ignored. And that is why you don’t hear about them.

But physics doesn’t care about ‘ridiculous’. Just because something is difficult to achieve doesn’t mean it’s ridiculous. It just means it’s hard to achieve. And one –very- real reason these are so hard to achieve is not for any technical reason but simply because so many people in the region don’t –want- them to be achievable. (See previous articles. Too much money involved.)

But again, physics doesn’t care about that. We can’t reduce pollution with filters. We can’t reduce noise with insulation. All those do is cover up the problem. And –I- don’t care about how much money it costs people elsewhere. I care about protecting –us-. I assume you feel the same, right? Right?

NB. I keep coming back to this, but you –cannot- assume that everyone feels the way you do. Some of the most strident supporters of the airport are your neighbours. They will happily tell you how much ‘good’ the airport does for the region in terms of jobs and economic development. I’m glad they are so magnanimous about sacrificing –our- health for the greater good of King County. I’m just not that saintly.

You have to reduce the number of take-offs and landings in order to reduce the amount of noise and pollution. Well duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh. Is there really anything else to say about this? No matter what anyone else will tell you about ‘bio-fuels’ or various taxiing procedures or -whatever-, those are ‘at the margin’ solutions. They -may- help in the range of 1-5% There are no filters that protect people from the noise and pollution (and who wants to wear them anyhoo, right?) There is NO ‘technology’ in terms of engines or -whatever- that you can slap on a plane that will help (at least not within the next 15-20 years.) It’s like that expression people use about fossil fuels: Leave them in the ground. Well with airplanes? Leave them -on- the ground.

Now… do we need to be draconian about it? Nope. We could start with some -minor- changes such as a curfew at night (something we had as an unspoken rule for decades.) We can start small. We can be reasonable.

You can also change the route the plane uses to take off or land. You can point them away from people. No, changing routes does not reduce pollution or noise per se. It just moves it somewhere else. But if that ‘somewhere else’ isn’t near -you-, who cares?

Unfortunately, the brainiacs who built SeaTac placed it in a location where pretty much EVERY direction is in the direction of people.

But in my view, some directions are definitely worse than others. For example, Runway #1 currently is dead nuts directly over a line of six (soon to be seven—way to go Highline School District!) schools. And mornings, up until lunch are some of the busiest times for the airport. So if I had a say I would definitely -not- want to use Runway #1 in the AM.

Now another issue that the Port can use to divide the communities is that each community can lobby for routes away from -them-. In order to fight the airport, the communities -must- agree to bargain -collectively- and be willing to compromise. If even one community has a snotty ‘NIMBY’ attitude? The Port wins.

I wish all these airport groups had never focused on ‘noise’. Because everyone focuses so much on ‘quiet’ and the rest of the world simply does not cry a bunch of tears about ‘noise’. It just doesn’t generate the same visceral concern that issues like CRIME do. It’s perceived as a ‘first world problem’. A problem for whiners. Who should move. The other problem I have with ‘quiet’ this and that is that it ignores the whole issue of pollution and illness which to my mind are far worse (but great for getting donations! 😀 Sorry. Gallows humour is all what keeps me going some days.

Almost as important as your health, there are other issues which don’t get talked about: the effects on poverty, property values, the long game of the area. These are so important, but because most residents care mostly about –their- home and –their- children. It can be difficult to get individual homeowners invested in those ‘big picture’ issues. They’re too abstract. Frankly, most residents you talk to want to know what is in it for –them- if they support the cause and that can be a hard sell because people aren’t invested in a –place- these days the way they were in previous generations.

IMPORTANT: New residents do not expect to live here forever!

This really matters because past generations of residents (at least here in DM) tended to stay here for a loooooong time. They raised their families here. They had a stake in the community. Newer residents are far less rooted to their homes. If their needs change or something about the neighbourhood changes dramatically (like say an AIRPORT EXPANSION), they don’t fight to correct the problem. They simply move elsewhere. This lack of ‘loyalty’ to place works perfectly for the airport’s plans because it means that people who are dissatisfied tend to be replaced by people who are either ignorant of the problems or so desperate for an affordable place to live that they will tolerate the intolerable.

We’ll come back to this later because it’s CRUCIAL to figuring out what action to take.

Great movie… although I like the first one a lot better. .. er… where was I?
Oh yeah. The good news is that we’ve only got two simple goal: reduce the number of operations and change the routes. The bad news is that these are so difficult to achieve that most people you’ll talk with consider them impossible. The ugly news is that you’ll have a tough time getting residents to care because so many people who dearly loved this place have moved out and are being replaced by residents who are far less knowledgeable and far less engaged.

I know, I know. We haven’t gotten to the rainbow at the end of the big… whatever. Almost there. Promise.

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