Friday, 26 October 2018

Overwhelming backing for environmental charter in Wanstead

There was overwhelming support for the establishment of an environmental charter for Wanstead aimed at tackling climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution.

Some 90 people attended a public meeting at Wanstead library to hear speakers press the urgency of a situation that sees 50,000 people a year dying due to pollution in the UK, the loss of species and time running out to reverse climate change.

Susie Knox of Wild Wanstead outlined charter proposals that called on the council, local businesses, schools, civil society and individuals to all play a part in creating a more sustainable environment in Wanstead. “Cleaner journeys, more vegetation, less plastics and waste and greener homes must all form part of the charter,” said Ms Knox.

Actions suggested included cutting plastic use on the high street, installing solar panels, planting seeds, wild area and hedgerows to encourage wild life.
Wanstead Village councillor Paul Donovan called on the community spirit in Wanstead to make the environmental charter happen. “One of the problems that has helped create the crisis has been our throwaway society. The consumer led world – use it bin it, throw it out the window. Drive, fly, who cares,” said Cllr Donovan. “People hide behind their doors, rather than come out and act in community. We need to establish that reconnect. Wanstead is a place where that can be done. We have seen excellent community initiatives already, involving the Wild Wanstead led tree pit planting and the community gardening. The great community spirit was recently evident at the Wanstead Fringe and Festivals. The support already shown for the charter tonight is a great start.”

Cabinet member for Civic Pride John Howard told of the advance in the pipeline on cycling and encouraging walking and using public transport in the area. He also encouraged people to get electric cars, which will not need a parking permit. “I am open to ideas,” said John, who highlighted the moves to make the whole of Wanstead come under 20 mph speed limits.

The question of the increasing number of dropped kerbs and concreting over of front and back gardens was raised.

Gill James called on the council to stop dropped kerbs and incentivise people to keep their front gardens.

Others challenged the council to follow neighbouring Newham council and ban dropped kerbs altogether.

Councillor Donovan highlighted an Environment Agency presentation last week calling for funding for a River Roding flood defence plan. “One of the pressures on rivers like the Roding come from the increasing concreting over of green areas. Many people even living next to rivers don’t understand that by removing the green surface for water to run away it increases pressure on rivers, thereby increasing the likelihood of flooding,” said Councillor Donovan.

Labour Mp John Cryer urged a cheaper more accessible railway. He also lamented the failure of the Civil Aviation Authority to even acknowledge they had received a petition from local residents complaining about the redirection of flights over Leytonstone and Wanstead. He pledged to continue this fight against air and noise pollution in the area.

The environmental charter received substantial backing from the meeting and will now move to wider participation, with the organisers keen to engage with local businesses, schools, the council and others as to how we can all come together for the common good of the planet.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Duty to safeguard the living history of Wanstead Flats

Sometimes it can be possible to forget just what a treasure trove of history exists around the Wanstead area.

Wanstead Park, which forms the grounds of what was the old Wanstead House, the Georgian Church of St Marys (used recently for the Vanity Fair dramatisation) and Wanstead Flats to name but a few.

It was Wanstead Flats that formed the focus of a fascinating Wren Group walk conducted by Peter  Williams, Mark Norman and James Heal.

The walk went across the area that was ploughed up as a result of the fire in July on the Flats.

At the behest of the Fire Service, the City of London Corporation brought in a deep harrowing machine, which has dug up part of the Flats behind the petrol station on the Aldersbrook side.

The digging was undertaken to stop the fire spreading and bring it under control more quickly. However, the harrow has brought a whole load of World War II artefacts to the surface.

On the walk, we found old bits of shrapnel that came from the anti-aircraft guns and batteries located on the Flats during the war. There are lumps of concrete which made up the central base on the flats where the guns were placed. Also, some German bullet cases have been found.

Walking along behind the petrol station, the bases of the huts that supported the guns remain.

There is a bomb creator on the corner where Aldersbrook meets Centre Road.

On the other side of Centre Road, Peter and Mark showed some base remnants of a Prisoner of War (POW) camp for hard core German prisoners placed there in 1944. There was also the story of the V2 rocket that hit the Lake House estate to cheers from the Nazis in the camp opposite.

Further up the road toward Cann Hall, there was a POW camp for Italian prisoners from 1943.

Looking further back Mark and Peter told how the lower area adjacent to Aldersbrook Road, where there are now football pitches, was once a brick manufacturing area.

A builder from Bethnal Green had the licence to make bricks on the site from 1865 to 1881.

At that time, there were dwellings on the Flats where the workers who made the bricks lived. Back in those days the bricks were made near to where they were to be used – building the East End.

James told of the migrant birds that often stop enroute on the Flats. There has been much damage done to habitats as a result of the fire but the likes of wheatears have been attracted to the area.

So whilst the fire has caused much damage, it has also uncovered some fascinating history from the relatively recent past.

The Wren walk was a reminder of just what a precious historical and ecological legacy exists around this area. One that we are all called upon to safeguard in the interests of present and future generations.   

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Spurs squeeze narrow win over West Ham in keenly fought contest at the London stadium

West Ham 0-1 Spurs

Spurs ran out narrow winners of this tightly fought London derby.
The first half saw both sides show a lot of endeavour, without much end product.
West Ham's best effort saw a Andriy Yarmolenko cut back struck sweetly by Robert Snodgrass but pushed aside by Spurs stopper Hugo Lloris.
Then two minutes before half time Spurs struck, with Erik Lamela getting in front of Pablo Zabaleta to guide his header from Moussa Sissoko's cross into the corner of the net.
It would have been two but for Lukasz Fabianski saving from Davinson Sanchez, just yards out.
West Ham had more possession in the second half, with a Marko Arnautovic header forcing Lloris into a save at full stretch early on.
There were further headers from Arnautovic and Issa Diop but to no avail.
The closest the home side came to an equaliser came in the 84th minute when an Arnautovic flick put Chicarito in to score but the goal was ruled off side.
A final Arnautovic effort in injury time was blocked by Lloris.
West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini was happy with the way his team played but disappointed that they did not take their chances. "We've improved a lot in defence, now we need to improve elsewhere,"said Pellegrini, who at least now has what should be some less testing fixtures than the first nine games.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has every right to feel pleased with what is the club's best start to a Premier League season and all that not having signed any new players in the summer. "The players were fantastic," said Pochettino, who felt his side could have had one or two more goals in the first half.

*published - Morning Star - 21/10/2018

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Days of the throwaway society are over

There is a lovely seat in Wanstead Park, opposite the grotto, overlooking the Ornamental lake.

It is a place where people regularly sit to relax, amid the forest looking out over the lake. 

Couples chatting, individuals reading and taking in the fantastic view.

A lovely place, which makes it all the more difficult to understand why people leave their old plastic bottles, empty packets and other litter strewn around when they leave.

Coming upon this delightful spot, one day with people enjoying the autumn sun, then the next only to see the aftermath - a mini litter dump - is difficult to comprehend.

How can people on the one hand commune with nature but then so disrespect it by just dumping their waste all around them – the two attitudes seem incongruous.

What other animal on the earth, causes such wanton destruction to its own home?

Litter is a growing problem in this area.

In the park, volunteers are regularly out collecting the rubbish that people just leave behind.

The recent fire on Wanstead Flats uncovered lots of non-inflammable rubbish, nestled amongst the bushes and trees.

In Wanstead, people are understandably concerned when they see litter lying around in the parks and streets.

Redbridge Council has redoubled efforts to counter the litter explosion. The measures taken vary from increased collections from standing bins to provision of more bags and volunteer litter picks. The council is also cracking down on fly tipping, with heavy fines imposed on those caught in the act.

However, these are all actions to address the effects, not the causes, of the our wasteful society.

Society today has been built on a throwaway culture. Use it, chuck it, buy something new.

The recent revelations about the damage that plastic is doing to the environment and the way in which we continue to waste the planet’s resources should be cause for a rethink on this throwaway culture.

There needs to be more strident moves toward recycling and reusing the resources of everyday life. Also, just don’t create the waste in the first place.

Moves to keep and preserve different items used in daily life, not just throw them away after first use.

As we know the resources of the planet are finite, so human kind cannot just keep throwing stuff away, turning the whole environment in which we live into one big rubbish heap.

So think twice before you throw things away, whether they be plastic bottles in the park or household goods that could find another home with other people. We need to think about the community we want to live in – the days of the throwaway society are forever over.

published - Wanstead & Woodford Guardian  – "Let’s bring this throwaway society to an end" – paper – 18/10/2018

"The way we treat our parks shows we destroy the things we love" – published online – 20/10/2018


Thursday, 11 October 2018

Environmental charter can be first step toward more sustainable living

Anyone who has witnessed the wind getting up prior to a storm must appreciate the raw power of nature.

View the sea, a millpond of calm one day, the next a raging mass of destructive energy.

The human being is supposed to be the most intelligent creature on earth, yet has developed an arrogance that means it believes nature can be subdued.

Natural disasters, which seem to be becoming ever more commonplace, should remind all that we are  subject to a greater force.

It is the arrogance of the human being that has in large part led to man-made climate change. A refusal to live at one, respecting nature, in the way so many civilisations have done stretching back in time.

Instead, the mode of development of human being over the past 50 to 100 years has seen humankind take on the role of God.

The continuing damage caused by climate change is testimony as to just how wrong headed this attitude is.

So in order to tackle climate change seriously, there needs to be a realignment of human beings relationship with the planet. The need to recognise that humans remain but one part of the ecological jigsaw, not the dominant force.

Climate change has gone so far now that drastic action is needed. It is no good making tokenistic gestures toward living a more sustainable life.

There is a need for fundamental change.

The revelations of the damage being done by plastics has provided a real wake up call. The urgency of the situation has also spurred some dramatic action. People are looking to cut plastic out of their lives. So the mindset seems to be moving from I can use plastic, as long as I recycle it to I must not use plastic at all.

This type of approach needs to be taken up in the wider battle against climate change. People need to get back to living a simpler way of life that is not so destructive of the planet. This means stopping using fossil fuels, moving to renewable energy sources.

More trees need to be planted to restore our woodlands and cut the carbon dioxide levels.

There needs to be a drastic reduction in the use of damaging modes of transport to get around.

The Mayor of London has set a target of 80% of journeys being by foot, cycle or public transport by 2041. He wants to see London’s transport emissions down to zero by 2051.

Electric cars and other non-emission creating technologies can help contribute to such a goal, as ofcourse can better pedestrian and cycling networks.

Londoners could also adopt the LOAF (Local Organic Animal Friendly) principles regarding what they consume.  

Wanstead councillors are committed to creating an environmental charter for our area. This would seek to create the first part of a framework for living a more sustainable earth friendly life. Wanstead is already a green area but more can be done, particularly to address issues like pollution and emissions.

On Thursday 25 October, there will be a public meeting at Wanstead Library, when people will have the chance to hear some of the ideas for an environmental charter, as well as why we need to act now to address the ongoing environmental destruction. Speakers will include Shirley Rodrigues, London’s deputy mayor for the environment and energy, John Howard, Redbridge Council cabinet member for Civic Pride, Leyton and Wanstead MP John Cryer, Samantha Mason, author of Just Transition and Energy Democracy, Susie Knox from Wild Wanstead and myself. All are welcome to contribute to this vital debate and help shape the new environmental charter.  

published in Wanstead & Woodford Guardian - 10/10/2018 - "Plastics revolution gives us hope for the future"
12/10/2018 "Use your LOAF  to make your area a greener place" – published online

18/10/2018 "Environmental charter plans" - published in Ilford and Wanstead and Woodford Recorder

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

When it comes to our climate, we need to take a long, hard look at ourselves

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should alert governments to the urgent need to act now. But don’t hold your breath. The report should trigger a step change in the mindset of everyone towards climate change. There is, though, much that can be done by individuals acting in community.
To date the focus has been on acting more sustainably in terms of recycling waste, ...driving a little less and buying into the renewable industry. While laudable, there now needs to be a drastic change regarding the whole way in which we live. The key being to live more simply.

This must involve stopping using certain items, so they don’t have to be recycled – don’t create the waste. Stop driving and flying. Plant more trees and support programmes for more forestation. Only use locally produced food and drink products.
These sort of acts can make a real impact if adopted on a large enough scale across countries. While pressure needs to be put on politicians to act, these individual actions can shape the context that helps ensure they do the right thing as well as working towards the wider goal of planetary survival.

Paul Donovan

Published in the Independent - 9/10/2018
Evening Standard - 10/10/2018

Thursday, 4 October 2018

We're not living longer and prospering anymore

Everybody is living longer has been the cry for many years. Better healthcare, lifestyle and diet have all been contributory factors.
Some in the business and political sphere have used the statistic to justify the push for people to work longer and retire later. 
The state retirement age now stands at 67, with proposals to push that age limit up to 70 - the same age, incidentally, that applied when pensions were first introduced in 1911.
Now, a report from the National Office of Statistics (ONS) has turned the analysis about living longer on its head.
The ONS has found that life expectancy is no longer increasing and in some areas of the country is in decline.

The statistics show that life expectancy remains at 82.9 years for women and 79.2 for men. It is the first time that the indices has not increased since 1982.
And life expectancy for men and women in Scotland and Wales has declined by a month, with a similar drop for men in Northern Ireland.

A number of academics and commentators claim that the austerity policies pursued over recent years, with cuts to health provision and social care, are helping reduce life expectancy. Bad diets and more sedentary lifestyles may also be contributory factors. 
What this report does show is that people living longer is by no means an inevitability. So the time has certainly come to stop slashing people's pensions and extending the retirement age. 
People are not all living longer, the prosperous and well off do continue to do so but as inequality continues to grow - often along geographic lines -so life expectancy reduces for many people. 
It's certainly time for policy makers to take a serious look at inequality across the country, as well as the increasingly unhealthy lifestyles that some people pursue.
* published Wanstead & Woodford Guardian - 4 & 6/10/2018