Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Protesting Against Air Pollution Crisis, Extinction Rebellion Stalls Rush-Hour Traffic in London

Popular
Protesters hold a banner and a placard while blocking off the road during a protest against Air pollution in London. Ryan Ashcroft / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Dozens of students, parents, teachers and professionals joined a Friday protest organized by Extinction Rebellion that temporarily stalled morning rush-hour traffic in London's southeasten borough of Lewisham to push politicians to more boldly address dangerous air pollution across the city.


The demonstration was just the first in a series of actions Extinction Rebellion (XR) is planning for the "Let Lewisham Breathe" campaign. Lorna Greenwood, who protested Friday despite being nine months pregnant, told the Guardian that "the idea was to stop traffic temporarily to put pressure on all of our politicians — Lewisham council, [London Mayor] Sadiq Khan, and the government — to confront the air pollution crisis."

Though Khan has called the air quality issues that plague his city a "health crisis," he criticized Friday's action. A spokesman for Khan told ITV: "The mayor recognizes we face a climate emergency and shares the protesters' passion for tackling this issue. But he is clear that causing disruption for Londoners in this way is unacceptable."

Commuters were reportedly more supportive. Toting signs that declared "This Air Is Killing Us," campaigners handed out leaflets and cake to drivers, and urged them to shut off their vehicles while they waited at the three locations of the sit-ins, according to organizers. They also warned of the disruption in advance, both online and with banners along the affected routes, and notified local schools and emergency services.

"There was some backlash but not as much as you would expect because people in the area know how bad the problem is," Greenwood said. "Lewisham suffers really badly with air pollution so it's at the forefront of everybody's minds and it's something that really unites people. It doesn't matter what job you do or how old you are, people have to breathe the same air."

"The environment catastrophe will far outweigh the damage caused by a few roadblocks on a Friday morning," 35-year-old demonstrator Harry Gibson, who also participated in XR's London demonstrations in April, told the Evening Standard.

"The planet's not going to last, it's not protected with the way that we're going," he warned. "We need to look to the future for future generations."

Pete Pello, 32, concurred. "I'm here because I can't ignore the facts anymore. I don't feel comfortable standing by and letting future generations deal with the world we are creating for them. It's something I feel I have to do," he said in a statement from XR.

"It's been amazing so far," Pello added. "People are being patient and waiting. We've had a few angry shouts but most people are pretty relaxed and supportive. There's a really great mix of people here from school children to older people. For lots of them, it's the first time they've done anything like this."

Freya, a 13-year-old protester, told the Evening Standard: "I'm here because lots of people don't care. Most adults don't listen to the children. They can't stop polluting. This is the only way to make change."

"We are in a climate and ecological emergency that requires a change in all aspects of society," protester John Hamilton told MetroUK, pointing out that "Lewisham Council themselves passed a motion declaring the borough to be in a state of climate emergency."

This Is Local London reported Friday that Lewisham Councillor Sophie McGeevor, cabinet member for the environment, said, "As one of the first councils in the country to declare a climate emergency, we share the same goal as Extinction Rebellion — to save the planet and clean up our air."

"We understand that without action the planet is heading towards a climate catastrophe," she said. "We are taking bold action to improve air quality whether that is: supporting the ULEZ and campaigning for it to include the whole borough, investing in cycling and walking infrastructure, proposing to make the most polluting vehicles pay more for parking, installing green walls outside schools, increasing the number of electric vehicle charging stations, or investing in Lewisham's award winning green spaces."

McGeevor added, "We want to go further and faster to meet this challenge, but with local government having gone through nearly a decade of austerity we need central government support to do so."

In addition to calling on Khan and the U.K. government to do more to tackle air pollution and the climate crises, members of XR are also urging the Lewisham Council to follow the lead of the Oxford City Council in establishing a citizens assembly to weigh in on how the government should address the issues.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A coke storage area is seen as steam rises from the quench towers at the US Steel Clairton Works on Jan. 21, 2020, in Clairton, Pennsylvania. White plumes of smoke billow above western Pennsylvania's rolling hills as scorching ovens bake coal, which rolls in by the trainload along the Monongahela River. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's claim that the U.S. has the cleanest air and water in the world has been widely refuted by statistics showing harmful levels of pollution. Now, a new biannual ranking released by researchers at Yale and Columbia finds that the U.S. is nowhere near the top in environmental performance, according to The Guardian.

Read More Show Less
Students walk by a sign reading "Climate Change" at the Doctor Tolosa Latour public school in Madrid, Spain on Sept. 9, 2014. In the U.S., New Jersey will be the first state to make the climate crisis part of its curriculum for all K-12 students. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP via Getty Images

New Jersey has invested in the future health of the planet by making sure the next generation of adults knows how human activity has had a deleterious effect on the planet. The state will be the first in the nation to make the climate crisis as part of its curriculum for all students, from kindergarten all the way to 12th grade, as NorthJersey.com reported.

Read More Show Less
Some reservations are reporting infection rates many times higher than those observed in the general U.S. population. grandriver / Getty Images

By Lindsey Schneider, Joshua Sbicca and Stephanie Malin

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is novel, but pandemic threats to indigenous peoples are anything but new. Diseases like measles, smallpox and the Spanish flu have decimated Native American communities ever since the arrival of the first European colonizers.

Read More Show Less
As we continue to grapple with the issues of overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change, there exists an opportunity to address these existential threats with new innovations. Sawitree Pamee / EyeEm

By Kaya Bulbul

The ocean is our lifeline - we rely on it for the food we eat, the air we breathe, as well as for millions for jobs worldwide.

As we continue to grapple with the issues of overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change, there exists an opportunity to address these existential threats with new innovations, many of which unidentified or insufficiently supported.

Read More Show Less
The coronavirus adds a new wrinkle to the debate over the practice of eminent domain as companies continue to work through the pandemic, vexing landowners. Patrick J. Endres / Getty Images

By Jeremy Deaton

Pipeline giant Kinder Morgan is cutting a 400-mile line across the middle of Texas, digging up vast swaths of private land for its planned Permian Highway Pipeline. The project is ceaseless, continuing through the coronavirus pandemic. Landowner Heath Frantzen said that dozens of workers have showed up to his ranch in Fredericksburg, even as public health officials urged people to stay at home.

Read More Show Less
Weeds dying in a soybean field impacted by dicamba spraying. JJ Gouin / iStock / Getty Images

A federal court overturned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approval of dicamba Wednesday, meaning the controversial herbicide can no longer be sprayed in the U.S.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Smoke rises from a cement factory in Castleton in the High Peak district of Derbyshire, England. john finney photography / Moment / Getty Images

Human activity has pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide to higher levels today than they have been at any other point in the last 23-million-years, potentially posing unprecedented disruptions in ecosystems across the planet, new research suggests.

Read More Show Less