Speech at National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist 2019
This event was organised by Stop Killing Cyclists and Extinction Rebellion. You can read and watch my speech here
Speech at Stop Killing Cyclists - National Funeral for the Unknown Cyclist – 07.09.19.
A month ago today I was making my way home after a wonderful 100 mile ride around London and Surrey. As I cramped up, medal around my neck, I was wishing that I had lost some weight, that I’d done some training, and that I didn’t have to work the next day. What I wasn’t wishing was that the roads had been open to traffic, as they had been as I did my 52 mile round trip rush hour cycle commute into East London yesterday.
Yesterday, as every day, I felt the familiar fear as a VW polo cut across the unprotected southbound cycle lane on the A10, and yesterday as every day I tasted the acrid outpourings of the double decker bus I was stuck behind at Dalston Kingsland Station, and marvelled at how the flavours, even the density of the air changed during my 90 minute journey from leafy Hertfordshire into the heart of this great city.
For those who don’t know me I am a London-based paediatrician, a consultant specialising in children’s lung disease, and a scientist interested in the effects of air pollution on lung health.
Last year I spoke about the way air pollution limits the growth of our children’s lungs, makes them more vulnerable to asthma attacks, pneumonia, and other infections. I spoke of how spikes in traffic-derived air pollution drive spikes in traffic through my emergency department with heart attacks, strokes, respiratory disease and even increased numbers of premature babies.
I and hundreds like me have produced good quality scientific research explaining the ways in which invisible, odourless particulates destroy our health, affect our mood, our memory, even speed the ageing process, and yet that evidence (not unlike the evidence that we are careering headfirst into a man-made, catastrophic climate emergency) continues to be ignored.
My good friends Caspar and Donnachadh, my magnificent spiritual daughter Max… all of you standing here… you’re all painfully aware that in this world of fake news and mistrust of experts, evidence isn’t enough, action is needed. And that action needs to move beyond doing our bit in our own lives. We need to stand up, we need to stop traffic, raise our voices, like Greta Thunberg, we need to be heard.
So today I join my voice to all of yours in calling for meaningful governmental action. We demand an immediate £6bn investment in cycling infrastructure, an end to cuts in fuel duty, a move to car free living, and a society-wide commitment to reduce consumption, to live sustainablywithin the means of our planet, because if we don’t there is no way on God’s green earth that it can sustain us.
Dr Chinedu Nwokoro
Doctors Against Diesel