In a packed two-day visit to Bristol, Molly visited a centre offering support to the city’s refugees and asylum seekers; visited a popular city farm; talked to campaigners trying to stop plastic pollution ending up in the sea; and witnessed the City’s dangerous levels of air pollution.
On a visit to Bristol’s much-loved St Werburghs City Farm, Molly learned about the origins and development of the farm, and the valuable role it plays in providing a space for local people. The farm is often described as a ‘green oasis in the heart of the city’ and seeks to connect people with the land, environment, food and the local community. Last year more than 50,000 people visited the farm, and over 3,300 people, many of who are disadvantaged, were directly supported through a series of inspiring, fun and capacity-building activities. Building work is underway on the ‘Connection Centre’ which will provide three classrooms and a kitchen that can double the number of people in the local community who can be supported by the farm. Molly said:
“St Werburghs is a valuable space right in the heart of this community. It’s somewhere green where people can connect with nature, while also providing opportunities for people to associate with and support each other in a safe and welcoming environment. Enabling people to re-connect with their food, and see how local food production systems work can support building of community resilience”.
Molly also visited the Bristol Refugee Rights’ Welcome Centre with Green Party leader Natalie Bennett. The centre offers refugees and asylum seekers a safe space to meet and provides practical support ranging from food and clothing to referrals and English classes. Molly said:
“It was great to learn about the fantastic work the centre is doing to support refugees and asylum seekers and their families. I heard stories of courage and inspiration and this was an opportunity to reaffirm a commitment that all Greens share: refugees are welcome, in Bristol and throughout Europe. Compassion is the only response.”
At a meeting with campaigner Natalie Fee from City to Sea, Molly learned about the problems associated with plastic litter. The organisation is a collective of campaigners, scientists and marine biologists who aim to stem plastic litter flowing from Bristol into the Severn Estuary. Natalie pointed out some of the most common culprits including plastic bottles and ‘cotton’ buds, many of which have plastic sticks.
She showed Molly how many sticks had been collected in a 400m section of the River Avon. The group are running a campaign to persuade manufacturers to ‘switch the stick’ to biodegradable alternatives. City to Sea are also campaigning to make Bristol a city in which refilling a water bottle, rather than buying disposable bottles, becomes the norm, with refill points throughout the city. Molly said:
“City to Sea is a great initiative for Bristol during its year as Green Capital. It would be great if Bristol could become an example to the rest of Europe on how to effectively stop plastic litter flowing out to sea. Plastic pollution has a direct and deadly impact on wildlife through ingestion or entanglement, so this campaign is vital to help prevent any further deterioration to the health of our oceans.”
Travelling between visits in Bristol by foot meant that at times Molly was exposed to high levels of traffic emissions, so it was timely for her to meet with Bristol Councillor Jerome Thomas to hear about air quality in Bristol. The city has air pollution levels far higher than EU legal limits and Government data shows this is responsible for nearly 200 deaths a year. As an MEP, Molly has been calling on the government to meet the safe legal limits set by the EU. Her visit came shortly before a Bristol City Council meeting where ongoing concerns about air pollution were raised with the Mayor. Molly said:
“Air pollution is an invisible killer yet the UK Government continues to lobby at EU level to avoid possible infringement action from the Commission. This shameful approach from one of the worst polluters in the EU demonstrates the Government is not serious about tackling this public health crisis.”