OPINION: Shop locally and ditch the car are on my roadmap out of lockdown

Mike and Debs Read, and their sons, Brendan, left, and James at their family fruit and veg stall at

Mike and Debs Read and their sons, Brendan, left, and James, showcasing the wide variety of fruit and vegetables on offer on Norwich Market - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Norwich resident Peter Offord says we need to think green as we hopefully emerge from lockdown restrictions on June 21

This last year has not been good by any account.

We've seen an escalating climate crisis, wild fires in Siberia, mass migration, melting ice sheets and the worst pandemic since the influenza outbreak following the First World War.

What can we do in the face of this onslaught of terrible news, an annus horribilis as the Queen might say, whilst stuck in our homes during lockdown?

There is a limit to how many game shows and cookery programmes we can watch but for a while the air became still and birdsong filled the streets.


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With lockdown easing we are once again experiencing a taste of freedom.

Bars and shops are open and soon maybe the opportunity for foreign travel will return.

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In this ‘new normal’ the roads are becoming crammed with traffic again.

We’re in a double bind; we need to travel but travel causes pollution.

But Boris Johnson has a solution -  to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 78% by 2035. I hope he is more resolute than David Cameron who, no doubt under pressure from the energy companies, reneged on his ‘global climate deal’ which led to cutting the feed-in-tariffs, robbing the solar industry of a major incentive.

Norwich City Council has obtained nearly £1.5m to support its carbon reduction programme but most of this is aimed at reducing emissions for the city’s buildings. It is road transport that accounts for nearly 30% of all carbon dioxide emissions.

We did have a national road and rail network transporting passengers and goods but Dr Beeching and Ernest Marples stripped it down in the 1960s.

Norwich Electric Tramways had already been axed in the 1930s and the public were encouraged to car use which Marples’ road building firm profited from. Vehicle ownership increased from around five million in the 1960s to over 38 million by 2020.

Our roads are the most congested in Europe and Norwich city streets weren’t designed for cars. We simply cannot go on building more roads and encouraging more traffic.

Reader Peter Offord, from Norwich

Reader Peter Offord, from Norwich - Credit: Submitted

Cars are convenient and comfortable and, during Covid, feel safer. We can chill out to music, carry shopping, school stuff and the family’s pet. We now have 1.2 cars per household in the UK, do we really need so many?

Looking out of my window I see some (brave) parents cycling their children to school in the midst of the tide of vehicles dropping their little ones off. Parents face a real challenge. On the one hand the risks of Covid-19, on the other, risks to children’s health due to emissions.

With more investment in public transport the air would be cleaner, there would be less congestion, safer space for walking and cycling and people would suffer less from respiratory problems.

We need a clean integrated transport system like the Scandinavians with a simple one ticket system, not a medley of companies running a hotchpotch of services. And we could use car share more.

My local supermarket offers avocados from Israel, Braeburn apples from Germany, sweetcorn from India and Senegal, Kiwi fruit from Greece, broccoli from Portugal, dwarf beans from Egypt and asparagus from Mexico! No matter what the season!

We have a rich and varied market here in Norwich, the use of which will encourage more locally grown seasonal produce, less carbon footprint and more social interaction, which is good for people’s mental and physical health.

Reducing CO2 is going to be tough. Do we really need to fly out of the country for our holidays when there is so much beauty here at home? We will need to consume less if we wish to safeguard the future.

It will take not just the politicians to legislate and implement change through national policy but public motivation locally to effect change in the face of this global climate emergency.

The government created a roadmap to navigate out of lockdown, we will also need a roadmap out of climate disaster which we can all follow and help in achieving.

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