Out now: The Environment, May 2022

Having decided to focus on pollution in this issue of The Environment, the CIWEM team worried. Sewage spills, road run-off, chemical pollutants, microplastics, fly tipping, particulates in the air we breathe – it adds up to one long, grimy list.

Would a magazine dedicated to pollution be too depressing, we wondered.

In fact, this has been an inspiring magazine to put together. The science is becoming clearer. Campaigners against pollution are more focused and better organised.

Take Hugo Tagholm, this month’s cover star. Tagholm founded Surfers Against Sewage in the Nineties, to clean up our beaches and coasts. UK beaches are much cleaner today – a credit to SAS raising awareness, leaning on politicians and businesses and sending out armies of volunteers to clean up our coasts.

Now, SAS is heading upstream. It plans to help friends of rivers across the country to secure bathing-water status. It will deploy hordes of citizen scientists to monitor river-water quality, report pollution and press the powers-that-be to change.

Or take Asad Rehman, this month’s second interview. To lead a charity that focuses on hunger and inequality is to daily scour the darkest corners of our socio-economic system. But the War on Want director does not lose sight of what must change – or of what is possible – if only we act now.

And change is coming. In March, the United Nations’ Environment Assembly agreed to work towards a global, legally binding deal to halt plastic pollution.

Yes, our coral reefs are under threat. Yes, as this year’s two IPCC reports spell out, we stand at a crossroads and need to cut our emissions faster, using more renewables and fewer fossil fuels, moving faster to scale up technology and manage our seas and soils in ways that favour nature.

“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to +1.5˚C,” IPCC working group co-chair James Skea warned, as he unveiled last month’s climate-mitigation report. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions, across all sectors, it will be impossible.”

A vision of a cleaner, greener, more equal world is now in focus. And we still have the time and the know-how to deliver it. But only just.

Karen Thomas is editor of The Environment

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