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To Drive or Not To Drive

THE DILEMMA OF THE DAY

Hello Dear Reader. Tamara here.

I need your help. I have a dilemma. The answer to my dilemma is patently obvious yet I bury my head in the sand with my cute flamingo butt waggling in the petrol scented wind.

Do I get rid of my car?

I should get rid of my car.

I do not want to get rid of my car.

I will get rid of my car. Someday. Just not right now.

do it, the climate

We are in a climate emergency. At this very moment. In the here and now. Our current present. We are knowingly hurtling towards the cliff edge and rather than do an emergency stop, we turn up the radio and tell ourselves the cliff is an illusion.

According to the IPCC report published last year, we have until 2030 to limit climate change. That is 11 years to do some serious damage limitation. Global warming must be limited to a more manageable 1.5-degree increase and carbon dioxide emissions must be significantly cut. To do this requires a significant and dramatic change from government, corporations and citizens.

I am a citizen. I have a car that contributes to carbon dioxide emissions. I should get rid of my car. I don’t want to get rid of my car.

do it, #letpompeybreathe

Portsmouth is an island. A beautiful, vibrant traffic-crammed island with limited parking. I can walk, get the bus (though I baulk at paying almost a fiver just to get into town). I live near the train station. I can get the coach. Why am I contributing to Portsmouth’s poor air quality, traffic and parking problems? I don’t need a car. I am able-bodied and don’t have children. I don’t need a car to commute to work or get around.

I should get rid of my car. I don’t want to get rid of my car.

don’t do it, mental health

I have made no secret of the fact that I have clinical depression. I have been managing it and some days I even forget I have it. But in the early days of my depression and subsequent relapses, I would retreat into my bed and struggled to leave the house, sometimes for days and weeks at a time. That’s when the car became my lifeline and my freedom. I would drive to Sainsbury’s and have some chips and do some shopping and come home feeling like at least I had achieved something. I would agree to go out and do stuff, but only if my partner drove us. But that was then and this is now.

I should get rid of my car. I don’t want to get rid of my car.

don’t do it, Green-ish

My car is a hybrid. And maybe one day, I could afford to get an electric car. Also, I recycle loads and try to live an eco life. Next year, I’m even giving up flying for a year. So that’s not so bad, right? Except the car tyres still release plastic into the environment and the electric is produced from the burning of fossil fuels. And the argument still stands, living in Portsmouth, I don’t need a car.

I should get rid of my car. I don’t want to get rid of my car.

will I do it?

Me feeling smug on the train to Winchester

In my defence, I have been practising not having a car and have been using it much less. Choosing to cycle even in the rain (ergh) and to take the bus and train when I would have otherwise driven.I won’t lie, I find it expensive and it does heighten my anxiety. Though to be fair, parking in Pompey heightens my anxiety too! I worry that by getting rid of my car, I will become house-bound and isolated when I next have a depressive relapse. And there is the universal fact of convenience, sometimes it’s just quicker and easier to drive with the added bonus of not getting wet!

I should get rid of my car. I don’t want to get rid of my car.

In an ideal rosy cartoon-stylie world, in writing of this post, having faced my fears, I will choose to live a bigger life and get rid of my god-damned car.

Maybe soon. But not yet.

But if not now, then when?

Disclaimer: If you are a vehicle owner/ driver, this is not a judgement or attack on you and your reasons for owning a car. This is my story. Having said that, if I get rid of my car, will you get rid of yours? 

365 days of Shades of Green- Part 1

Shades of Green is one year old! Happy Greeniversaray to Emma and meeeeee (Tamara).

It has been a fantastic year – a year of attempting to show and not just tell the wonderful folks of Portsmouth that it can be easy being green, a year of charting our attempts to be kind to the planet whilst not leaving the house and a year of eating our way around Pompey’s veggie establishments under the guise of blog ‘meetings’! I am so chuffed to be marking this milestone with Emma and of course with you, dear reader.

 

what's your story

 

To celebrate a year of Shades of Green, Emma and I have posed five questions to each other to judge who is the greenest of them all. Haha, could you imagine?! We don’t do judgement here, only positive vibes! 🙂

 

In this 2-part series, Emma and I will share where we both are in our Shades of Green journey. Today it’s all about Emma!

 

Explore with Emma

 

Time for change

 

Q1: Emma, tell us is there anything you have changed in the past year to be more green?

 

Since we started Shades of Green, I’ve made some changes to my life in order to become more eco.

 

  • Food waste – I hate to admit it, but I’ve always been a little bit concerned about using vegetables or fruit when they start to look a little funny or something dairy based when it’s a little bit out of date! In the past year, I’ve been tackling this by taking food that a little past it prime and actually cooking with it. Often, the appearance, texture, or even taste of an individual food item can put us off eating something that is perfectly safe to eat. This can be mitigated by making it into a soup/curry/smoothie and even masking the taste with sauces and spices.
  • Recycling – You’ve really helped me to recycle more by telling me about the plastic recycling at Sainsbury’s and taking my cartons to that secretive place somewhere outside the city. You have no idea how much that’s reduced my family’s waste.
  • Traffic – While I don’t drive, I’ve been reducing the amount that I ask my parents for lifts, which means more buses and more walking.

 

plane

 

Q2: Talking of traffic and travel, how do you reconcile air travel with your green living aims?

I knew I shouldn’t have bragged about my holiday to Florida, lol.  Like most people, I love going on holiday and sometimes that involves air travel. Now, I know that’s a controversial thing in the green community, but in order to visit places in America and Africa, it’s kind of the only option, and I don’t think that we need to be martyrs in order to save the planet.

 

Yes, take slow transport where you can and where it makes ecological sense to do so – if you’re getting a plane from Southampton to Manchester, then rethink the train or the coach – but don’t beat yourself up for wanting to visit other countries and other places.

 

According to the Carbon Footprint Calculator, my return economy-class flight from London to Orlando will be about 1.13  tons of CO2. That’s a lot and there’s no way that I can deny it, which is why I’ll be offsetting it (it only costs about £6). But, do you know what equates to a carbon saving of roughly 1.88 tons a year? Being Vegetarian.

 

The things that I do to be green, including being vegetarian, recycling more, not driving, etc, actually more than make up for these big holidays that I only take every 2-3 years. It’s not perfect and ideally, I would love to be content travelling in the UK and in Europe, but I’m not perfect and I want to go to Disney World. I can’t excuse my use of air travel, but I can cut my eco-impact in other ways in order to make up for it.

 

home lettering

 

Q3: You mention a few of the actions you take to cut your eco-impact Are your family on board with your green aims? How do you deal with any conflict or differing options?

My mum is a little peeved whenever I tease her about eating meat, but my parents are mostly on board with my green lifestyle. In fact, they’re the driving force behind most of the green things in our house and have been since I was little. My dad went pescatarian when I was four and ditched fish after I went vegetarian. My mum almost never eats meat anymore.

 

We have a compost bin, several different recycling bins for the things that can’t go in our kerbside recycling, use eco-friendly bulbs, reusable bags, and even use the water collected in baths and showers to flush the toilet and water the garden. All of that was in place far before I could weigh in. Maybe my parents should write the blog instead of me?

 

teddy bear

 

Q4: Aww, shout out to Emma’s Mum and eco-warrior Dad. I’m well jel as I struggle to get my mother to even recycle! Thinking of the relationship between us and our folks, what are your thoughts on having children and the impact on the planet?

 

I would like to preface this minefield of a question by saying that I have three little nephews who I love very much and I wouldn’t give them up if that one action would end climate change. Sorry, but that’s just the truth.

 

But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that having children is one of the least eco-friendly things you can do, mainly because when you create another human being, you are creating someone else who needs resources that are already in demand.

 

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have kids if you want them and can offer them a healthy and happy home environment, but you might be shocked to know that having one fewer child will save you  58..6 tonnes of CO2 per yearThat’s more than all the other green things combined.

 

I don’t currently have children and they’re not really on the cards for me for like another 5-10 years, but I do think I want them. Depending on how I (and my future partner) feel at the time, this might mean bio kids, but more likely it will mean adoption. Don’t worry, this isn’t a selfless act – I’m just freaked out by the idea of being pregnant!

 

 

Q5: As a reward for you generously answering some tough environmental and ethical dilemma questions re. air travel and children – here’s a nice easy one to finish off. What are your top Pompey places for green living?

 

As always, we love to hear from our readers. What are your top Pompey recommendations? What eco changes have you made in your life? What are your guilty pleasures? Tell us in the Comments Section Below.

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.