How Bad is
Governments are hiding the truth. Seriously. They frequently put air monitoring machines in parks and quiet streets to hide the problem. So action groups have stepped in. It’s actually easy to monitor air quality. Test kits are simple, cheap and accurate. Without exception, every single place citizens have used them, test kits have revealed dangerously polluted air that is far worse than the official readings. This evidence is great for winning arguments, grabbing newspaper headlines, forcing local politicians to take action. That action might be diverting traffic away from schools; stopping the most polluting vehicles, and demanding that car companies stop cheating.
Carmakers knowingly broke European law for profit. Fiddled vehicles are still making our air dirtier throughout Europe and carmakers are finding new ways to cheat official tests. They must pay the price so they learn their lesson. Any Volkswagen, Porsche, SEAT, Skoda or Audi owner, past or present, could get a 100% refund. But you must claim quickly. Search for “VW compensation” to join a legal group action. VW shareholders are also seeking billions in compensation in multiple open international cases.
Protests work because they draw a very public line in the sand and encourage resistance. They represent a kind of social disagreement, and the media is fascinated by conflict. When enough people take an interest, politicians get scared and change begins in earnest. Protests can take any form, but in our image-saturated world, the media prefer ones that stand out. Parents have led the charge, with colourful stroller parades, creative and noisy marches. How will you draw a line in the sand?
Say it in a symbol
Our subconscious mind communicates through images and symbols, because they neatly package up a lot of information and significance. So when we see a logo or symbol in the real world, we understand it immediately, or want to. Political symbols help stabilise and unify groups. Once popular, they are hard to argue with. The face mask became our symbol. Placed on a statue, it instantly and obviously becomes a political statement. Etching a black ‘unhappy face’ line might take it to the next level. Belgians hang white sheets from their windows. They draw attention, and turn black. Try coming up with your own clever symbol.
Citizens are winning legal victories that force authorities to act. Urban areas often break the Ambient Air Quality Directive, requiring authorities to plan a solution in ways that are “realistic”, “concrete”, “pragmatic” and “fair”. City bosses often dodge the real problem: dirty cars. Judges are forcing stronger action, such as banning the dirtiest vehicles. Judges are even considering sending officials to jail! ClientEarth is helping citizens fight such cases and it’s handbook is a great first step.