COMMENT: Extinction Rebellion protests in Leeds are a minor inconvenience next to Leeds' air pollution problem

An Extinction Rebellion protester in Leeds city centre. Picture: PA
An Extinction Rebellion protester in Leeds city centre. Picture: PA
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Angry about five days of traffic disruption in Leeds city centre? Just wait until you find out what the next few years have in store if we continue to treat our planet with contempt.

Five days of Extinction Rebellion protests seem to have triggered a deep-seated anger in people in Leeds in a way at which other issues have only previously scratched the surface.

Extinction Rebellion roadblock at Victoria Bridge in Leeds city centre

Extinction Rebellion roadblock at Victoria Bridge in Leeds city centre

Comments left on the Yorkshire Evening Post's coverage of the road block at Victoria Bridge have been explosive, with some even expressing a desire to inflict violence on what they see as a "bunch of hippies who need a shower" lying in the road.

And while it's great you feel so strongly about something, how about channelling that anger into something more constructive?

I have news for you, Leeds. This city is in one of the top ten in the whole of Europe for the number of deaths from air pollution (the only other UK city was London).

Average global temperature increased by 1.5C in the last 150 years, according to the Met Office. That may not sound much, but its implications for the future of the human race are terrifying.

Statistics highlight Leeds as one of Europe's top cities for risk of dying from air pollution-related illness. Picture: Transport and Environment

Statistics highlight Leeds as one of Europe's top cities for risk of dying from air pollution-related illness. Picture: Transport and Environment

Oh, how I wish the statistics ended there.

The average air pollution index in one area of North Leeds measured at 1000ppm at peak times this year - that is worse than Beijing. The level considered to be at the top of the 'safe' spectrum is 400. This is at a time when children are walking to school.

Meanwhile, 60,000 people are thought to drive into Leeds each day for work. That's thousands of cars churning out toxic gases into the very air we breath. Every. Single. Day.

READ MORE: 'We are willing to be arrested at Extinction Rebellion die-in' say Leeds protesters

The United Nations have given planet Earth 11 years before damage becomes irreversible. Ignorance is bliss. But the reality is, ice caps are melting, land is being swallowed up, oceans are filling up with our waste, and human beings are suffering as a result of our state of denial.

Yes, five days of Extinction Rebellion protests are far from ideal. Yes, it's disruptive.Yes, it's a drain on dwindling police resources.

But for the sake of waking up to the problems that lie ahead if we continue with this attitude of "climate change protesters need to grow up and get a job", it's a drop in the plastic-desecrated ocean.

READ MORE: This is why roads in Otley, Headingley and Hunslet in Leeds will be shut in September

Just over a century ago, women across Britain were ridiculed, scorned, arrested and treated with public disdain for taking drastic action in the fight for the vote.

Now, they are rightly respected as heroines of democracy.

I hope in another 100 years, our children's grandchildren will look back on the likes of Greta Thunberg and other climate change activists with the same admiration and gratitude. That is, if we are even still here to tell the tale.