You don’t have much time to stop and think when you’re lying under a diesel car taking off its exhaust pipe. Especially not when it’s part of an unofficial ‘fringe exhibition’ on the doorstep of the V&A, one of the word’s most prestigious art museums. But today I didn’t need to think much as I’d already made up my mind.
I live in Bradford, one of the cities with the worst air pollution in the whole of the UK. And as a mother of two, I was shocked when it was revealed just a few weeks ago that one in four cases of asthma in Bradford’s children is linked to air pollution from roads – especially diesel cars.
car companies have been gaming emissions tests for years to put polluting diesels onto our streets. And even today many of the diesel cars sold in Britain are belching out more toxic fumes than they should. So when I saw that VW – a company responsible for a fifth of diesels sold in the UK – was sponsoring an exhibition on future technology at the V&A, I had to act. I don’t want my children to be heading for a future blighted by dirty diesel cars and toxic air.
As a female mechanic, I’m used to people’s astonished faces when they find out what I do. But I was still a bit overwhelmed to see the reactions of museum-goers walking past as I and three other women took apart a diesel VW Golf. VW say their diesels are clean, but testing shows otherwise. That’s why I spent hours taking one apart. I wanted to remind people that under the shiny bonnet of VW’s latest promises lies the same old dirty diesel engine of old.
It’s difficult to find time to take action like this while bringing up two children. But I think it’s important for mothers to come together to look after the world. And I want to show my kids the importance of taking a stand for what you believe in. I believe in a world where we can all breathe clean air and don’t have to worry about getting ill from air pollution. VW have the power to make that happen. But instead, they keep defending diesel cars and pushing hundreds of thousands more of them onto our streets.
The government has said it will phase out all diesel and petrol cars from 2040, but my children and I can’t wait another 22 years for clean air. VW and other car companies need to ditch diesel and start investing in clean and affordable cars now. And until they do so, myself and hundreds of thousands of other people across the UK will keep protesting. Getting covered in diesel engine grime for an afternoon is a small price to pay for a future with clean air.
Daisy Matthews-Mulroy is a trained mechanic from Bradford and Greenpeace activist