Posts Tagged ‘pollution’

Stop Heathrow Expansion – Nov 2016

Friday, November 19th, 2021

Post COP26 and the various official reports on the climate crisis it should now be clear to everyone that we need not to increase air traffic but to drastically reduce it if we are to succeed in limiting the global temperature rise even to the highly damaging level of 1.5 degrees Celsius. But still those with large financial interests in aviation are wanting to continue with the expansion of aviation despite its contribution to ruining the world.

The environmental case against Heathrow expansion was clearly won when plans were dropped after years of campaigning against a third runway over the first decade of this century, but despite this our government was persuaded by the industry to change its policies and put the expansion back on the table.

The case against Heathrow is of course even stronger than the case against air travel and air freight generally because of the location of the airport in the west of London. It was always in the wrong place, too close to the city centre and on the wrong side, with prevailing winds meaning aircraft approached over the city and the pollution from them being blown into it. Possibly even those who planned it during WW2 realised this when they avoided any real public debate by pretending the airport was needed for military use.

John Stewart of HACAN

Back in the fifties when I grew up under the flightpath it was less of a nuisance as planes then were smaller and quieter, though we did on several occasions find small parts from them dropped in our garden but fortunately hitting nobody. But over the years noisier aircraft and more frequent landings have made things much worse – though fortunately I’ve moved to a quieter zone but still near Heathrow. The pollution is still with us, not just from the airport itself but also from the road traffic and congestion it generates in the motorways and roads around.

On Saturday 19th November I went to Richmond Green for a rally organised to support Zac Goldsmith who resigned to stand as an anti-Heathrow expansion candidate and supported by Richmond Heathrow Campaign, Teddington Action Group, SHE (Stop Heathrow Expansion), Residents Against Aircraft Noise (RAAN), Chiswick Against the Third Runway and others campaigning against the noise, pollution and catastrophic climate change the third runway and expansion of aviation would cause.

Harmondsworth campaigner Neil Keveren at Richmond

It was perhaps a strange decision by Goldsmith, as both Liberal Democrat and Labour candidates who he was standing against were also strongly opposed to another Heathrow runway, and many locals, particularly members of the Lib-Dems and Green Party were still aggreived at Goldsmith having taken the seat in 2010 from one of the most active campaigners against Heathrow expansion, Susan Kramer. But Goldsmith had resigned as a matter of principle when the government reneged on earlier promises and approved construction of the third runway the month before this protest. Goldsmith lost the election by a fairly narrow margin to the Lib-Dem candidate. Both Kramer and Goldsmith now sit in the House of Lords.

On the Bath Road overlooking the airport at Sipson

It was a strange protest too, though many of the real Heathrow campaigners were there and some spoke, and I was harassed by a member of Goldsmith’s team who followed me around and tried to stand in my way while taking pictures, telling me it was a private meeting. Eventually I had to ask a police officer to speak to him and get him to stop.

Christine Taylor of Stop Heathrow Expansion

I left as speakers from various West London boroughs where coming to the microphone to make clear their opposition to Heathow expansion to rush to another protest on the issue on the Bath Road overlooking the airport. This was a ‘family friendly’ rally taking place at the same time as a short distance away Rising Up activists were blocking the link from the M4 into the airport – and police stopped me from going to photograph them.

There was a large crowd of police at this peaceful and legal protest as well, although it seemed totally unnecessary; as I commented “it did seem a considerable waste of police resources, perhaps an attempt to intimidate the protesters. The police did behave in a friendly manner, though they did restrict the movement of protesters to an unnecessary extent.”

Environmental campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy

I had already heard several of the speakers earlier at Richmond, though Goldsmith and his Conservative supporters had not travelled here but were presumably busy campaigning in Richmond.

Harmondsworth resident Neil Keveren of Stop Heathrow Expansion speaks at Heathrow

Here are the final three paragraphs of the acrount I wrote back then, still appropriate:

The main concerns of speakers were that expansion at Heathrow will cause the UK to break its own national laws to reduce emissions, as well as undermining the international climate commitments agreed in Paris, and that the new runway will devastate local communities with families losing their homes and many over a wider area suffering dangerous levels of air pollution. The construction of a new runway would create enormous problems across the area around the airport, and if completed would bring chaos to an already overstressed transport system in the whole region.

We need to totally rethink the aviation industry and evaluate the contribution it makes to our economy, and to remove its privileged status and subsidies which currently allow it to expand and pollute for the benefit of its shareholders and the convenience of rich frequent flyers. The industry greatly inflates the contribution it makes to the economy while refusing to acknowledge the many problems it creates.

Of course it isn’t something that can be looked at in isolation. We don’t just need to stop airport expansion, but to reassess much of they way we live. We need System Change if we are to avoid the disastrous effects of Climate Change.

Climate Crisis rally against Airport Expansion
Rally against Heathrow Expansion


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End Traffic Violence – 2014

Monday, November 15th, 2021

A few weeks ago I came to the end of a walk with friends and we stood at a bus stop on the edge of the A3 in south-west London with a relentless flow of traffic moving past in all four lanes in both directions. We were a few yards away on a slip road, but the noise was making my head throb and I could smell and taste the pollution, though I hope the Covid mask I was wearing might filter out some of the particulates. It was a horrible reminder of the mad dedication to traffic which is killing so many of us, poisoning adults and particularly children and playing a significant role in killing the planet through the huge carbon emissions in manufacturing vehicles, building yet more roads and of course burning fossil fuels. Fortunately our bus came earlier than expected.

The switch to electric cars will help a little, and reduce some of the pollution, though not its possibly most dangerous aspect, the particulates that come mainly from rubber tyres and from brakes. And there is still a huge carbon footprint from their manufacture – roughly equivalent to running around 150,000 miles of burning petrol or diesel, and much of the electricity used to power them will come from power stations burning gas or forest-destroying wood.

We can only have a sustainable future if we wean ourselves as a species away from travel, and take what journeys are still necessary by ways that reduce the carbon footprint as much as possible. Going on foot or by bicycle, using public transport and severely limiting the more polluting and high-carbon forms of transport. It means measures such as banning private cars in cities, giving priorities to buses, building more light rail and tram systems, ending subsidies to air travel, stopping new road-building and more. But also it means great changes in our way of life.

It’s something I realised over 50 years ago when I sold the only car I’d ever owned. Something I considered very carefully in choosing where to live and what jobs to take. And something which has constrained the holidays I’ve chosen to take and other aspects of my life, but not anything I really regret. I’ve only ever made three trips by air related to my work – where no real alternative was possible, and only taken two holidays which involved flights.

Of course there are some things and situations where cars are essential. It’s very hard to manage without one for those who live in more remote areas, and some need to. I’ve chosen always to live in towns or cities and have been healthy enough to be able to ride a bicycle or walk. In 2019, George Monbiot wrote for the Guardian a piece with the sub-head ‘Cars are ruining our lives. We should cut their use by 90% over the next 10 years’. Like other posts on his web site its worth reading and goes into much greater and well-argued detail than this piece.

Donnachadh McCarthy

On 15th November 2014 I photographed the ‘Funeral for the Unknown Victim of Traffic Violence’ organised by environmental campaigner Donnachadh McCarthy and ‘Stop Killing Cyclists’. It made its way through the centre of London from Bedford Square going along Oxford St, with a bagpiper playing and a horse-drawn hearse carrying a coffin for a mock funeral ceremony at Marble Arch.

It made the point that while too many pedestrians and cyclists are still killed and maimed by cars and lorries on a road system largely engineered for the convenience of motorised transport, their numbers are dwarfed by the many thousands of premature deaths each year caused by the pollution from road traffic, with pollution levels in many places being well above legal limits. After the funeral, there was a die-in by cyclists more or less filling the hard standing at Marble Arch, and a trumpeter sounded the Last Post.

Here is a list of the demands made by the protesters:

  1. Stop the Killing of Children with a national, multi-billion pound programme to convert residential communities across Britain into living-street Home Zones and abolish dangerous rat-runs.
  2. Stop the Killing of Pedestrians by a national programme to fund pedestrianisation of our city and town centres, including the nation’s high-street, Oxford Street.
  3. Stop the Killing of Pensioners from excessive speed with an enforced speed limit of 20 mph on all urban roads, 40 mph on rural roads/lanes and 60 mph on all other trunk roads.
  4. Stop the Killing of Cyclists, investing£15 billion in a National Segregated Cycle Network over the next 5 years.
  5. Stop the Killing by HGVs by banning trucks with blind spots, making safety equipment mandatory and strictly enforcing current truck-safety regulations; currently around 30% are illegally dangerous.
  6. Stop the Killing without liability with a presumed civil liability law for vehicular traffic when they kill or seriously injure vulnerable road-users, unless there is evidence blaming the victim.
  7. Stop the Killing from Lung, Heart and other Diseases caused by vehicular pollutants with mandatory for particulate filters that meet latest EU emission standards on all existing buses, lorries and taxis.
  8. Stop the Killing at Junctions with pedestrian crossing times long enough for elderly disabled to cross, filtered junction crossings by cyclists and strict legal priority for pedestrians and urgently provide physically protected left-hand turns for cyclists.
  9. Stop the Killing from Climate Crisis caused by CO2 emissions by insisting that all transport fuels are from truly environmentally-sustainable, renewable sources within 10 years.
  10. Focus on Life! with transport governance making safety and quality of life the top priority. Reform all council transport departments, the Department of Transport and Transport for London into Cycling, Walking and Transport Departments with formal pedestrian and cyclist representation.

Again you can read more detail and more evidence in Guardian posts by George Monbiot, available on his own web site such as Don’t Breathe.


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Human Rights, NHS and Gold Mining

Saturday, June 5th, 2021

Thursday 5th June 2014 was the day of the AGM of G4S, a company deeply involved in the privatisation of prisons, policing, education and other public services and in human rights abuses both in the UK and in Palestine where it helps to run the Israeli prison system. So unsurprisingly a number of groups had come to protest outside the Excel Centre at Royal Victoria Dock in Newham where the AGM was taking place, and there were also a number of people who had bought shares so they had a right to attend the AGM and also to ask questions, challenging the company’s human rights record.

Among the various groups who had come to protest were the Boycott Israel Network, Boycott Workfare, Campaign to Close Campsfield, Corporate Watch, Friends of Al Aqsa, Inminds.com, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Right to Remain, War on Want, Right to Remain and Global Women’s Strike, though as the protest was on a working day, the numbers representing each group were fairly low.

The protesters sang and handed out leaflets to shareholders attending the meeting, giving details of some of the human rights abuses that G4S has been responsible for or is complicit in. There were also apparently some nasty scenes when shareholders were ejected forcibly from the AGM for insisting on asking awkward questions, but the press was not allowed to photograph inside the venue.

I joined a march in Tower Hamlets, which includes some of the most deprived areas of England, where medical staff and supporters had organised a ‘Nye Bevan’ march to ‘Keep Our NHS Public’, walking around the health practices in the borough. Medical practices were able to give a good level of service in deprived areas by the MPIG, the Minimum practice income guarantee, which was introduced for this purpose in 2004 following negotiations between the government and the BMA to recognise the higher health needs of both some inner city and rural areas. In 2014 the Coalition Government announced this was to be scrapped, with one seventh of it removed each year until 2021.

Many leading politicians (and their family members) have financial interests in healthcare companies, and NHS campaigners see the loss of MPIG as a part of the continuing privatisation by stealth of the NHS. Many GP practices are now run by large healthcare services, who lower costs by providing reduced services and diverting money which should be used for serving the needs of patients into providing profits for shareholders.

As the marchers arrived at each medical practice they were met by health workers and patients who came out to support them. Among those at the health centre on the Whitechapel Road was veteran anti-fascist and former Communist councillor Max Levitas, who had celebrated his 99th birthday 4 days earlier. I left before the march finished and the rally to go to the Colombian embassy.

At the Colombian embassy protesters were condemning the vast La Colosa & Santurbán gold mines which endanger water sources in the high mountain regions and could wreck their fragile ecosystems. The London protests on UN World Environment Day and follow protests and carnivals by thousands of people in Ibague, the closest city to the mines as well as in other cities in Colombia. In Bucaramanga the whole city turned out in protests to stop the Santurbán gold mine owned by Canadian company Greystar Resources, and in 2019 there was a protest by 50,000 against the United Arab Emirates backed Soto Norte gold project which would be the largest underground gold mine in Colombia. Gold mining would releases large quantities of cyanide and arsenic into the water supplies of several million people.

The posters were in Spanish as they were aimed at the embassy staff. The Colombian Embassy is a relatively small section of a building just to the rear of Harrods, which also houses the Ecuadorian Embassy, where while this protest was taking place Julian Assange was still in political asylum in their small part of the building, and regular protests were still taking place calling for his release. Unfortunately he was instead handed over to the UK police and now seems likely to die as a political prisoner either in the UK or, if extradited, in the USA.

Colombian Mines – World Environment Day
Tower Hamlets – Save our Surgeries
G4S AGM Protest Against Human Rights Abuses


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Heathrow and More

Monday, May 31st, 2021

Heathrow – Make a Noise – No Third Runway – 31st May 2008

It really is long past time we saw some real policy changes to back up the governments promise to be leaders in the fight against global heating. We need real action on a number of front, but one obvious area is transport.

There are I think three major announcements that would clearly demonstrate some substance behind the rhetoric, and it would be good to see them all before the start of COP26 in Glasgow.

Firstly there should be a complete re-evaluation of the £27 road building programme for 2020-2025, with the cancellation of most or all new road schemes, with money being diverted into public transport schemes, better infrastructure for electric vehicles and better maintenance of the existing road network, particularly local roads.

Secondly we should see the cancellation of HS2, any economic case for which has disappeared. It’s hard to know why it was ever given the go-ahead, when better alternatives existed. There should be long term savings from stopping it even at this late stage, and it would be good to see more improvements to the existing rail system and in particular local rail and light rail systems.

But perhaps the most important announcement would be to end all thoughts of airport expansion and in particular the plans for another runway at Heathrow. It seems very unlikely to actually go ahead, but it would be good for this to again be ruled out.

Back on May 31 2008 I was with campaigners marching from Hatton Cross on the edge of Heathrow around the north-eastern edge of the airport to the village of Sipson, a short distance to its north and under threat from demolition for an extra “third” runway. (Heathrow was built with six, but only two are now usable as planes have got larger with higher landing speeds as well as new building on the airport.)

I was one of the campaigners as well as taking photographs, having been a local resident for all but a few years of my life. When I was first aware of Heathrow, DC-3s and other relatively quiet propellor aircraft would amble above my garden perhaps every ten minutes or so and I would see the giant letters under their wings and cross them off in my spotter’s book as they made their way to or from the runway a little under 3 miles away.

By the time I was in secondary school and taking O and A levels, jets had taken over and the noise was ear-splitting and flights more frequent. My school was a mile further way from the airport, but still under a flightpath, and lessons were often interrupted by the noise. A year or two later we moved house as my father was re-marrying and we needed more space, and he chose a street still close to the airport but centrally between the two flypaths, where aircraft noise for us was greatly reduced.

When I moved back to the area in 1974, I chose a house well off the two main flypaths, though still under 4 miles from Heathrow. But when there were strong cross winds, perhaps 20 days a year, aircraft used two of the shorter runways which directed them over our roof – though sometimes it seemed almost as if they were going through the loft and the whole house shook. We had the whole house double-glazed which helped considerably – and the new windows didn’t rattle like the old ones had when the planes flew over.

The protest in May 2008 was a part of a long campaign, one of a number of protests I photographed since 2003 which eventually led to the plans for another runway to be dropped. Among those who opposed to expansion were both Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties (and later it was their coalition government which cancelled it on 12 May 2010) and then Mayor of London Boris Johnson. But Heathrow didn’t give up and after a biased commission report Heathrow expansion became government policy in October 2016. It was the wrong decision then and seems totally crazy now in the light of the climate crisis.

Heathrow – No Third Runway

British Museum and BP

Sunday, December 20th, 2020

Five years ago today on 20th December 2015 I went into the British Museum with “actor-vists” from ‘BP or not BP‘ to photograph their ‘A Farewell to Neil MacGregor – Director of the British Museum‘ who had enjoyed a “cosy relationship” with the museum’s sponsor, BP.

Fossil-fuel companies make their profits largely through the combustion of the hydrocarbons they produce in the engines of cars, lorries and aeroplanes and the boilers used to generate electricity and heat buildings and other processes which turn the carbon in these fuels into the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, the main cause of the global warming which is currently threatening the future of human life.

As well as that, the prospecting and exploitation of oil resources, now more and more taking place in environmentally fragile areas such as the Arctic, together with spillages, some inevitable but others demonstrating a remarkable lack of care are causing terrible damage to our environment. And of course most of what doesn’t get burned is made into plastics and we are now becoming aware of the huge amounts of this that ends up in the marine environment with disastrous consequences.

While continuing to fuel the global crisis, companies such as BP have invested heavily in promoting themselves as good guys, publicising the relatively small investments they have been making in renewable energies and other green areas. It’s a short-sighted policy as their long-term future – and ours – depends on a complete move away from carbon fuels, but one which keeps current investors rich at the cost of the rest of us.

Almost certainly the most cost-effective part of the ‘green-washing’ of BP’s ecologically disastrous activities has been their sponsorship of many of our major cultural institutions including the British Museum, something which the cultural activists of ‘BP or not BP’ have highlighted in a number of artistic interventions. I was pleased to be able to photograph their play depicting ‘BP executives’ giving a farewell party to departing Museum director ‘Neil MacGregor’ inside the British Museum’s Great Court.

Although BP’s contribution is only a fraction of the museum’s budget, they get an engraved message on the wall of the rotunda in the Great Court and their logo prominently on the publicity for the museum’s major exhibitions which have included Vikings, Ming, Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation, the Mexican Day of the Dead and Sunken Cities. As BP or Not BP point out, the last two are particularly unfortunate as BP has been given the largest corporate criminal fine in history of $18.7 billion for the underwater Deepwater Horizon oil spill which caused huge pollution of the ocean around the coast of Mexico.

My write-up on My London Diary gives a fairly full account of what happened with a lot more pictures. Many museum staff are unhappy about taking cash from BP and welcome the publicity protests like this give. The protesters assured the museum security that they would cause no damage and leave without any trouble after the relatively short performance which continued without any interruption and entertained a number of the visitors to the museum.

You can also read a fuller account, with some of my pictures and including the full text of the play on the on the BP or not BP website.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Oct 1 2016: Heathrow Climate Die-in

Thursday, October 1st, 2020
The die-in begins

I’m not a great fan of Prince Charles – or any royalty who I think are all parasites whose ancestors stole the land from the people and are still fleecing us in various ways – but I had to agree with him when a few days ago he called for a ‘Marshall-like plan’ to combat climate change, which he warned will “dwarf” the impact of coronavirus, with potentially devastating consequences. Perhaps he was still rather underplaying the danger we all face, but if he and David Attenborough were ever to come to power we might just see a shift in our establishment and government that could at least alleviate some of the more disastrous effects of global heating.

Protesters wait with travellers in the Departures lounge

But I’m not optimistic. Averting catastrophe will require drastic changes in our economic structures and ways of life which will impact the highest polluters most – and that “1%” are those who currently run most of the world to feed their ever-unsatiated greed. The rich are the rich because they have always put themselves first, and have never given up their advantages without a fight – and have always been able to afford the better arms and armies.

One thing that will have to change is aviation. Flights by a relatively small proportion of people make a ridiculous contribution to greenhouse gases – not just by weekend private jet flights to Perugia but much more by ‘frequent fliers’ on regular services. But it isn’t just the emissions from burning fossil fuel in flights, but the huge amounts of energy and materials in making planes and airport infrastructure which present a problem, as well as the effects of global freight leading to deforestation and other environmental problems around the world. Even if hydrogen-fuelled aircraft were to remove most of the pollution problems of actual flights the aviation industry will remain a climate threat.

Some had aprons with messages and read out information and there were speeches

Back in 2010 I was with local campaigners celebrating the cancellation of plans to expand Heathrow by building an extra ‘third’ runway. But lobbying by the aviation industry and a deliberately short-sighted ‘Davies Report’ put it back as government policy in 2016, though in 2020 a judicial review ruled that the government’s decision to proceed with building the third runway were unlawful as they had failed to take into account the government’s commitments to combat climate change.

The protest inside Heathrow’s Terminal 2 took place as the government were preparing to back building the third runway again in 2016 and was organised by Reclaim The Power. It was a part of a global wave of resistance to airport expansion on environmental and social grounds, and took the form of a ‘flash mob’ with a well choreographed event, beginning with a die-in over which frequent fliers stepping over their dead bodies and luggage to a champagne fast track check-in desk, followed by songs and dances.’ There were other protests at Gatwick and in Austria, France, Mexico, Turkey and elsewhere.

A protester dressed as a frequent flyer steps through the die-in

I just a just a little nervous anticipation beforehand about photographing the event, which was taking place in a privately owned space, though one open to the public, but airport security made no attempt to stop me or the protesters other than keeping us outside the security zone. I think the organisers had made clear to them that they were not attempting to greatly disrupt the airport and would not be causing any damage.

‘Frequent flyers’ party

Outside the airport where 150 cyclists were protesting things were a little different, with police over-reacting hugely to a relatively minor protest, shutting down roads across a large area for several hours. They turned what would have been hardly noticeable to travellers in the area into a major incident.

Many more pictures from the protest inside Terminal 2 at Heathrow flashmob against airport expansion.

March for Clean Air

Sunday, December 1st, 2019

Extinction Rebellion East London had organised a whole weekend of event , a festival of play, protest and education, the East London Uprising calling for a rapid end to the use of fossil fuels.

Apart from their huge contribution to our increasing carbon dioxide levels which are leading to unprecedented man-made global heating the will put the future of humanity at risk, the pollution levels already present in London and other cities from coal, petrol and fuel oils which pollute the air with toxic chemicals and particulates is already causing many thousands to suffer from various often serious lung diseases and is estimated to lead to almost 10,000 early deaths in London alone.

The marchers met in a small open space called Paradise Gardens, between the busy Cambridge Heath Road and houses in Paradise Row. It may have seemed like paradise when these houses were built in the late 18th and early 19th century, and doubtless they are now horrifically expensive, but this paradise is now highly polluted.

The march set off from Bethnal Green to Hackney behind a banner ‘The Air That We Grieve’, and included a marching jazz band, and of course plenty of families with children. As well as the jazz band there were samba drummers, and the ‘king of the bottle tops’ and others.

The march attracted considerable interest as it went up the Cambridge Heath Road, with many expressing support. But there was no general uprising and perhaps there are releatively few who are actually changing the way they behave, changing to lower carbon lifestyles as we all need to do. It requires a much greater urgency from a government which is prepared to make statements but not to take on the vested short-term interests of many of its backers by significant green investments and policies that will really impact on personal choices.

More pictures from the event at XR East London marches for clean air


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


End rewarding Drax for pollution

Friday, August 9th, 2019

I’ve never felt bad about having a bonfire in the garden. We generate a lot of small branches from various shrubs and trees that have to be regularly cut back, and it’s material that mostly won’t compost. And although we have several large compost bins, we’ve found from experience that they don’t get hot enough to destroy a few really tough and troublesome weeds, So these often get put on the bonfire too, though we could pay for the council to collect them as garden waste.

All this carbon release is of short-term carbon, mostly this year’s carbon, and there is no net increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by our gardening.

And of course the bonfire produces carbon dioxide, but firstly it is only a fraction of the carbon dioxide which has been turned into wood and leaf in our garden, with the rest remaining locked in as our bushes and trees grow bushier and taller, or being eaten (and thus released) as fruit and vegetables. More too gets back in to the atmosphere from the green waste that does go into our compost bins.

Of course there are other pollutants from our very occasional garden bonfires, including particulates and doubtless toxic chemicals. But I am fairly sure that the amounts of these are relatively small and will add little to those already in our air here from the nearby roads, motorways and Heathrow.

But burning wood to produce electricity at Drax is a quite different matter. One obvious difference is that of scale: Last year Drax burnt 7.2 million tonnes of wood pellets, equivalent to at least twice that amount of green wood, and more than the UK’s total annual wood production, and released 13.02 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere (in addition to another  4.36 million tonnes from coal and other fossil fuels.)

The wood burnt at Drax is ‘old’, having grown over many years, and even with the most sustainable forest planting to replace it will take more than 50 years. The majority of it comes as pellets from the USA, mostly produced from hardwood from the clear-cutting of biodiverse forest ecosystems, and the major producer, Enviva has been subject to heavy criticism both for its destruction of these swamp and wetland forests, and for locating its highly polluting pellet plants in areas of social deprivation already exposed to high levels of industrial pollution.

Drax’s carbon-producing wood burning is only financially viable because it gets huge subsidies. In 2018 these amounted to £789.2 million, This money comes from our energy bills which carry a surcharge, intended for promoting renewable electricity. It should not be used to promote highly polluting and essentially non-renewable wood burning. The subsidies are greater than the company’s annual profits and without them wood-burning would not be viable.

Drax also gets subsidies from the government for burning coal, though on a rather smaller scale, but also impossible to justify. For 2019/20 this is  £22 million, and similar subsidies are expected until 2025. It is also expected to be subsidised for burning gas, and wants to greatly expand its generation from gas.

These huge subsidies to Drax for its contribution to global warming come at at time when our government has slashed subsidies for truly renewable energy production from onshore wind and solar power as well as those for energy efficiency and conservation.

More about the protest outside Drax’s AGM in the City of London, and later outside the Dept for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) demanding an end to environmental subsidies for massive pollution in two posts on My London Diary:
Drax wood burning must end
Drax Protest at BEIS


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


XR Funeral Procession

Sunday, August 4th, 2019

It was perhaps surprising that Extinction Rebellion’s occupation of Parliament Square acheived less publicity in the media than that of the other occupations in April, despite starting with arguably the most colourful (and most musical) of the events of the eleven days, a New Orleans style jazz funeral procession.

The roads around the square were blocked as I arrived to photograph the procession, much to the annoyance of at least one taxi driver, who made an ill-advised attempt to drive through the protesters before giving up and turning around. But this isn’t a major junction like those at Oxford Circus or Marble Arch, not really even a major route, and one which I’ve long thought should be pedestrianised and permanently closed to all but essential traffic to make London more pleasant for Londoners and tourists.

Again, the protest in Parliament Square didn’t have the kind of permanent focus provided by the Waterloo Garden Bridge, or the pink yacht of the sea at Oxford Circus. And it was hard to see what might have provided that, though a large guillotine might have been popular with some. But what Parliament Square did have was a spectacle, a funeral procession led by a small jazz group in front of the coffin, and behind it giant skeletons and a bright red-clad group apparently representing the blood of extinct species – and of those species including our own soon to become extinct.

There were other mourners too, people with placards and some giant bees among them as the procession made several slow circuits of the square before moving onto the grass. They didn’t actually bury the coffin (or try to) but there followed a series of workshops and group discussions, and after a while I left to photograph another event that had been taking place at the same time.

The procession perhaps would have made better video that still pictures, both because of the nature of the event but particularly for the music.


More at Extinction Rebellion Funeral Procession

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


XR Marble Arch

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

Extinction Rebellion’s largest site during their multiple occupation of London was in the area around Marble Arch. It’s were one of inner London’s busiest north-south routes, Park Lane on the east edge of Hyde Park, crosses the East-West route of Oxford St and the Bayswater Road, with Edgware Road, the A5 starting out its long journey well beyond Edgware to the far Northwest (and there is another similar arch where it ends in Holyhead.).

The Marble Arch itself is on the north edge of the traffic island in the centre of the large gyratory system here. It had been designed in 1827 by John Nash as a ceremonial entrance to Buckingham Palace, but in 1851 it was moved to its present position to serve as an entrance to Hyde Park at the time of the Great Exhibition.

Unfortunately the widening of Park Lane in 1960-64 led to it being cut off from Hyde Park, in isolation on a traffic island. No traffic passes through it now, although you can still walk through its arches. Until the late 1960s three rooms inside the arch were in use as a police station, but are now unused.

XR blocked traffic on all the roads leading to Marble Arch and tents filled most of the grassed area around, with the hard standing in front of the arch being used for stalls and performances, as well as a lorry equipped as a stage on Cumberland Gate. The area was occupied from the early hours of Monday 15th April. Police got the traffic moving again on Wednesday 24th, and XR finally left after a closing ceremony the following evening.

There wasn’t a great deal happening on either of the occasions I visited Marble Arch, but there were some major events on various of the evenings, with some well-known performers coming to perform and show their support. But I like to go home at night to a comfortable bed (and a good dinner) and left it to those staying in the camp to record.

More at Extinction Rebellion Marble Arch.


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