Space to Breathe

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Political thinking in the UK is divided. Talk about current affairs, often enough leads to polarised thought. On all sides of the political divide and however we all vote is something that now seems to damage friendly debate. The political temperature especially during a pandemic and after a divisive referendum, is heated with a lot of anger out there.

We all vote for different parties. Whether we vote remain or leave, take a pro or anti-independence stance or whether we have a favourable or opposing view on a different voting system – we can agree to disagree.

Throughout my time as a student turned graduate in journalism at the University of Gloucestershire, my own particular stance is political objectivity on many issues. I have a view on things but joining a political party and picking a side isn’t my style. Holding those in power (and those trying to get into power) accountable, being accurate, finding the truth, being honest, asking important questions and giving a voice to the voiceless – these are my own ethical positions.

When politicians across the spectrum agree on something regardless of party affiliations, it can only be a positive outcome. There is however one issue where I cannot be impartial. In the face of the climate emergency I must pick a side. There is no doubt that our planet is under threat; the science clearly shows us that we are in a state of emergency.

CleanAir Cheltenham Logo – Source: CleanAir

I am sure anyone reading this piece can agree that the need for clean air, the campaign to cut air pollution and make our air cleaner, surely means a coming together. There is a need for cross-party consensus and a need to speak to each other on how to tackle the issue is imperative.

The climate emergency is the single biggest threat to our planet. Raising awareness of the damage air pollution does is just one part of the many problems we all face. With an aim to improve air quality in Cheltenham, a group of dedicated members are deciding to use their spare time to raise awareness.

In the last month I’ve now become a volunteer publicity co-ordinator for Clean Air Cheltenham, hence the importance of writing this piece. Clean Air Cheltenham is also on Twitter.

Launching on Clean Air Day 2020, at a time when Covid-19 lockdowns have seen a new unfamiliar freshness to the town, the group has a clear motto to inspire people to campaign for clean air in Cheltenham. Keeping clean air top of the agenda after pandemic lockdowns become a thing of the past is important too. Changing people’s attitudes won’t be easy but finding a way to keep our air permanently clean can be achieved.

Celebrating the benefits clean air can do for our lives and others is of paramount importance. One example is making air quality better to help people with respiratory diseases. By collaborating with other groups, the aim is to encourage conversation and make our well-being better. Sustainable transport, riding our bikes, tree-planting, listening to health professionals, education in schools and liaising with residents’ associations – these are the many things Clean Air Cheltenham is setting out to do.

A book signing with Cleaning the Air author Tim Smedley, tree walks with Cheltenham Borough Council’s senior Tree Officer, Chris Chavasse, and filling in postcards to Gloucestershire County Council requesting their support for improving Cheltenham’s air quality – this is just a flavour of the group’s activities.

Organising webinars for members of the public to hear key speakers share their expertise has been engaging. Just this week we’ve been hearing from how Birmingham City Council and one of Cheltenham’s twin towns Göttingen in Germany have introduced sustainable transport to move away from relying on cars. Göttingen in particular is important for making connections to Cheltenham. Can the town do the same and introduce a sustainable transport plan? Better transport connections and infrastructure, encouraging walking and cycling or maybe creating a clean air zone – these are things Cheltenham needs to think about.

You can watch a recording of the event here. Further webinars will take place and as a group, support and campaigning for better air quality is welcome.

There is no planet B. We must clean our act up!

Clean air for Cheltenham, the UK and every nation across the globe is essential. By campaigning, hosting those with expertise to gain a better understanding and writing for platforms like this, the will to make the world a better place and clean up our air is surely one we can all get behind.
Bringing people together to have friendly discussions about clean air can only mean a positive outcome.


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