Two Navy Blue Angels planes pass each other over boats tied to a log boom in Lake Washington.
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels flying maneuvers over boats moored to a log boom in Lake Washington are part of the Seafair Air Show.

The highly polluting airshow should be a relic of the past as we face the climate crisis.

Dear Seattle, it’s time to be as brave as a mother.

There’s one topic intruding into our thoughts this summer: When will smoke season in Seattle begin? Can we plan fall birthday parties outdoors anymore? Are there enough toys for when we’re trapped indoors with a child for weeks? At what air quality index (AQI) should we wear masks at the playground? Quick, let’s get more swim sessions in before the smoke arrives, a mother thinks. 

We try not to read too much news, because the news brings us both rage and tears. Canada’s wildfires from last year are still burning. The Gulf Stream is collapsing. An ‘era of global boiling’ has started.

With all this composing our daily reality, how can anyone celebrate a Seafair that features the polluting airshows of the Blue Angels? This year, Seattle’s Blue Angels airshows are August 4 to 6. They have been considered entertainment since 1946, but those were different times with different issues. The climate crisis wasn’t the daily headline, salmon runs weren’t disappearing, glaciers weren’t notably receding. The issues of today are further aggravated by outdated entertainment like the Blue Angels. 

These airshows are an archaic institution that glorify the largest polluter in the world: the U.S. military-industrial complex. As the award-winning journalist Christopher Cook put it: “The (airshow) guzzles phenomenal amounts of fossil fuels and taxpayer dollars.” The airshows are dropping extra emissions on top of our layers of city smog and wildfire smoke, and contaminants on the plants eaten by our Tribal communities and picked from our urban gardens. The airshows are completely incompatible with “a city free of climate pollutants” as called for in Seattle’s 2019 Green New Deal Resolution. 

We are choking on smoke under polluted skies and watching the planes while toxins fall on us and into our eyes. We cannot afford the airshows, in every sense of the word. We cannot afford the layering on of poor summer air quality issues that send us to urgent care with asthma attacks. We cannot afford to contaminate our children’s lungs for a party. We cannot afford to waste taxpayer dollars on a few hours of entertainment that are costing us so dearly – including impacting our quality of life. 

We cannot afford the lawsuits that children are already using to hold adults accountable for our actions. Our Children’s Trust has proceedings in all 50 states. The communities around Sea-Tac airport are suing for the toxic pollution of planes. The Climate Kids of Montana are putting their courage on display – Can we?

Planes, mostly coming and going from SeaTac, fly over the Seattle Beacon Hill neighborhood about every 90 to 180 seconds. The Blue Angel planes are often very low here as they pass overhead. (Linda Hanlon)

We all have to think more about our future generations and change course. What would it have meant to you to see your parents stand up for your right to clean air? We mothers, we build our bravery incrementally through the rejections we experience day after day. Because kids have opinions, parenting requires these little bits of daily bravery. Someone doesn’t like the lunch we packed or the shoes we bought, and we have to carry on, every day even when others don’t like our decisions. It’s these small bits of bravery that we need to transfer to the political sphere.

Sign a petition. Join the Veterans for Peace and Extinction Rebellion actions on August 5th and 6th. Contact Mayor Bruce Harrell and tell him to cancel the air shows. Let’s envision a new Seafair, one that celebrates and contributes to clean air. May we seek new freedom.

We’ll leave you to reflect on a quote from a classic children’s book: 

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not” – The Lorax

With all the love in our hearts, Seattle: Unless.

Article Author
Barbara Clabots (Guest Contributor)

Barbara Clabots completed her Masters of Marine Affairs at the University of Washington. As a researcher, writer, and outdoor recreator, she has published on the intersections of gender and the environment since 2013. Her first documentary is available at Women Talk Climate. She currently serves the community as a board member for Reclaiming STEM Institute and as a member of the Habitat Strategic Initiative Advisory Team for WA Department of Natural Resources.

Article Author
Rachel Heaton (Guest Contributor)

Rachel Heaton is a mother to three beautiful children and a member of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe. Her climate activism includes direct actions, public speaking, co-founding Mazaska Talks, and sitting on the City of Seattle’s Green New Deal Oversight Board. She sustains traditional practices as a cultural educator for the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, advocates for the rights of Native and Indigenous peoples, and connects people to nature through physical fitness.