Sunday, 10 April 2016

You're Green and You Don't Know it

You may have voted for a particular political party all your life. You know your own mind and you know which flavour of politics most closely matches your views on how the country - and the city - ought to be run.

And yet...

When we're out canvassing and campaigning in Peterborough on behalf of the Green Party we find that most people who have never considered themselves to be 'Green' are a lot Greener than they realise.

I used to be just like you. 

I used to believe that to be Green you had to:

  • Be a vegetarian (ideally a vegan)
  • Ride a bicycle
  • Only wear clothes made of hemp
  • Climb up a tree and refuse to come down
  • Hold hands with strangers and take part in spontaneous acts of group singing

None of that appeals to me.

Then I actually met some Green Party members and realised that I'd been barking up the wrong tree.

Dog barking up a tree
This dog is barking up the wrong tree... are you?

Most people's perception of the Green Party is either out-of-date or just wrong. 

So what do Greens believe?

1. Twenty's Plenty

Obviously, we would prefer that you didn't drive the type of car that harms the environment, but we're far more interested in how you drive on the residential streets in our city. 

Our 'Twenty's Plenty' campaign asks drivers to go at 20mph in residential areas, those places where children and older people live, and where domestic cats and resident wildlife wander freely.

This idea is right up my street. I have noticed that visitors to our housing estates and residential streets - particularly delivery drivers who are driving to a deadline - travel way too fast. Is there really any need to do much more than 20mph in a cul-de-sac? I want to be safe in the place where I live and I want my neighbours and loved ones to be safe too.

2. Protect the NHS

If I do get hit by a speeding car, or become ill or injured for any other reason, I want to be able to do what I've been able to do my entire life: turn to a public National Health Service for care and treatment. I don't want a return to pre-NHS times, when people who couldn't afford healthcare died or became disabled by treatable conditions simply because they didn't have the means to pay. 

Over the years, I have received outstanding care from the NHS in Peterborough, just when I needed it. The Green Party believes in a strong, joined-up, publicly-owned and publicly-accountable NHS for everyone.

3. Industrial pollution? Fly tipping? Littering? Irresponsible household waste management? No thanks.

Orton Waterville ward is an area of incredible beauty. Take a walk around Ferry Meadows or along the River Nene and you can't argue with the simple fact that we live in a very special place. However, our river and our environment are under constant threat from industrial polluters and pollutants and new industrial initiatives that while good for the local economy are not always so good for local residents. If I wanted to live in a concrete jungle I'd move back to London. I don't. I want to live here surrounded by natural beauty.

It isn't just industrial waste we should be concerned about. Sadly, not everyone who resides in or visits our beautiful areas understands how destructive littering and fly tipping truly are. This type of waste harms wildlife, and the sight of it is simply depressing.

Yes, the Government can and should do more to protect our natural heritage, but we can all do something to keep our part of Peterborough beautiful. Next time you fancy a walk, take a pair of protective gloves and a bin bag with you and pick up any easily accessible litter that catches your eye. Sadly, you'll be amazed how quickly your bag fills up. Happily you'll be doing something extremely positive about it.

I don't have a very big family, so there is no big family dinner to be cooked on Christmas Day. This year, I decided that I would do something for my community instead of stuffing my face, and went litter picking in my local area with my little grey helper (if you include the photographer, my two little grey helpers!!).

Picking litter on Christmas Day
Clearing some unwanted Christmas gifts away!

In just 20 minutes, I picked up this much rubbish from a cycle path between Lynch Wood and Oundle Road. Most of it was discarded food packaging (the notorious Peterborough wind blows it into hedgerows where it stays and does a lot of damage to the natural habitat).

Full bag of litter
Litter picked up in 20 minutes near Lynch Wood on Christmas Day 2015

I've since learned that the Peterborough Green Party regularly holds 'Flash Litter Picks' all over the city, where local people give up an hour or two of their time to clear litter from their local area. We know it's the City Council's responsibility to clear the waste from our streets, and we also know we didn't drop the litter! But as good neighbours we're all happy to pitch in and do our bit.

As for household waste, having lived in other counties where the city councils don't get it quite right, I can very confidently say that Peterborough does a superb job of enabling householders to dispose of our waste in a way that is very good for our environment. 

Like most people who grew up in the 1970s or before, I was used to dustbin men (they were always men) picking up anything you left by the back gate (really, there was nothing they wouldn't take!). I never gave a thought to where that rubbish went, and it pains me now to think of all that stuff in a landfill site. Now, we live in brighter times and much of our household waste can be recycled. But we shouldn't take these initiatives for granted. They cost money to run and at times when public services are being squeezed we must ensure the vital initiatives paid for by the taxpayer - like keeping our streets and other areas clean - are protected.

Green initiatives like these mean we're all already involved in keeping our environment beautiful, don't you agree?

You see, you are Green, you just didn't know it.

RED ALERT: The green initiatives we have today may not stay in place forever without constant pressure from councillors who pledge to keep the needs of our communities and our environment in the spotlight. Peterborough needs Green Party councillors. Right now, in 2016, we have none at all. 

5th May is your opportunity to change this for the better. 

Please vote for your Green Party candidate in the Peterborough City Council elections (that's me - Julie Howell - if you're in Orton Waterville ward). The Green Party isn't here to tell you what to eat or what car to drive, where to buy your clothes or to make major and unrealistic changes to the lifestyle you enjoy. We are not attempting to be the majority voice in local Government, but we do feel that it is vital that we are inside the council, being the voice for our people and our planet and ensuring what we enjoy today is protected for tomorrow.

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