XR protesters lay 296 pairs of shoes on College Green for lives lost due to toxic air

Lockdown saw the cleanest air since 1994

Continuing their week of action, Extinction Rebellion (XR) protesters have laid out 296 pairs of shoes on College Green to represent the lives lost each year due to toxic air pollution in Bristol.

Protesters have also scaled City Hall overlooking College Green, and are refusing to come down until Bristol City Council commits to ensuring that air quality meets legal levels by April 2021.

At the start of the week, the group nailed a list of demands relating to clean air to the door of the City Council building.

Some onlookers gathered in the shade under a tree in the 30 degree heat. Photo: Simon Holliday

In a press release, XR wrote that 296 lives are lost in Bristol each year “due to the inaction and delay of Bristol City Council and the West of England Combined Authority on air pollution.”

They say that data shows that Bristol residents are 10 times more likely to die “due to long-term exposure to toxic pollution than in traffic accidents.”

During lockdown in Bristol, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels dropped by 45 per cent, and levels of nitrogen oxides dropped  by approximately 57 per cent.

One passer-by described the action as “crazy” in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, noting that there was no sign of a crowd gathered to see the installations nor the activists on the roof of City Hall.

Today’s action is the continuation of a week of events. Later today they will feature speakers on College Green, including a retired GP, a UWE Senior Lecturer in transport and planning, and an international sustainable transport consultant.

They will also send letters with the message that “DELAY = DEATH” to MPs Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) and  Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke).

Dr Hattie Nicholas, of Bristol medical group Medact, said: “Air pollution is a public health crisis in Bristol. The detrimental health impacts of air pollution can occur throughout our lives, affecting development even before birth and causing diseases later in life such as heart and lung disease, stroke and cancer.

Protesters scaled City Hall at 5am

“Disturbingly, the burden of ill health due to air pollution is not felt equally across society – not only does it have the greatest impact on the health of the most vulnerable, such as the elderly and the very young, but the effects also run along lines of existing social inequality, with inner city areas and areas with greater poverty worse affected.

“This unjust and disproportionate harm is preventable with robust action on air pollution. Medact Bristol believes it’s our duty as healthcare professionals to protect our patients’ health by demanding immediate and decisive action to reduce air pollution.”

Feature image credit: Simon Holliday

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