I’ve always found London exciting. I was brought up in a quiet corner of Croydon that I always felt was dull, but public transport gave me access to this amazing big city. I find British or English patriotism problematic but what I feel about London is something similar to what some other people seem to feel about the whole country.
It was a great privilege to me to be a member of the London Assembly when it was first set up in 2000. My vision now is not so different from what it was then, though now I’ve probably got a better idea of why it’s difficult to get there.
What interests me is the fact that our species is becoming more and more urban. This is a revolution that has been a long time coming. The consequence is that if humans are to live in a way which doesn’t destroy the ecological base we all depend on – atmosphere, soil, water, other species, etc. – that will have to be because we find a better way of designing and living in our cities.
I want to see London lead on some of this. Or – a more modest and realistic vision – at least try to keep up with the best that is being done around the world. What does this mean?
- Look after our parks and other green spaces. Urban life brings with it the danger of losing the connection which humans have always had with the natural world, so that’s now something we need to consciously keep going.
- Expand renewable energy, especially solar power in buildings.
- Get prepared for climate change.
- Rethink transport drastically, cutting down car use, air pollution, and demand for air travel.
- Reduce waste through the redesign of products and packaging. Otherwise city life means we are exporting increasing amounts of rubbish and pollution.
- Tackle the finance sector, a massive part of London’s economy, but one which is often at the centre of ecological and financial crises.
How can we get there? The GLA has some of the powers that are needed, and the Mayor has the legal duty to draw up environmental strategies, though crucially not necessarily a duty to fund them through his or her budget.
Beyond that of course there are many barriers that have to be broken through – the daily propaganda of the Evening Standard and other newspapers, the powerful lobbying of the City of London trying to protect their own interests, the crazy functioning of the housing market, extreme inequality in London’s economy, constant pressure from the Government to close or cut down public services.
Each of these barriers was originally the result of someone else’s vision. We need to counter them with our own.
Victor Anderson is a sustainability researcher and was a London Assembly Member 2000-3.