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Dirty air is an issue of environmental justice in Bristol. Those who contribute the least are suffering the most, and areas with higher Black and Ethnic minorities population are being exposed to the highest levels of dirty air resulting in the highest rates of asthma.

These communities often have the least power or agency to effect change due to a history of having been excluded from conversations and decisions that impact everyday life.

My project, to breathe, aimed to bridge that gap and help build community solutions for clean air through:

  • Questions – a survey to get insight from a larger group about there perception of dirty air
  • Discussions – with community groups (walking, cycling, gardening) around lived experience, actions and solutions
  • Conversations – asking individuals to take me where they go to breathe in Bristol, on this journey talking about clean air, power and solutions.

Always sharing, knowledge and connections.

Ideas and reflections I will take forward from these conversations include:

  • We go to green open spaces, that are connected with people, nature and faith.
  • We feel alive, a sense of self, strong, connected with body, mind and history, protected and free.
  • To breathe we need to be safety, trust and knowledge. We need education, awareness, for individuals, organisations and government to act now not later. We need the dial to shift from do no harm, to doing good.
  • The air we breathe wasn’t always something people thought about but it means vitality.
  • Many people feel they could breathe clean air where they live now or not, they have experienced and can feel the differences in air across the city and in places they have lived throughout there lifetime. In some instances, Bristol has comparatively clean air, compared to growing up in Lagos or Lahore.
  • The priority was the need for space, people feel densely packed in and claustrophobic. Green spaces are an ideal, but space is necessary.
  • It is not all about transport- in academic or traditional air pollution spaces this dominates the discourse. Though this was spoken about, the conversations were so much richer, so much more than this.
  • Limited or muted sense of power – individual action and behaviour was seen as important. People knew what actions could be taken, and felt they were able to put these into practise in a way that worked for there live. But there was a need for a greater level of change the need the dial to shift from do no harm, to actively doing good government, organisations and business.  

This is just the starting point – I will continue building a picture of clean air in Bristol that I will share that back through mapping, films and conversation. And, ask how we would like to turn this from a picture to reality using the platform of B&G to create change.

Clean Air Day special broadcast

Hear Olivia’s radio show on Ujima for Clean Air Day (17th June) – discussing the problem, hearing peoples worries, concerns and hopes, discussing actions that we can take as individuals and collectively.

Listen to the show

Photos

Olivia ran a photo prize draw during Summer of 2021 to help build a picture of clean air. She asked where people go to breathe and how they feel when they breathe there.

Everyone who shared a photo was entered into a prize draw for a £100 voucher for Better Food Company, a Bristol Based independent shop for local food and more, and the winner was Sophie Brown, Founder of Bristol Steppin Sistas!

“I go to Lords Wood to breathe fresh air and to listen and watch the wildlife. I feel calm and grounded, I feel totally surrounded by tranquility. I need to breathe fresh clean natural air so that I can properly function mentally in a stable and safe place.”

Thank you all who took part. Photos submitted will be publicly exhibited by the Black & Green Ambassadors programme both online and in printed formats.

Related news and blog posts

The Black & Green Ambassadors programme marked the end of Year One at Bristol’s Festival of the Future City – with outgoing Ambassadors Asia, Roy and Olivia sharing their reflections from an unforgettable year, handing over the baton to the next four Ambassadors and launching the end of year one report and film.

Having the opportunity to reflect on the air quality in my neighbourhood and other parts of Bristol, made me realise how varied air quality is depending on which area of a city you’re in, and how this seems to strongly correlate with social background and race. .

In this blog post, Olivia tells us how she has arrived at where she is – as a Black & Green Ambassador doing her