Opening speech at London National Park City ‘Greener, Healthier, Wilder London Mayoral hustings’

Extinction Rebellion and the Youth Climate movement have alerted Londoners to the heart breaking truth that we are now in both a Climate AND an Ecological emergency. On 11th December 2018, Sadiq Khan declared a Climate Emergency in London. However we have yet to see the policy, ambition or mobilisation commensurate with the scale of the crises.

Our air, water and soil has been allowed to become seriously polluted and stressed by the emissions and run off from motor vehicles, aeroplanes, gas boilers, leaf blowers, plastic waste and unconstrained construction. The density of our city means particulates and other pollutants become concentrated. The cumulative effect is far more toxic and deadly.

Meanwhile our over-consumption of clean ground water is draining the life out of our invaluable, rare Chalk Streams. In Denmark the average per person daily water usage is 80 litres, in London it is 160 litres.

The density of London is both a blessing and a challenge in terms of addressing these fundamental environmental crises. Good leadership at a strategic level is crucial in harnessing the collective for the common good. And minimising harm. 

London National Park City will be integral to mobilising communities, bringing together knowledge and expertise by involving the entire community. From business to the environment, transport to health, culture to education. Everyone can play a part. We have so much shared experience, intuition and emotional intelligence.

We can bring joy to our streets again by reclaiming space from cars for street farms, orchards, vineyards, food growing re-wilding, cycling and play.

Residential parking permits become resident allotment permits. The soil is released from its concrete tomb. We could even start a bathtub guerrilla revolution, growing vegetables outside our homes.

Finally let me propose that as well as banning fossil fuel cars we ban leaf blowers. Why?

Leaf blowers are deafeningly loud and pollute the air. They also seriously harm soil biology: Leaves, insects and spiders are sucked up and chopped, plant seeds are destroyed. Leaf blowers and vacuums have the potential to be ‘fatal to insects in the foliage’

Wildlife also depend on leaves for shelter during the winter. Or to rot down and feed the plants and animals in the soil where they grew.

Leaves are an invaluable resource: Leaf mould is a perfect growing medium for tree seedlings and food growing seeds. We need community composts on every residential street. Community composts replace damaging imported peat composts. And provide the raw material to grow seeds.

Re-wilding and greening of our city will help us prepare; as well as making a healthier environment for all.

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