INVISIBLE impacts of carbon emissions hit home as climate change protestors staged a die-in outside the city’s corridors of power.
The Extinction Rebellion-led event on Saturday saw activists pretend to be dead in Guildhall Square to illustrate the 95 city lives which are shortened because of particulate matter pollution every year.
Demonstrators walked 2.1 miles to the protest site from London Road, North End – one of the city’s busiest routes – where nitrogen dioxide levels have been proven to exceed legal limits.
They stopped at a series of pollution hotspots along the way to shed light on air dangers faced by communities across the city.
Extinction Rebellion organiser, Nick Onley, said: ‘There are 14 places across Portsea where the levels of nitrogen oxide are illegal and have been for nine years.
'It's a serious public health issue, it's a climate change issue and it's a social justice issue – because those are the poorest areas and the people in those areas have the lowest car emissions.’
He added: ‘The way to get a shift from people driving to cycling and using public transport is through emission-free zones, congestion charges and cycle infrastructure, so you have proper cycle routes across the city.
‘Portsmouth is three miles wide, four miles long and entirely flat, so it's a tiny surface area that's perfect for cycling and you could cycle the entire city in 15 to 20 minutes if it had a proper cycle highway.’
Saturday’s so-called ‘clean air procession’ was organised to call on local and national politicians to implement Parliamentary recommendations from a July report into active travel.
It said Britain’s roads are now home to 37million motor vehicles, compared to 15m in 1970, and urged local authorities to be granted a steady stream of long-term funding to deliver cycling and walking infrastructure.
Just £400m of the government’s £26bn transport fund currently goes on pushing methods of active travel.
Extinction Rebellion activist Sophie Cardinal, from Gosport, hopes demonstrations like the Guildhall Square die-in will get politicians’ attention and prompt a unified reduction in the nation’s carbon footprint.
‘Britain led the world into the industrial revolution and I think we need to lead the world into the green revolution,’ she said.
‘Because air pollution is not something you can see, having a die-in is a visual representation of the lives lost, so it's a vivid way of intriguing people and telling them why this matters.
‘We've tried changing minds through more conventional methods, but it doesn't always seem to work.
'Look at every social history movement and they were successful through drastic action and doing radical things.'
The day’s protest left some passers-by perplexed and even saw walkers sworn and shouted at by some passengers and drivers from passing cars on its route to the Guildhall, via Buckland.
But the flak was not enough to deter those involved, including Kate Sandys, who was taking part in an Extinction Rebellion demonstration for the first time.
She moved to Hilsea in 2013 from Hither Green in south-east London, where the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah that year, through asthma, was linked to spikes in illegal levels of air pollution.
‘I've been thinking about climate change and air pollution a lot more recently, partly because I work for an environmental organisation but also because I've got two young children,’ Kate said.
‘I had my first child at the point the little girl tragically died, she was five months old, and it's horrifying to think I've moved from one city with great levels of pollution in the air to another.
‘I worry about my children and their future and what will happen to them.’
On the importance of tackling climate change for children’s sakes, Sophie Cardinal added: ‘It's their future this is going to affect.
‘It'll affect mine, but for children it'll affect their whole lives growing up.'