On Wednesday, a group of protestors decided to block traffic on the busy main road of Park Street. The reason for their action was to highlight the plight of air pollution in Bristol.
The Bristol Post first reported it live and managed to speak with one of the organisers of the event Stu. Stu was dressed how you’d imagine. Like Jesus on acid. Stu had this to say, “Just living in the centre of Bristol is equivalent to smoking between four and seven cigarettes every day, that’s just living in the city.” “It’s filthy, it’s disgusting and it’s not changing fast enough” he added.
Stu continues, “We don’t want this. We want a city that is liveable, we want a city that is healthy, a city with safe bike lanes, a walkable city. We want a city that we can live in, that doesn’t kill us just by being here.”
How Not To Protest
How did they accomplish their goals of making sure that we all know we should have a cleaner city?
Not too smartly, is the answer. They decided to shut down one of the busiest streets in Bristol, at one of its peak times, by blocking the traffic light crossing at the top of the hill. In turn this means that they made traffic pile up even more and cause cars to be idle whilst running their engines. If you don’t know, these actions actually cause MORE pollution.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that their intentions are noble and worthy. However someone has to hint the irony here. If they don’t know that their own actions are causing what they are campaigning against, then it makes them look stupid. People don’t buy into stupidity when it comes to social issues.
Polluting Our Brains
Bristol is a melting pot and within that, there is obviously a lot of diversity, which is what makes this city so unique and interesting to live in and be apart of. It is a liberal city and people generally live with of an attitude of live and let live.
However there is also a huge contingent of social warriors. You know the ones, they live in Stokes Croft, they wear baggy, bright clothing and usually there is a dreadlock or lip piercing visible.
Whilst I am all for campaigning to make your voice heard, not every voice needs to be heard. Stu claims “Around 300 deaths a year are attributable to nitrogen dioxide and fine particle matter that we are breathing”. He didn’t mention where he had got that information from, instead just floated “facts” to the reporter.
As I quoted earlier, Stu also mentioned that just being in the city means we smoke 4-7 cigarettes each per day whilst just going about our daily lives. I’m doubtful. How would you measure that? What tests would they apply to see what damage is being done on average to all of our lungs? Hypothetical facts unfortunately do nothing for me.
Facts Are More Important Than Feelings
Checking the facts myself I went to the Director Of Public Health Annual Report for 2016 in Bristol. Between the years 2012 – 2014, there were in fact only 41 deaths attributed to respiratory disease. That’s on average, 20.5 per year. Which means that the figure of 300 Stu quoted, is most likely utter bullshit. Oh and those deaths, they’ll include such diseases as Pneumonia, Pulmonary Embolism and Bronchitis.
Respiratory disease is the third biggest reason for premature deaths in Bristol. The top two are Cancer and Cardiovascular disease. Would it not be better to campaign against smoking itself? Why are they not campaigning for people to be fitter instead? I can’t answer these questions unfortunately.
It is important to note as well that this protest took place right next to Clifton and Cabot, which are the areas where life expectancy is highest in Bristol. Both of these figures are in line with the national average of life expectancy. Surely if it was such a badly polluted area, their life expectancy would be lower? Never mind. Facts don’t matter to social justice warriors. In fact, the areas where life expectancy is in areas that are more deprived such as Laurence Hill and Southmead. These areas experience a life expectancy for men is 10 years lower and for women it is 11 years lower.
Making Bristol A Better Place
I would argue it is far more important to campaign against this clear class divide that there is in the city. Access to better health care and better education for people in deprived areas would help more people live longer and healthier lives, than the “300”, sorry i mean 20.5, sorry again probably 1-2 people who die from air pollution directly.
Protesting is something that we all have the right to do peacefully. I believe as people we should campaign against anything that is wrong for the masses, however I do not believe that we should bend to about 20 people’s desire to stop traffic. It seems to me to be very attention seeking behaviour and they got their wish.
Traffic is definitely bad in Bristol and something does need to be done, however it is not for the reasons that these protesters are making people believe.
by Sam Vickery @heroicguru – Twitter