Editor's comment: Council must help in greener world
PUBLISHED: 15:03 10 July 2019
One of the tenets of Extinction Rebellion's manifesto is that individuals are not to blame for the royal mess leaders and lobbyists have made of our planet's future.
"We avoid blaming and shaming," reads its website. "We live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame."
Yet the people affected by action to reduce the number of motor vehicles in public spaces such as Highbury Corner and Old Street roundabout will largely be individuals. Some, but not all, of them will have had very good reasons for driving.
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In a city with a world-class public transport network, and some limited road capacity still offered, driving less is a reasonable change to ask people to make. But what about the Chapel Market traders whose opening times clash with the new delivery windows and are actually struggling to run their businesses as a result?
Confronting climate change means making some sacrifices, but the biggest of those should be made by the people profiting off the status quo: not the traders or drivers, but the oil firms getting rich by the monopoly of dirty fuel over the transport network, and the politicians and lobbyists and investors who benefit from those firms' support and success.
Islington Council is to be praised for taking action to get vehicles off our roads (and yes, creating pedestrian-friendly public spaces is a part of the fight against climate change), but it too must have an answer for the people whose livelihoods are impacted. That could be more (accessible) public transport and cycling infrastructure, or schemes to allow cleaner vehicles better access than dirtier ones. It could be finding a way for traders to get their stock in a safer and more environmentally friendly way - perhaps helping build and fund cargo bike networks, or subsidising small businesses that must work longer hours and employ more staff to cope with the new rules.
Individuals are not to blame for the climate catastrophe we are now facing down, but individuals have little choice but to be part of the solutions.
That means directing our anger at the right people: not opposing the sacrifices we are being asked to make, but demanding that we are given the support necessary to make them.