This is a letter from local resident and campaigner Jane Bednall to Friends of the Earth in response to an article published in their ‘Earth Matters’ magazine they send to their members:
Dear Andy Atkins and Paul de Zylia,
I am writing this letter to explain why I shall be cancelling my long–term subscription to Friends of the Earth.
In his editorial of summer 2012, Andy Atkins makes the claim that ‘central to everything we do at friends of the Earth will always be inspiring campaigns.’ Yet the article ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ shows no evidence that campaigns fighting to expose the detrimental environmental impact of the London 2012 Games have been understood or even acknowledged. ‘The Greenest Games ever’ will not leave the ‘green heritage’ that were promised and the article provides uncritical promotion of the Olympic propaganda that the Games will leave a positive heritage for wildlife, for example quoting Kim Oliver, Environmental Consultant to the Olympics saying ‘We have improved the river habitat’. Where is the evidence for this statement and her other claims about wildlife and their habitats?
I am a Hackney resident and member of the ‘Save Leyton Marsh Campaign’. Being a campaigner for this group, I have witnessed first hand how the Olympics was used as an excuse to destroy a prized green space and wildlife habitat for an unnecessary temporary structure and led to the pollution and contamination of our common land.
A piece of Metropolitan Open Land, Porter’s Fields Meadow of Leyton Marshes, merely metres from the SSSI of Walthamstow Marshes was used to build a temporary basketball court. Local sports facilities could have been used and would have left a lasting heritage for local people. Instead, the construction of this facility led to contaminated soil [including asbestos and high levels of lead] being unearthed and left exposed to the open air in uncovered piles for many weeks. We campaigned vociferously and eventually the soil was removed. However the extent of the long-term damage to the marsh should be a matter of concern for organizations such as FoE, especially as contaminants may have leeched into the water table and River Lea, causing a detrimental impact on wildlife and birdlife for many years to come. Many of the birds have left the River Lea and anybody living and walking in the area can see how much more polluted the river has become during the construction of the Olympics site.
The ODA originally provided no reinstatement plan for Leyton Marsh and we have campaigned very hard to get one. We continue to campaign to ensure that our common land is returned so that, over time, it may once again become the beautiful wildlife habitat and communal space that was enjoyed by so many prior to this Olympic development. Even though there is a reinstatement plan now, our fears about the possibility of our common land being a land grab for future development have not been set aside. The plan contains plans to lay plastic under the turf in case they need to ‘excavate ‘ the land in the future and not enough care was taken in the plans to ensure that the indigenous flora and fauna have their habitats ‘reinstated’.
Where is the evidence to support the claim that ‘2 million tonnes of soil have been cleaned and six processing plants known as soil hospitals’? We also directly witnessed very contaminated soil dumped on East Marsh then conveniently covered over as the car park. The main journalist reporting on contaminated radioactive waste for the Games Monitor website was subject to a very dubious court case which led to punitive bail conditions prohibiting him from all Olympic venues.
I cannot actively justify supporting an organisation that so easily churns out the propaganda of the corporate Olympics, an enterprise that used taxpayers’ money for destructive projects whilst promoting myths of sustainability and ecology. As a grassroots campaigner and long term resident of the East End my experience has taught me I shall holding my breath a long time to see any benefit gained from the Olympic heritage for wildlife or local people. I have also learnt that the only way to reclaim or preserve our vital greenspaces is to campaign hard with other local people and claim back a voice and some local democracy.
If you really do desire to inspire active campaigning then please do not publish articles such as ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. I would be grateful if you would publish this letter and our website saveleytonmarsh.wordpress.com for anybody who might be interested in our campaign.
And here is the reply from Friends of the Earth:
Steve Cain | Supporter Information Team