Historically, Bristol has had a flair for innovation. My home city in the West of England has its own unique character and sense of fun. On 4th May 2014, a hilly, city-centre street was closed to traffic and turned into a giant waterslide. The event was part of the local council’s Make Sundays Special programme. The pictures of Bristolians sliding went viral on social media. A positive image of the 2015 European Green Capital was broadcast not just locally, or even nationally, but globally.
The potential of a green, traffic-less city received active promotion. This communications success clearly shows that green policies can spread from small, local initiatives. The memory of a great day without traffic will live on in the collective, local memory. Hopefully, other European cities will be inspired to carry out similar ventures.
Global warming concerns
Not all great initiatives have to be disseminated from a nation’s capital city. There is often a greater sense of belonging outside the capital. I have spent my entire working career in London, but my sense of “home” is still firmly rooted in the West Country. The potential consequences of global warming hit me this summer when I saw the flooded Somerset levels. Global warming maps seem to predict that my beloved Somerset may be permanently under water in the future.
Brunel: a great innovator
Bristol has strong historical connections with innovation. The city is closely associated with the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the second most famous Briton. His Clifton Suspension Bridge still stands as the city’s most famous landmark (see above). Brunel is also renowned for the Great Western Railway linking Bristol and London and the steamship SS Great Britain.
Bristol even lays claim to the discovery of America. Christopher Columbus did not land in South America until 1498. Italian-born John Cabot sailed from Bristol to discover Newfoundland and thus North America in 1497. Bristol’s merchants financed his voyage. It has even been claimed that America was named after Richard Amerike.
Bristol has played a great role in British maritime history. The city’s past is not all glorious. It cannot be denied that Bristol grew wealthy as a result of the slave trade. There remains some unease in Bristol as to how to handle this past. The French city of Nantes perhaps showed the way by confronting its role in the slave trade with its Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery. Nantes took the lead as the European Green Capital in 2013. The city won recognition for its leadership in water management and waste recycling.
Bristol setting an example
We Bristolians are immensely proud of our city. Like many of us and many other cities, Bristol has both great and unsavoury elements in its past. Environmental concerns mean that we all need to reform our habits. We can all do our bit. Going green may mean choosing the long-term over short-term option. We may have to select a more expensive energy efficient, environmentally friendly product. We need to make conscious efforts to recycle and walk or cycle instead of taking the car.
Bristol is looking forward to leading the way as Europe’s Green Capital in 2015. Take a look at Bristol's modern digital website revealing plans already under way.
What green initiatives should Bristol take in 2015?