With the Covid apocalypse continuing to apocalypt, and lockdowns limiting our ability to gather in groups, environmental activism has become slightly tricky. And with yer man The Zero struck down by long Covid his ability to do much of anything has become even trickier, though he remains able to refer to himself creepily in the third person.
Happily, Greenpeace is still trying to save us. It’s been remotely going after Tesco for its genocidal supply chain that thinks flogging chicken as cheaply as possible is more important than, for example, leaving the occasional tree standing in the Brazilian rainforest so we can, for example, survive. Now it’s turning its attention to transport, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, and one of the biggest contributors to toxic air pollution.
Low traffic neighbourhoods aim to help, blocking off areas to apocalypse-fuelled vehicles to improve air quality and encourage safer cycling and walking. Done right, they can help address the massive inequalities that see people in poorer areas less likely to own vehicles but more likely to die in road traffic accidents, and people of colour more likely to have their health battered by noise and air pollution. And air pollution isn’t kidding around any more, recently ruled as a contributing cause in the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah.
This week Greenpeace’s local groups – which you should join immediately – had us doing socially-distanced events in our areas to big up low traffic neighbourhoods and throw shade on cars and vans like a teenager throwing shade on a 40-something blogger for thinking people still say “throwing shade.” In Brixton volunteers organised a scavenger hunt; in Edinburgh they put on an art and photography competition; and in Glasgow we did a community art drop, depositing painted rocks on Kelvin Way to celebrate cars being told to fuck off out if it.
Where once the Kelvin Way had cars and vans pumping out apocalyptic filth, it was closed to them for lockdown and given a pop-up cycle lane to encourage more active travel. Now a temporary low traffic area, it’s completely changed the vibe of the park. It’s full of pedestrians, cyclists, skaters, rollerbladers and – I can only assume given the area – intolerable hipsters on upcycled penny farthings. The road that once sliced the park in two has now become part of it. Hopefully we can help keep it that way long after lockdown ends, and have low traffic neighbourhoods spread throughout Glasgow in areas both privileged and deprived, both gentrified and Easterhouse.
If nothing else it was nice to know that activism still exists, that community still exists. People stopped and had a look as we dropped our rocks off, taking photos, nodding heads, every last one of them very definitely convinced by the campaign and resolved to ditch their cars as soon as they got home. It was all very uplifting although, while we’d planned to remove, clean and return the rocks once we were done, this being Glasgow, people starting nicking them almost immediately.
We decided to find it charming.