On the evening of Thursday 6 June Breathe West London held their first meeting and were delighted with the turnout.
The main aims of the meeting were to:
1. generate greater awareness of the air pollution dangers in London and specifically in West London to produce pressure for change;
2. ensure every school in West London has an active and dedicated ‘clean air group’ to implement air pollution reducing measures; and
3. encourage local and national politicians to implement measures that will improve the air quality where we live.
They also emphasised that it is important for individuals to take responsibility for their own actions with their own conduct and lead by example with their own families. They encourage everyone to take part in improving the air we breathe in our community.
Andrea Carnevali took the stage for 20 minutes to update everyone about his Chiswick Oasis campaign. He started by depicting a gloomy picture of the stark reality for the 91 schools in Hounslow, all breaching the levels safe air quality set by the World Heath Organisation. He then moved to the specifics of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in London a “wonderful school, with a great sense of community, great teacher and parents alike” which unfortunately has the misfortune of being right next to the A4. This proximity makes it, according to a recent poll by the Times newspaper, “the most polluted school in the whole of Hounslow”, while a 2017 audit by the Mayor of London had put it among the 50 most polluted primaries in London.
After this grim set up, his message then became more positive – one of hope, filled with enthusiasm and optimism. “Up until last year I knew nothing about air pollution, nothing about crowdfunding, nothing about campaigning” said Andrea trying to be as open and approachable as possible, “so , if I was able to do what I was able to do, anyone can do it”.
“The thing that really helped me, is that I don’t sleep a lot” he joked, “so I can do things at night: writing emails, contacting people, newspapers, sponsors and so on”.
He then went on to highlight some of the successes of his campaign.
- A 140 metres long living wall has been installed in the playground: this will not only cut the pollution levels in the playground but it’ll help the general wellbeing of children and staff.
- A partnership have been formed with ARUP and Enjoy Work
- New £4,500 air purifying units are about to be placed inside each classrooms: they will reduce pollution inside the classroom by 92%
- Sty Mary’s ground floor (kitchen and dining area) have been redocarated with a special paint from Airlite which claims will help clean the air inside by 88%.. Early results from the past week are truly astonishing and will be released very soon (though Andrea did give a little glimpse of that, showing how the levels of NO2, VOC had drastically dropped since the room had been painted).
- In order to encourage more parents to leave their cars at home and walk to school (or use bikes/public transport) the #NoCarsFriday initiative was launched, with the full support of the Hounslow Council and local businesses alike. More and more schools are now joining this initiative every week. Talks with the GLA have begun to now spread this beyond Chiswick and across London.
- Andrea is working with the Council to close a section of our road to school to traffic during drop off and pick up. A petition is ready to be launched among parents and residents alike.
- Mary will be running Forest School classes, recycling classes, ecology classes all towards making our children more aware about the environment.
- The school will also be working closely with the local councillors to integrate clean up days along the streets of Chiswick in the curriculum.More and more plants are being added inside the school.Next Autumn, aided by Trees for Cities, a further injection of £30,000 will be spent in new green infrastructure, including an edible garden.
- The talk ended with a resounding applause as Andrea reinstated his commitment to make sure more schools will benefit from what he’s learnt with this project.Talking exclusively to the Chiswick Calendar he said “This is only Phase #1, believe me. For a start it’s about time the Council takes some responsibility as well. Right until now, everything we’ve done, we’ve done it ourselves, with the help of our community. Literally going door to door asking for donations.In order to make the living wall really effective, in terms of air pollution (and sound pollution too), we would like to extend it as high as the top of the mesh, which currently sits on the brick wall. In theory we’ve got the money to do that, in term of paying for the plants. In practice we’ve recently learned that the brick structure (which belongs to both the Council and TFL, depending on which side you are facing) is not strong enough to sustain any extra weight which would go above the top of the last brick. In other words in order to fill up the mesh with plants (and really enhance the chances of stopping air pollution) the brick wall underneath must be strengthen with big steel poles (one every pier, so about 40 of them), cemented into the ground and holding the whole structure steady. That’s an extra £70/80k. A figure which the school clearly doesn’t have, but that for both the council and TFL would be pretty much peanuts.
I’ve been playing nice guy for more than a year. It’s about time I start putting some pressure on the “big boys” now. We cannot go on like this, letting our children breathe so much toxic air and forbidding them to play outside in the playground during rush hour. What kind of a world is this?!
But let’s be positive. The Green wall right now looks amazing. It’s so long that it’s impossible take a photo that would show it all. I’ve been showing glimpses here and there on social media to the people who follow us on facebook and Twitter , but people will have the chance to experience it in its entirety on the 29 June at the launch. You will even be able to add your own plant to the wall and name it, so that bit will always belong to you.
If you would like to contact Andrea about Chiswick Oasis or Breathe West, you can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org