The coronavirus crisis is dominating all of our minds at present, as we think of the risk to ourselves and the ones we love. The ways in which communities are coming together to prevent infection and help those infected are inspirational
But there is another, ongoing crisis which will in the longer run be as dangerous to at least our children and grandchildren – and which will need as much community effort to bring under control.
Last June Canterbury city councillors declared a Climate Emergency. They did not do this lightly. They did it because they had seen the facts, and know that we have precious little time to stop the heating of our atmosphere running out of control. We ourselves would have to be blind not to see the signs of this heating already happening, in the world, and here at home.
We – and that includes all of us – are burning too much fuel. Here in Canterbury the biggest single source of carbon emission is traffic. Our cars, vans, buses and trucks in the district are pumping huge quantities of carbon, over half a million tons a year, into the air.
Other cities have successfully reduced their heating of the atmosphere, by setting up ‘low emission zones’. This penalises passage through the zone of any vehicle that is pumping out more than a certain amount of carbon, and other poisonous emissions.
This will help to bring down the amount we are contributing to the overheating of the world. But it will also help to combat a risk to health that is very immediate. The chemicals pumped out by our exhausts are major cause of illnesses related to breathing. Children are especially vulnerable, as the gases lie quite low on the pavement. Wincheap, Military Road, Sturry Road, St Dunstans and other connecting roads are particularly dangerous at peak times. Any caring parent would want this poisoning of the air not to affect their child.
I enjoy my car, I love its convenience. But I don’t want it to be the cause of respiratory diseases. I would hope that all of us, if we think of ourselves as a community, as we are doing now in the face of the virus, would want to support a council that is prepared to take a measure that would discourage the use of extra-polluting vehicles in the roads mentioned above.