Thursday, 21 January 2016

Why are Britain's waters so unhealthy?

Inspired by the piece in The Guardian Environment Network written by Rachel Salvidge: ''England’s waters to remain illegally polluted beyond 2021' 

Playing cars, running rivers

You too can remember the thrill of the moment

As we took the toy cars beyond the garden
For the first time
Assembling freedom
Under the fingernails, throwing up earth.  I was seven then
Drawing the wheels of the car
Along my palms
A practice particularly urban
Feet turning the turf

For we started races – the rivers
You said, grabbing your bottle
Would form a challenge
I watched the movement
Drawn out in handfuls

As you tried to push streams, into the grass
Still to used to the lawn
Of your suburban house.  
Half-appalled stare on a nine-year old brow
I saw your plans turn to plains
The water burst out.

You tried pouring it into course
But plastic made it warm, greasy, sluggish
Swept over our race course, turning
Our play into rubbish

As it still does today
Rivers catching same angst
Covering reflection
With buildings
But the same dirty hands.

The news of Britain’s failure to keep her waters clean has seemingly fallen by the wayside in recent weeks. Attention seems to lie with attempts to control and regulate the course of its flow, like a kind of ‘game’ we are playing with nature (to which the poem alludes) – perhaps not surprising in light of the recent floods. But when will we consider the contents? Water can wield devastation, and is tragic, but what it is important to address going forward is the devastation we too have inflicted on it. Right now the UK is set to fail to reach basic ecological standards regarding the ecological condition of her water bodies – much is polluted, poisoned and putrid. Surely a way to go forward is consider cleaning and clearing our waters alongside the flood defence effort?

When will we realise that we’ve been so much more than just ‘playing’ with water; we’ve been polluting it – at catastrophic levels, for years.   Recent news has confirmed that UK water bodies – which include waterways such as streams and rivers – are condemned to fail to meet recommended ecological standards by 2021. ‘Good’ was the recommended ecological level – with the original deadline for the UK to crucially improve the overall chemical and ecological status of its water being set for 2015. Not only did the UK fail this, but its anticipated failure to reach the 2021 recommendations puts it in a position risking legal action from the European Commission. The reality is this – a number of the country’s streams and rivers are ecologically damaged, in poor condition and heavily polluted – and yet we carry on forward, adding to the issue and inventing excuses, like children invent rules for a game.

But this is no game – this is the culture, nature and natural habitat of Great Britain which is at risk. In order to address the pollution of our rivers and streams, we have to take real responsive steps; wider environmental action. The first step may involve considering your own actions and emissions. Aspects include diverting waste away from our waterways and increasing awareness of the river environment, starting with the young. Encouraging conversation, conservation and cutting emissions – especially from our cars. Summer-tinged streams may offer an idyll of child play in our heads, but this isn’t childsplay, the reality is that our rivers and streams are at poisonous levels and it is being seriously underreported. We can’t just address them when they are affecting us directly; because we affect them all the time.

Surely now is the time for cleanliness to go forward with constructive defence?