At this time of year I look longingly at the sea, waiting for a hot day to take my first dip. As someone who loves swimming off Brighton beach as well as in nearby rivers, I value the direct contact with nature this gives me. Last year a mackerel leapt out the water beside me near the pier. I am regularly eye-to-eye with dragonflies in the Ouse. On a hot day last July I skinny-dipped in a beautiful chalk stream on a National Trust estate near here – all the more exciting because at any minute a crowd of coated and booted National Trust members might have come round the corner. Why am I telling you this? Because, as a life-long outdoor swimmer, I have seen enormous improvements in water quality in this country. And because this is almost completely down to the EU. Our beaches are now cleaner, our rivers too, thanks to EU legislation. I remember when Britain was known as ‘the dirty man of Europe.’ We still have real problems with air quality in our cities, but it is the EU that is pursuing our government in the courts to force them to improve the quality of the air we breathe.
Ecology teaches us that all things are connected. It gives us a new paradigm for understanding the world and our place in it. For me it is clear that environmental issues connect us globally. No one country can solve problems like global warming or ocean acidification on its own. Retreating into nationalisms and isolation will only impede solutions to the environmental crisis. This for me is a crucial issue in the upcoming EU referendum. Yes, the EU is an imperfect beast and it needs reforming, particularly in its attitude to large corporations. But imagine a country ruled over by the Tory right, with Boris Johnson in charge, because this is what could so easily happen if we leave the EU. Would such a government care about air quality, ancient woodlands, areas of outstanding natural beauty? Not for one minute if it believed any of these things stood in the way of so called economic progress. We need the EU and they need us.
For a longer list of things the EU has done for our environment go to http://www.environmentalistsforeurope.org/10-things-europe-has-done-to-tackle-pollution/
Brighton and Hove Green Party Member