As some regular readers may know I live out in the sticks. Other than the odd tractor or 2 ton SUV that rumbles past my humble abode the atmosphere is relatively benign.
I’m currently in London for a few days and apart from constantly sneezing (I think I’ve developed some kind of allergy to Plane tree pollen) the air really honks.
As I walked along some of the cities busier streets during the morning rush, I was surrounded by literally hundreds of static diesel taxis, buses, trucks, delivery vans and large saloon cars, all their engines running, all of them spewing toxic, carcinogenic particulates into the supposedly breathable air that we lowly organic life forms have to deal with.
Even though most of these vehicles now have expensive ‘particulate filters’ fitted to their enormous and complex exhaust systems, London consistently comes out as the city with the worst air quality in Europe.
So why are we so far behind other European cities?
Surely it can’t have anything to do with the staggering number of diesel vehicles on our roads.
The answer is a stark, ‘yes, that is exactly the reason.’
Because, ladies and gentlemen, we have been encouraged to buy diesels by good old Gordon Brown who fell for the hype (I can’t imagine who told him) that diesels produce less CO2.
The merchants of doubt must have had a field day when he fell for that old chestnut.
Now we are paying the price, an estimated 7,000 deaths a year directly attributed to particulates from diesel engines.
I normally don’t like to criticize people who drive diesel cars, I take the position that it’s not the individuals fault, it’s the fault of manufacturers, the government and the fossil extraction companies.
But as I looked at the drivers in their big diesels sitting in a traffic jam I started to lose my equanimity.
Diesel is dirty, dangerous, destructive and dated. We need to get rid of the damn things as fast as possible.
Later today as I walked past a pile of London Evening Standards I actually picked one up, not something I do very often. The headline story caught my eye, my old boss, Tory MP Zac Goldsmith (I used to write a column for The Ecologist which he owned so I’m stretching the boss title a little) is busy pitching to be the next London Mayor.
Yes he has the full force of BoJo behind him, yes, the Standard hangs on his every utterance because 95% of the UK press are ultra conservative in contrast to the general population who are not, but let’s leave that aside.
Zac wants to turn London into the ‘Green’ capital of the world, with 3,000 electric car share cars and 6,000 charge points across the city.
Before we get all snide and cynical, before I point out that under Boris the much vaunted street charging system in London is a teeny bit unreliable, 1,400 charge points so far with 40% out of order at any one time, before all that, I just want to say wooppee.
Okay, call me a blinkered old hippy optimist, but what I’m seeing is a Tory MP, probably on the left of what is a very right wing party, saying we need less cars, more car sharing and the cars we share should be electric.
So should the taxis and delivery vans.
So I’ve just had a little daydream, I walk down the same busy street in a couple of years time, there is still a queue of traffic, it’s a bit quieter, it smells much better and there are more bikes and more people walking or using public transport.
Oh yes, and less people dying early because the air they are breathing is no longer chock full of carcinogenic particulates.