How modern we like to think ourselves. How clever. We know about waterborne diseases such as typhoid, cholera and dysentery. Whatever else we in the UK may die of we won’t at least die of those. We beat those years back. Dragged ourselves out of our 19th century health ignorance, discovered new medicines and technologies needed to keep our water and air clean. Health and long life – a massive reduction in child morbidity and mortality – these were the prizes to be fought for and won.
Yet here we are in the 21st century and our air and water quality are under threat again: our water supplies at risk from the Government’s fracking cronies while our air is being poisoned by emissions of nitrous oxides and particulates PM2.5, so liberally handed out to us by diesel cars and a greedy, expansionist aviation industry with shareholders to feed. As at 6th January London has already exceeded its illegal air levels for the whole of 2017.
The Government that was elected in this strange ‘democracy’ is no longer interested in supporting us, in caring about our health or our children’s education. Instead they follow the money and back the big boys, for example, taking away the right of local Councils to refuse planning permission to an untried and untested fracking industry, while in other cases forcing individuals and local Councils to Court to defend the freedoms of their communities against the violent noise and choking poisons belching out of Heathrow airport and its dirty energy planes. Client Earth has twice taken the Government to Court over its failure to protect the quality of our air in accordance with EU regulations. Twice they have won. May’s response? To announce a 3rd runway at Heathrow.
Apparently, we must show the UK is ‘open for business’ particularly after the result of the EU referendum. Although it is not currently known how many business people wish to come to the UK wearing gas masks or carrying their own water supplies.
Far from fighting to keep its communities safe and healthy, this government is siding with those who completely disregard communities as interfering nuisances to be brushed aside and/or intimidated into submission. The need to show that the UK is ‘open for business’ does not excuse the poisoning of our air. New energy sources cannot be found at a cost of fouling our water supplies or with a total disregard for the health and welfare of communities that have to live alongside massive infrastructure projects.
When climate justice wins we win the world we want. We can’t sit this one out, not because we have too much to lose but because we have too much to gain….
Naomi Klein. This Changes Everything
So who will protect us now? We will. The granny that Cuadrilla tried and failed to get put in prison; the very ordinary people that chained themselves to Heathrow’s railings or lay down on the M4 motorway; these unlikely heroes are the new guardians of our air and water.
Communities of unimprisoned grannies are being protected by the Courts against land and air grabbing corporates prepared to go to any lengths to get what they want. In the absence of a political solution, there will be a people-centred movement. It has already started. A coming together of community groups united by a desire to be treated as citizens with rights and responsibilities (rather than that favoured Thatcherist term ‘consumers’).
What does it mean to consume? To use up air and water and spit out foulness? To take the money and run? It is not the people that are doing that.