Dirty London: How we can make the capital cleaner?

Two journalism students, David Pasia and Gabriela Yorgova, cover a panel discussion during the Journalism Newsweek Debate.

Date: 1 February 2024

Can we save the planet? Can we make London a cleaner, more environmentally friendly place to live?

This was the main discussion at the Dirty London panel on Wednesday evening, part of London Met's Journalism Newsweek debate, where invited guests discuss a topic of interest to students. 

Journalism Senior Lecturer, Daniel Schweimler, headed the discussion with contributions and questions from the audience members, which consisted of students, staff and guests.  Journalism students covered the event by producing TV programmes, podcasts and articles, which "gives them a real taste of real journalism", said Course Leader Wendy Sloane. Another Newsweek on "Dirty Fashion" will take place in March.

Among the panellists yesterday were Dr Patrick Hart, a member of Just Stop Oil; Marijn van de Geer, a founding member of Extinction Rebellion; Kwajo Tweneboa, a social activist focused on social housing; Sean Maguire, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Communications at the Clean Air Fund; Caroline "Caz" Royds, a member of the Islington Environmental Alliance; and Giulia Innocenti, a representative of the Green Our Neighbourhood group and a councillor for the borough of Barnet. 

The main focus of the discussion was the current environmental crisis on a local and global level. Air pollution, social housing, people's behaviour and media exposure are just a few of the issues debated that contribute to the detriment of the environment and people’s health. 

Suggestions were made on how citizens can improve their local environment, while the panellists maintained there is still time to turn things around. They urged the audience to get involved through different means, such as peaceful and non-violent protesting. 

Van de Geer expressed the significance of getting involved. She said: “I think it’s our absolute duty to protest... Let your voice be heard. It’s absolutely vital. It’s our democratic right.” 

The speakers expressed their passion for their work for improving the local environment and the future opportunities for residents to take part in council initiatives.   

Innocenti emphasises on the need for people to get involved on a local level and have their suggestions and ideas heard. "If you want to try doing something, do it locally and you’ll have a lot more sway.”

Despite how apocalyptic the circumstances might look, the panellists were heartened to know that the future generations are galvanised in taking the necessary steps to improve the global climate crisis. The actions of individuals, when combined, can contribute towards a positive outcome. 

Tweneboa was perhaps the most impactful - and the youngest - speaker, working as a social housing activist exposing slum landlords throughout the UK. His work has been recognised throughout the UK, which in turn, led to his nomination for an MBE - which he turned down.

He told the audience that he started campaigning because he was one of those people living in slum conditions. He said he would not be accepting an award or a title when people continue to live that way, and even die in those poor living environments “There’s no way I could take an award and be celebrated… for fighting for something that is a basic human right.”

Image from Journalism Newsweek Panel Discussion.