GEARING up for the first holiday abroad in over three years, I had submerged tales of “airport chaos”. Even if the journey is to be testing, it will be worth the hassle in the end, I reckoned.

On arrival, around 4am, Edinburgh airport was already jam-packed. Hundreds of families, couples, intrepid travellers, business people and a big group of Boy Scouts on an expedition were interspersed with a smattering of staff directing the flow of traffic.

An airport worker on a walkie-talkie could be heard organising the deployment of agency staff in an effort to plug the gaps.

I made it through security but the departure board didn’t make for pretty reading. My flight, which was due to leave at 6:30am, was postponed until 2pm.

A lengthy wait ensued, during which I listened to flight after flight being cancelled. I watched excitement turn to resentment as erstwhile holiday-makers were asked to return their duty-free purchases as they left the airport.

Perhaps they could get a flight on a different day, the companies offered. But who would take the risk of befalling such disappointment again? Especially those with young children. And even if they did, precious days off work had already been squandered.

Finally, my flight boarded, and I sat in the claustrophobic plane after an eight-hour wait. But it didn’t leave the tarmac for another three hours. There had been some trouble with matching documents to baggage, rendering the flight unable to take off.

The captain explained that, among other things, the ground team were short-staffed, adding to the time it was taking in the arduous task of unloading and reloading luggage.

Behind the airport frustrations, we might ask a deeper question. For how much longer will air travel of this kind be accessible as the mass phenomenon we have been used to?

The pressures of economic crisis, the pandemic and climate change all seem to weigh down heavily against the idea.

Perhaps some will welcome this: we do have to rapidly cut emissions. But it’s also true that the super-rich will continue to navigate the globe on their private jets with ease, while expelling a massive carbon footprint.

They have no need to queue for hours and don’t have to gawk at electronic boards, watching for LEDs blinking their flights into the abyss. Travel could well become the preserve of those in this elite class, unbridled by the barriers faced by the masses as they hop across the planet.

That’s just once example of the kind of class disparities built into the ecocide. Who will have the resources to move quickly to avoid the infernos and storms? Who will be compelled to cut consumption? Who can afford to have multiple homes in case of emergencies?

Just as the working class were forced to pay for the 2008 financial crisis through austerity, the same logic applies to climate breakdown.

Cheap getaways from the rat-race may fade into a memory quicker than you think.

Access to meat products will be constrained to those who can afford it. The majority will be told to live with less, while “priority citizens” live a life of seemingly impossible luxury.

Thus, the economic crisis, intertwined with the ecological catastrophe, may generate new forms of authoritarianism to regulate such a scenario.

On the one hand, technocrats unfettered by the long demise of liberal democracy will point to a new era of advanced and centralised control to discipline non-elite society.

On the other, those on the Right who still deny climate change can mount their own insurgency drawing the popular frustrations caused by the crisis in a wholly reactionary direction.

The conditions associated with climate breakdown will also ratchet up competition for usable land and resources between states, adding to the already existing tendency towards increased militarisation and war.

Meanwhile, water scarcity already affects 40% of the world’s population.

According to the United Nations, drought alone could put up to 700 million people at risk of displacement by 2030. Kitty van der Heijden, an expert in hydropolitics warns: “If there is no water, politicians are going to try and get their hands on it and they might start to fight over it.”

Perhaps it all reads like a science fiction novel. Yet the above may be underestimating the pace with which events could unfold.

We urgently need solutions. In the Global North, the coterie of climate professionals fuse with an opportunist political class to form a new economy often based on patronage and careerism.

Backs are slapped, and selfies taken, while the corporations stand ready to squeeze out as much profit as they can from the disaster. Even the Greens cheer them on, celebrating the sell-off of large tracts of Scotland’s wind energy to BP and Shell.

It is not just the environmentalist visionaries who warn of the extinction.

Many of those at the top of the system believe it is already too late, while others live in denial. The rate of change required to turn everything back is just too revolutionary, they conclude.

In that vein, the esteemed urban theorist and historian, Mike Davis, posits the following notion – that while a semblance of “climate action” would be promoted, the actual goal “would be the creation of a green and gated oases of permanent affluence on an otherwise stricken planet.”

Yet none of the great challenges of our time should be an excuse for the nihilistic tendencies that are so often on show today.

There is much to fight for. But it will be the class dynamics that will prove to be most fundamental.

The power of organised labour and the interests of the global working class are an active counter-proposition to the dystopian future.

Above all, there must be a democratic solution. Resources must be managed in a way that responds to the needs of society at large, not just the 1%. Technology must serve to liberate us all, rather than becoming another tool to enforce elite rule.

Planetary-wide solidarity must find popular expression beyond the institutions that manage transnational capitalism. We, the citizens of the world, are not the problem, but the solution.