I am from Ireland but have lived in London now for two and half years. I love living here and now consider myself a Londoner. I like the parks here. Cycling is a great option and there is a growing network of cycle lanes in the city.
However, from an environmental standpoint, things are not so good. Despite the incredible transport network, the air is polluted. Noise and light pollution are constant and, given its geography, climate change is a very real threat.
I live on a main road and feel the effects of London’s poor air quality. There is a school around the corner and I know the Mayor’s office has resorted to installing air purifiers in London schools. Nevertheless, walking past the school is a constant reminder of the seriousness of the problem. With all the cars on the road, it is a double whammy – contributing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and affecting the health of people living and working in London.
An immediate issue is climate change. It is frightening no matter where in the world you are from, but compared to other megacities, London and all its historical sites are at serious risk of being lost to rising water levels.
Another thing that strikes me about London is single-use waste and over-packaging. Rubbish on the ground is constant. We have overflowing bins and the refuse collectors cannot keep up.
I have no children of my own, but a niece and a nephew. I do believe that it will be a very different world for them and their priorities may be radically different.
There have been successes though. Water fountains are being installed to encourage people to ditch plastic bottles and carry their own reusable ones. The ultra-low emission and congestion charges designed to reduce heavily polluting cars in the city centre are showing gains. Almost 9,500 fewer vehicles enter London each day since April 2019, when the new charges came into force.
The River Thames has been cleaned in recent years. Fifty years ago it was considered biologically dead, and now we have dolphins and seahorses being recorded.
Finally, I would consider environmental groups like Extinction Rebellion to be success stories over the past year as they have brought the topic to our dinner tables.