Climate Rush’s message to Boris Johnson this morning, written in soot on the pavement in his street
The mayor believes in spraying adhesive to the worst pollution hotspots to catch exhaust fumes. But emissions should be tackled at source
London’s air is so toxic that it has been linked to nearly one in five deaths a year. Responsibility for the capital’s air quality lies at the door of Boris Johnson, who has responded with shocking languor to this public health emergency. The mayor’s flagship solution is to literally glue the pollution to the ground.
His specially adapted gritting lorries have been haunting our highways for the past few months, spraying adhesive up and down our worst pollution hotspots and sticking exhaust fumes to the asphalt. Rather than tackling the problem at its source, by tampering and gluing around air pollution monitors Johnson’s aim is to avoid a £300m EU fine for failing to comply with air quality standards.
The image of gluing pollution to the roads was too ridiculous for our campaign group, Climate Rush, to resist. Is this really Boris’s policy? Really? The Campaign for Clean Air in London last night posted proof of the so-called “Pollution Suppressor” rolling past an air quality monitor on Marylebone Road.
We decided to use the same technique on Boris Johnson’s street. It wasn’t hard to find soot – we scraped grime caked to the sides of roads near Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood, Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Charles Dickens primary school in Southwark. Early this morning we arrived in Islington with a stencil, spray glue and our bag of soot and got to work “preventing dust particles from becoming airborne”, as the Transport for London press release puts it.
It’s an issue all Londoners should be concerned about. Children and babies in pushchairs are especially vulnerable to air pollution, being closer to the exhaust pipes of polluting vehicles. Dirty air has been linked to up to 30% of childhood asthma cases, a terrifying statistic considering that in London more than a thousand schools are within 150 meters of congested roads. Air pollution is more than a public health epidemic: black soot of the kind glued outside Boris’s house contributes up to 30% of global climate change emissions.
Perhaps in future the mayor of London, be it Johnson or not, could better protect our children’s lungs by targeting the causes of air pollution, not just the air monitoring sites.
We say: implement a Berlin-style low emission zone for the most polluted areas of London, resulting in fewer vehicles and improved air quality. Reduce car traffic by giving commuters fair fares instead of pricing them off public transport with yearly price hikes. Invest in safer cycling infrastructure and tackle the culture of traffic violence – only then will the masses brave their bicycles.
At Climate Rush we’ve held our breath too long waiting for real solutions. On 19 April join our Spring Clean demonstration to create London’s first clean air zone. Boris needs to know that gluing pollution to the roads is not a solution. Tackling emissions at their source is.
• Siobhan Grimes and Alice Haworth-Booth are campaigners with environmental action group Climate Rush
Source: The Guardian