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Month: June 2018

Every Polluted Breath You Take

Air, oxygen, breathing – I admit these are not topics I tend to ponder as I go about my daily life. When in my car, I (Tamara) tend to be more concerned with evading Pompey traffic than about the effect I am having on the air quality. When I cycle around town trying to get past the self-same bumper-to-bumper traffic, I am not thinking about the fumes I am breathing in so much as trying to survive aggressive drivers.

But as with most things in life, it is all interconnected. Air quality in Portsmouth is at illegal and unsafe level. I first became aware of these issues when my local Portsmouth Green Party activists initiated the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign.

let pompey breathe

As a lazy environmentalist,  I prefer to have issues explained to me in simple, easy-to-understand terms. Here to do just that, in this special Thursday edition of Shades of Green, is Portsmouth Green Party activist and #LetPompeyBreathe spokesperson Tim Sheerman-Chase.

Me: Hihi Tim! Thanks for joining me via email to talk about the air quality issue in Portsmouth. As some of our readers may not be aware of the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign, what it is all about and what is your role in this?

Tim: #LetPompeyBreathe is a campaign group aiming to get Portsmouth’s air pollution within safe and legal limits. It is affiliated with Portsmouth Green Party, Friends of the Earth, local neighbourhood forums and other concerned groups.

My role is as spokesperson, blogger and researcher of government published reports. These tend to be fairly large and impenetrable, but I am assisted by my science background. I am the lead petitioner on the petition currently before Portsmouth City Council.

 

In a nutshell, what is the problem with our air quality?

Portsmouth is one of the worst cities in the UK for air quality, with pollution levels in continuous breach of both legal limits specified in the EU Air Quality Directive, English law, and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

 

Is the air pollution a problem across the whole city or is it localised to certain areas?

Pollution levels greatly vary around the city. Some particularly bad areas include:

  • Hampshire Terrace/Queens Street
  • The top of Commercial Road
  • London Road/Fratton Road/Kingston Road
  • Eastern Way/Milton Road

The residential areas of Southsea, Milton and Tipner have relatively better air quality.

Traffic is the largest factor in local air pollution. Diesel engines are particularly bad, particularly from diesel cars, buses and heavy goods vehicles. This is probably the easiest area to make improvements and bring pollution to within safe limits.

 

Gulp…I used to have a diesel car as I thought it was better for the environment than petrol cars! Luckily, it broke down on me and was replaced with a petrol-electric hybrid. What other individual actions can we take?

It is difficult to avoid air pollution completely for an individual person, apart from moving away from cities! However, you can reduce exposure by avoiding busy roads at peak times. Pollution is far worse inside vehicles than outside, so you can help yourself (while helping your community) by reducing car usage. Try to use public transport, cycling and walking instead, even if only for one day a week extra.

 

What is it specifically about our air quality that is unsafe?

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bj72L-0HpmR/?taken-by=pompeygreens

There are various types of pollution – Portsmouth has a particular issue with the levels of small particulate pollution (PM2.5) exceeding WHO safe limits. We also breach the annual NO2 limits in several locations.

 

Particulate pollution?

Particulate pollution (also known as particulate matter), is the general term for the solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Small particulate pollution is fine microscopic inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometres and smaller.

 

How is air pollution measured and who regulates it?

Regulations have been put in place to address the problem. Among the most significant is the UK law Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010. This specifies legally binding limits on the UK government for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate pollution.

 

That is a great start but it’s one thing to know there’s a problem and set national regulations and another to actually take positive action on a local level- what is actually being done about it?  Why are the council and government not being held to account?

As you said, government bodies often ignore their responsibilities and 278 of the 391 local authorities missed the legal targets in 2017.

These legal limits are gradually being enforced. The European court of justice is threatening the UK and five other countries with multi-million Euro fines if they do not comply with legal limits.  Three successive High Court victories have been won by ClientEarth over the UK government, with the government’s plans being found to be inadequate.

Responsibility has largely been given to local government, which have taken some steps to deal with it but far stronger measures need to be taken. Part of the ClientEarth ruling found that central government does not have a sufficient enforcement for local authorities to meet these legal limits. Being underfunded, local government is having difficulty in taking suitable measures. Also, in many councils, the political will to address the problem is lacking.

 

How does the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign hold Portsmouth City Council to account?

#LetPompeyBreathe has two main goals: to raise public awareness and to encourage Portsmouth City Council to take further action.

At a local level, there are two documents that the council are required to produce: an air quality strategy and an action plan. Currently, #LetPompeyBreathe are petitioning the council to urgently publish its Air Quality Action Plan for consultation. In the two months since the petition went live, we have gathered the required 1000 signatures for the issue to be discussed at the next Full Council meeting which is in July (and handed them in on Clean Air Day – which is today).

 

As for the effectiveness of petitioning, politicians respond to public pressure particularly when well organized. If they see there is a clear demand for something to be done, we are in a much better position. The petition is only one step in the campaign.

 

What specific actions could the council take to rectify the air pollution problem?

There are many things, including:

  • improve walking and cycling routes
  • make the urban environment safer and more pleasant
  • make public transport easier to use, more integrated, cheaper and cleaner
  • reduce car use through careful city planning

MPs from different parties have been calling for a new Clean Air Act which will greatly strengthen monitoring and control of pollutants. We also need to shift the cost of pollution on to the polluter, particularly in egregious cases like Dieselgate and the car manufacturers.

Most large cities will require a charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) to bring air pollution to within safe limits within a reasonable time.

 

Tim, thank you for taking the time to inform us about the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign and petition. Dear Reader, please sign the petition, if you haven’t already and share it with your friends, family, acquaintances and frenemies.

A Guide To Socially Conscious Sex

Sex. It’s something that a lot of us spend a lot of time thinking about, from daydreaming about our favourite celebrity to worrying if we’re doing it right to listening to your more adventurous friend brag about their exploits. But I bet that you’ve never thought about whether your sex life is ethical.

Now, I (Emma) know this seems like it’s going to an article where I lecture you about what you are doing ‘wrong’ in your sex lives. It’s not, I promise. I’m just going to look at some ways to make our sex lives more ethical – and possibly even better! After all, we’re always looking to make other areas of their lives more ethical (i.e. going flexitarian or recycling more), why not the bedroom as well?

Sex Toys

SOURCE: WIKIPEDIA

I’ll be honest, this whole article was pitched after I tried to find a more eco-friendly way to clean my vibrator. I’m trying to cut down on the amount of trash that I create, so I wanted to stop buying the special wipes. Then I ended up down an internet rabbit (pun intended) hole and found out that cleaning might be the least of my sex toys’ eco problems…

It turns out that the average sex toy is made in China (as with most consumer products) to cut down on labour costs, so it could have a large carbon footprint by the time it reaches you. It may even contain some nasty chemicals or animal products, which you probably don’t want near your private parts. Then, there’s the issue of disposing of your sex toy. You can’t exactly chuck it in with the kerbside recycling, can you?

 

via GIPHY

What should you do?

  1. Keep your sex toys for as long as possible, as ditching older ones before their time will only exacerbate your environmental impact. But when you are ready to retire them don’t throw them into a landfill; there are some recycling schemes available, like Love Honey.
  2. Clean your sex toys with warm water and white vinegar or, in the case of non-electric toys, simply boil them
  3. When looking for a new sex toy, look for ones that are made in your country (to decrease your carbon footprint) and choose ones made from medical-grade silicone, glass, metal or wood. If you do opt for a plastic one, stay away from any that contain phthalates, a  potentially carcinogenic chemical. You could even find a solar powered sex toy to cut down on battery and electrical use. I swear that you won’t have to leave the whole thing out in plain view; just the battery.

via GIPHY

Porn

SOURCE: PIXABAY

What porn you consume – and how – can make a big difference to how ethical your sex life is, mainly because of how the industry treats its actors. And as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have taught us, big, powerful companies – and the (mostly) men at the heads of them – generally suck at controlling themselves.

Most mainstream porn has problems with:

– unsafe sex, which some actors report being forced into

– pressuring actors into sex acts that they are uncomfortable with

– a lack of rights for workers, including unfair wages

– the fetishisation of its actors, particularly POC, LGBTQ+ people, plus size people, and mature people

All of that is appalling and it doesn’t even cover the fact that in most mainstream porn the female actors are forced to fake their orgasm, which creates an unrealistic view of sex for the consumer.

via GIPHY

If the person making my veggie burger was working under unsafe conditions, I’d be furious, so why should I care less about the people making my porn? Now, this isn’t to say you should stop watching porn. I didn’t stop eating eggs when I found out about battery hens, I switched to free-range.

Instead, look into a more ethical type of porn that treats workers fairly and promotes intersectionality. Also, it could do wonders for your sex life by showing real sex acts that actually get women off and that you could try at home- mainstream porn seems awfully scared of a genuine female orgasm, doesn’t it?

So how can we make sure that the porn we’re watching is ethical?

via GIPHY

There are no consumer reports on how ethical porn is, so it’s mostly up to you to decide for yourself, but here is my advice.

Pay: I know that we’re so used to getting our porn for free that it seems absurd to suggest you start paying for it again, but I swear there’s a good reason. When you don’t pay for porn, the industry can cut corners, which can hurt the performers.

Play favourites: Find a porn star that you like. Do your research on them, listen to what they say about their work, and find out if they have more control over what they do with whom. Some performers may even have a website (perhaps with free clips and photos!) and those actors are more likely to have control over their content.

Trust your instincts: The next time you’re watching porn, ask yourself if you think the actors are enjoying themselves and if the scene seems safe. You can still explore fantasies that may not look safe on the surface (i.e. BDSM), but it’s important that the performers are safe and happy to be in the scene.

I know this can seem like a lot, but considering how exploitative some porn can be to its actors, isn’t it worth it to support the performers who have done so much for you?

via GIPHY

 

Lube And Barrier Contraceptives

Source: Wikipedia

Did you know that your lubes and contraceptives could contain animal by-products? Or that they may have been tested on animals? It’s something that I naively assumed was only true in contraceptives from the distant past, but unfortunately, it’s something that is just as true in the 21st century.

What can you do?

Simply, it’s a case of being a more informed consumer.

Organizations like PETA and the Leaping Bunny keep track of vegan and cruelty-free brands, but you should know that obtaining these certifications isn’t exactly common among the makers of lubes and contraceptives.  Otherwise, you can always check the ingredients list on your lube for ingredients like glycerin and your barrier contraceptives for casein (or ask the manufacturer).

Now, I know that some of you are waiting for me to talk about how barrier contraceptives contribute to our landfills and that no one knows how long they take to biodegrade. However, I’m not going to tell anyone to ditch barrier contraceptives as they’re the only things that protect against STDs.

via GIPHY

The only thing I’ll say is – DON’T FLUSH THEM DOWN THE TOILET! They’re really hazardous to marine life.

Okay, so this is how I’m pursuing a more ethical sex life, but now I’d like to hear from you. Are you trying to get a more socially conscious sex-life? How’s it going? Let me know in the comments section below.

 

This article, written by Emma, was originally published on LOTL and has been reprinted with permission. It contains some amendments for a UK audience.

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