Schoolchildren in London are planning to highlight the impact of climate change by marching through the streets in gas masks.
The ‘Masked Crusaders’ hope to raise awareness of how idling car engines can have a negative impact on the environment, as they can produce up to twice as many exhaust emissions as an engine in motion.
The campaign was started by concerned parents who realised many cars were left running during school drop-off and pick-up times, adding pollution to the air young children breathe every day.
Katherine Hipwell, who is part of the campaign, highlighted just how much of an impact air pollution can have as she told UNILAD a child born in London in 2010 will lose two years of life expectancy at the current levels of air pollution.
With the help of schoolchildren, the campaign aims to educate people about the environmental impact of engine idling and encourage drivers to switch off their cars while stationary.
Katherine spoke further about the issue, saying:
Parents are driving to school and then sitting in their car for half an hour around drop-off and pick-up with their engines needlessly running – releasing the worst pollutants from idling engines – in exactly the worse place at the worst time for vulnerable children’s lungs.
While we understand people do sometimes have to drive to school or locally for various reasons, engine idling is creating completely unnecessary pollution, which is why we particularly wanted to focus on this.
To protest engine idling, children across London are planning to take part in a ‘Masked March’ this Friday, November 8, which will see them don gas masks while they walk through the streets to school.
The Masked Crusaders have created posters to help raise awareness for the campaign, and they’ve even provided tips as to how children can create their own masks out of recycled material so they can take part in the march.
Explaining the use of the gas masks, Katherine said:
People all around the world are wearing masks to protect themselves from pollution, from London cyclists to the people suffering terrible pollution in India at the moment. We wanted to use that reference in an eye-catching way that would grab people’s attention and make them think about what they’re doing.
During the protest, the Crusaders will chant: ‘Cough, cough, engine off!’
Katherine spoke about the importance of the children’s role in the campaign, saying:
We always wanted to put the children front and centre of our campaign, and have made them the ‘Masked Crusaders’ in reference to cartoon superheroes like the Caped Crusaders, Batman and Robin.
We want them to be the heroes leading the fight against air pollution, particularly around their schools.
Year 4 are preparing for our whole school march on Friday! We are trying to raise awareness about the pollution caused by idle engines🚙💨😷 #maskedcrusaders #londonsustainableschools pic.twitter.com/Ue0NDu9vUt
— Our Lady of Muswell Primary School (@OurLadyMuswell) November 5, 2019
The campaign is supported by the London Sustainable Schools Forum, and its website is full of the materials parents and schools can use in the campaign.
The site explains:
On Friday 8th November, put your posters up and car flyers out while the children use their masks to transform into ‘Masked Crusaders’ against engine idling.
As well as providing materials on the site, the parents behind Masked Crusaders have visited their childrens’ infant and junior schools to conduct an assembly on air pollution and the problem of engine idling to help raise awareness.
Katherine said the campaign has received plenty of support from other schools and she expects thousands of children across London to take part in the march this Friday.
The march will take place just days after scientists declared a climate change emergency, warning ‘untold human suffering’ is unavoidable if we fail to massively change the way we live.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.