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Editor’s comment: Boaters aren’t the real enemy in air pollution row

PUBLISHED: 15:01 21 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:34 15 March 2018

Some of the boats pump out smoke pollution. Picture: Erika Jones

Some of the boats pump out smoke pollution. Picture: Erika Jones

Erika Jones

When I lived in Walthamstow, I cycled over the River Lea at the bottom of Spring Hill every day.

And whenever I got home after a night shift I’d blow my nose and (look away now if you’re about to sit down for Christmas dinner) it would come out black.

All the same, I never thought much about the smoke coming out of the boats except to entertain a pang of envy that their inhabitants were already warm.

Erica Jones’s woes remind me of the four years I spent in Manchester, during which time I was locked in a hopeless battle to see whether I or my neighbour could apologise more profusely for his smoking habit.

He used to go out onto his balcony, which was immediately underneath my room, several times a day to light up. In the end, though I had become almost pathologically sensitive to the smell, I gave up shutting my window because I hated the eye contact and the inevitable exchange of “hello-again-oh-no-this-isn’t-because-of-you-I-really-can’t-smell-anything-I-was-just-shutting-the-window-anyway” even more than I hated the cigarettes.

Erica’s boater neighbour is right: there are bigger battles in the war for air quality.

We have unacceptable levels of pollution outside our schools.

A chunk of our council tax is invested in fossil fuels thanks to the town hall’s pension scheme.

A third runway may open at Heathrow.

We are still mining and burning coal, oil and gas.

But the boaters’ fuel choices are significant all the same.

Clean energy should be the cheapest, most attractive option for all of us, whether we are water-dwellers or otherwise – and clearly it still isn’t.

Meanwhile, people are profiting from the sale of dirty energy.

It’s them we should be campaigning against, not each other.

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