Editor’s comment: Protest got your back up? Let’s ban cars

Protesters in Sheep Lane, London Fields, who say the road is a rat run with too much air pollution.

Protesters in Sheep Lane, London Fields, who say the road is a rat run with too much air pollution. Picture: FREYA PICKFORD - Credit: Archant

Dozens of Hackney’s young people walked out of school on Friday as they again pleaded with the world’s leaders to take climate change seriously, and to reduce emissions sufficiently that they have a good chance at a future.

Hours later, a smaller group of children took to the streets in London Fields to protest about the rat-running traffic that is suffocating them with exhaust fumes and making their walk to school into a dice with death.

We won't solve the climate crisis by blocking off one road. But if, as drivers, even that feels like too much of an inconvenience, we are done for. If, faced with overwhelming evidence that the emissions we produce (of which road transport contributes to more than a fifth in the UK) are putting us on a path to catastrophic levels of global warming, we still think anyone's "right" to travel by private car trumps our children's right to a future, why on earth would we have children at all?

It is a sorry (and absolutely terrifying) state of affairs when teenagers seem like our strongest and most active and vocal army against climate change. As Thunberg told the UN this week, they should be in school - but the collective incompetence, or worse, of grown-ups has left them no choice but to grow up early.

I understand the compromises we must all make to survive in a society whose basic principles are so grounded in inequality and greed. I understand that capitalism steals our time and our energy and grinds down our ability to educate ourselves and to take action against injustice. But when parents actively complain that those trying to save us all are inconveniencing them - I find that much harder to understand.

We have all been brought up - by society if not by our parents - to compete, to pursue success at the expense of others, to sacrifice everyone else's well being to get to the top. That way of life has already racked up a devastating body count via health inequality, housing poverty, and all the rest.And it's hard to think of a better illustration of this than the growth of private car use: few want the inconvenience of switching to public or active transport if others are still using their cars to get around quicker and more luxuriously.

So let's level the playing field. Ban private cars for all except the few who legitimately need them.

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