Low carbon lives in contact with nature

After a summer of extreme weather, and with a UK government that seems determined to do as little as possible to help stop catastrophic climate change, it’s easy to feel like despairing.

However, I think it’s important to remind ourselves of the many things that are happening in Cambridge, to help create a city where people can live low carbon lives in harmony with nature.

Cambridge is already the UK’s top cycling city: 57% of people use a bike at least once a week and 43% cycle to work. In large part, this is because of a steady policy of building cycle infrastructure that has been going on for nearly 50 years.

I remember when I was a student back in 1975, proposing to the City Council the radical idea of a white line down the side of Huntingdon Road to help give at least psychological protection to cyclists.  At the time it was dismissed as ridiculous, but within 5 years, a line appeared.

Now nearly 50 years later, we have lots of excellent cycleways, both on and off road. We have new active-travel bridges across the river, across the railway and across the M11; a multistorey cycle-park at the station and now a new programme of longer distance Greenways to help connect the villages with the centre of Cambridge.  This sort of infrastructure development doesn’t happen overnight, and there’s still plenty to do, but we’re well on the way.

On the other hand, when it comes to tree cover and biodiversity, Cambridge is only just above average. The City Council’s Cambridge Canopy Project which is aiming to increase tree cover from 17% to 19%, is a good start, but we need to do more and do it faster. Trees will help keep the city cool in future heatwaves.

Wild-swimming has become increasingly popular over the last few years, and over the summer it’s been lovely watching people swimming in the river, and kids enjoying paddling in the streams. This is a very simple, free way for people to take exercise, enjoy nature and cool down in heatwaves.  Whats more, research has shown that when children can play in nature, they’re more likely to grow up to become passionate environmentalists.

The water is not as clean as it should be, so Cam Valley Forum is hoping to apply for Bathing Water Designation for the Cam at Sheep’s Green. This should help accelerate the clean-up, while providing swimmers with reliable information on the water quality.

We hope the application succeeds, because that will be another step on the way towards a city where people can live low carbon lives and enjoy contact nature.

Do respond to CVF’s consultation https://camvalleyforum.uk/bathing-water-designation/