Quantcast

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

Students hold a Youth Strike for Climate Change Protest in London, UK on May 24. Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

The New York City public schools will allow their 1.1 million students to skip school for Friday's global climate strike, The New York Times reported Monday.

Read More Show Less
The 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg speaks during her protest action for more climate protection with a reporter. Steffen Trumpf / picture alliance / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

It's been 30 years since Bill McKibben rang the warning bells about the threat of man-made climate change — first in a piece in The New Yorker, and then in his book, The End of Nature.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
At the International Motor Show (IAA), climate protestors are calling for a change in transportation politics. © Kevin McElvaney / Greenpeace

Thousands of protestors marched in front of Frankfurt's International Motor Show (IAA) on Saturday to show their disgust with the auto industry's role in the climate crisis. The protestors demanded an end to combustion engines and a shift to more environmentally friendly emissions-free vehicles, as Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less
Setting and testing the line protections for Siemens SF6 gas insulated switchgear in 2007. Xaf / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Electricity from renewable sources is growing exponentially as the technology allows for cheaper and more efficient energy generation, but there is a dark side that has the industry polluting the most powerful greenhouse gas known to humanity, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less
Ella Olsson / Pexels

By Elizabeth Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Sweet and regular potatoes are both tuberous root vegetables, but they differ in appearance and taste.

They come from separate plant families, offer different nutrients, and affect your blood sugar differently.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Scientists in Saskatchewan found that consuming small amounts of neonicotinoids led white-crowned sparrows to lose significant amounts of weight and delay migration, threatening their ability to reproduce. Jen Goellnitz / Flickr

By Julia Conley

In addition to devastating effects on bee populations and the pollination needed to feed humans and other species, widely-used pesticides chemically related to nicotine may be deadly to birds and linked to some species' declines, according to a new study.

Read More Show Less

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is set to unveil a package of measures on Friday, Sept. 20, to ensure that the country cuts its greenhouse gas emissions 55% by 2030, compared with the 1990 levels.

Read More Show Less
Assorted plastic bottles. mali maeder / Pexels

California ended its 2019 legislative session Saturday without passing two bills that would have led the nation in tackling plastic pollution, The Mercury News reported.

Read More Show Less