Shahrar Ali, Joint Deputy Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, came to Canterbury on Saturday, 18th June to talk to members and concerned residents about ways of combating and reducing air pollution in the city.
First and foremost, individual lifestyle changes need to go alongside council action to provide reliable alternatives to the car, such as improving the infrastructure for cycling and walking, as well as public transport. Imaginative reward schemes for using the bus and cheaper fares could form part of a solution. Employers can also contribute by encouraging flexible working, working from home, car-sharing and, of course, teleconferencing.
Shahrar talked about the way people have come to fetishise their cars. He quoted Marx on this: "The more you find value in external things, the less you find value in yourself." A culture shift is required whereby people feel proud of themselves for helping the environment rather than for having a flashy car. Buildings with an electric car pool, communities with their own currency, self-sustainability through reusing, recycling and repairing - such initiatives all contribute to radical changes of lifestyle which help to cut air pollution through the reduction in the use of fossil fuels and through vibrant local economies.
Simple solutions, such as signs at railways crossings to remind drivers to turn off their engines and benches at bus stops, play their part in the fight to improve our air quality.
Shahrar's visit galvanised his audience into a decision to set up a city grouping to fight air pollution. Watch this space.