Posted tagged ‘islington’

What do we want? A clean air cloud please.

September 19, 2012

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post asks you if you know about the clean air cloud coming to London on Saturday 22 September – world car free day. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting click here.

I write this at bedtime listening to Nell my 11 year old daughter check her peak flow. She’s like many London children, someone with asthma who needs to takes a puff measurement twice a day. “Have you got your asthma medicine,” is asked endlessly in our house. We dare not let her leave home without it.

The thing is, I love Islington where Nell was born and still lives.

Just before her big sister Lola was born (in 1998) my book The Estate We’re In: who’s driving car culture? was published. By coincidence it is being re-released as an ebook on 11 October, see here. It’s strange how little has changed in 14 years – cars are still king, despite wonderful inventions like car club cars, Oyster cards, Boris bikes, super-duper trainers and even better buggies for the babies.

My family still does not have a car – well why would we in central London? We do a lot of rushing and pottering around Islington on a bike, with the dog or the kids, so I know its parks, playgrounds and polluted places well.

It  makes me mad to know just how polluted Islington is. The price we pay for living here in central London is what, virtual smoking of a packet of fags a day? Everyone knows the bad effects of smoking , which we can choose to do or not. Yet few of us make any fuss about the increasingly poor air quality in London. And if we’ve got kids with asthma we’re often too wrapped up in their health problems to make any fuss at all. But we really need to complain more. And because I feel like that I plan to celebrate International Car Free Day on Saturday 22 September (soon!) with the wonderful campaigners at Climate Rush who are coming to Islington to help highlight Islington’s dirty little secret – it’s one of  London’s most polluted boroughs.

Dress code blue and white – just as a clean air cloud (see pic above) should look.  For more info about the problem, and what’s happening read on… Otherwise, see you there.

This is an extract from a climate rush blog about air quality:

Young children in pushchairs are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution on busy roads because they are much closer to the source of pollution, the exhaust fumes. It is estimated that up to 30% of childhood asthma is caused by poor air quality – a terrifying statistic bearing in mind that 1,148 schools in London are within 150 metres of roads carrying 10,000 or more vehicles per day and a total of 2,270 schools within 400 metres of such roads.

This Saturday (22 Sep 2012), take a guided tour of Islington’s most polluted places, schools and residential areas, parking along the way and carrying out fun family friendly car-free activities.

Join Climate Rush in Laycock Street Park (Playground) at 11am to take part in the tour; they aim to finish in Highbury Fields at around 2pm.

Support the idea of cleaner air and less cars on London’s streets, share cars with your neighbours, campaign for a better cycling infrastructure built and walk a little bit more.#cleanaircloud

Apparently the running costs for an average car is around £3000 a year. Think if you shared a car with your 3 best friends how much money you would save :-)

Follow and don’t forget to use the hashtag #cleanaircloud


Why asthma makes me so angry

November 25, 2011

It's mum who wants to make a fuss about life not being fair for Nell,10.

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post is a rage against the machine, for anyone who knows someone with asthma – or someone who won’t drive their car a bit less. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of  (much calmer) ideas about parenting, click here

From the Islington Tribune (25 November 2011, actual story here)
On Monday, Islington’s Green ­Party will reveal the full results of a survey it carried out along the A101 – Blackstock Road, Highbury Road and Highbury Grove – which showed that everyday pollution levels are 25 per cent higher than the EU safe ­limit, and in hotspots such as around ­Highbury Barn they are 75 per cent higher.

Readings at child height – as reported in the Tribune two weeks ago – are even worse.

I’m raging against the machine today. I’ve been an environmental campaigner for years. I even spent a decade working with Friends of the Earth, where we were taught if campaigners wanted to make the world a better place, then you better never get angry. If you want to win hearts and minds, then you need to be calm. Look your enemy in the eye, and answer rationally. Listen, laugh if you need to. But don’t get cross. Sometimes I wished I could get cross.

Well, that’s all changed now.

I’m furious about the air quality outside my house. Every single road I use. Every road you and I use is the same. Do you realise that pollution levels are 25 per cent higher try than the EU safe level on Blackstock Road, Highbury Road and Highbury Grove? Have you understood that it’s75 per cent higher at Highbury Barn? What does this mean – that I’m exposing my asthmatic 10 year old to the equivalent of smoking a packet of fags a day? Or is it worse than that?

That’s the same child that I worry about eating five veg a day, getting enough sleep at night, avoiding too much TV or sweets, or getting into the right school.

Asthma triggers are all sorts – perfume, cats, cold weather.  You can kind of avoid those.

I know carpets are a problem, the build up of chemicals indoors. So I’ve got smooth floors and windows that open.

But what if the asthma trigger is the actual air you breathe? What the heck can you do then? Does my child need a bubble helmet and a particle shield to be able to safely breathe?

Do you know how many people have asthma in London? Or Islington? Or your street?

I bet everyone knows a family who has been plagued by asthma. The stats say one in five children carry an asthma inhaler.

  • My daughter Nell needs a steroid dose to help her breathe – to stop her airways constricting and killing her. She needs it when she wakes up and when she goes to bed.
  • She’s probably going to be shorter.
  • She’s not going to be in the school sports teams.
  • Sometimes her asthma is so difficult to control she can’t actually talk very well. Silence = an asthma attack.
  • She was born in Islington.
  • She isn’t going to grow out of this.

Nell’s unlucky. But she’s not unique: 5.4million people in the UK are receiving treatment for asthma. That’s a big number. Only about 200,000 of us live in Islington – so that’s 27 Islingtons of people who can’t breathe too well.

Doctors don’t really know why asthma levels have exploded – but that’s because doctors will do anything not to blame something. Why is it that when you go into hospital with a dodgy heart and you die an autopsy goes ahead? Wasn’t the death kind of obvious?

Half of London’s pollution comes from transport. Doesn’t that say something screamingly obvious? If doctors just spelt out the obvious – and said look this level of air pollutants is crazy.  Imagine the doctors saying: “We are killing our youngest, most vulnerable people just because someone like their mum wants to drive to school or the shops.” Wouldn’t it help us all rethink how we get around Islington?

I don’t smoke because it’s expensive. And because I believe the doctors when they say it gives you cancer and heart and lung disease. Why can’t doctors be a bit braver and go on record. Why can’t they say to drivers that driving is cutting this child Nell’s life short just because someone wants to save a bit of time today, or hang outside the school gates with their engine running?

Why are we all being so well-behaved? We’re murdering our neighbours’ children, and our own children just because we will not get out of our cars, and Christmas is coming, so it’s all a bit difficult…

Every time you drive it’s making my child’s lung capacity – and her friends – another notch worse.

Now if I wasn’t being angry I’d say put your heavy goods into a bike basket, or a pannier or get a push along trolley. My family now has two trolleys we find it so useful. Use a buggy if you must. Or a wheelbarrow.

Instead I’m going to add a few particulates to the mix. If I ever see anyone sitting in a car with the engine running I’m going to wolf howl with despair. How can we do this to other people, let alone to our own families?

This study by Islington’s Green party has given us the figures everyone else wanted to hide. A bunch of mums and dads went out with a wet wipe and a few particulate readers. A few weeks later they came back with a shocking story. The soupy air quality on the roads we all use is likely to cut our life – my life – short by 11 years. Nell hasn’t even lived that long yet.

No wonder I’m angry. As they say in that famous Chinese proverb – be careful what you wish for.

Thank you to Islington’s Green party. For more details about the survey see at

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