Greenwashing is the process of ‘green PR’ to give the perception of something as environmentally friendly when in fact it is quite the opposite. The Garden Bridge is a typical example of greenwashing. Sure, some bushes may be pretty to look at and some bees may enjoy them, but it is fundamentally not a green project when these shrubs and trees are sitting on vast amounts of concrete, a hugely environmentally damaging material.
The Garden Bridge Trust, the private organisation behind the project which will be funded with between £60m and £150m of public money, propose to remove at least thirty mature trees in the creation of their “unique green corridor” in this “green infrastructure”.
Except, this “green infrastructure” isn’t supported by the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds, who say:
Londoners will not be gaining a new, wildlife rich habitat and consequently, the bridge will not gain RSPB backing… As supporters of green infrastructure in London, the RSPB can suggest much easier and cheaper ways to make life more pleasant for Londoners and urban wildlife. £175 million could do a lot to boost the way we manage water and waste or generate energy in the capital in ways that would clean our environment and better support some of the 60% of species currently vanishing around us. Indeed, Londoners can collectively add to the capital’s habitats and support much more wildlife than this £175 million bridge ever could.
RSPB aren’t alone. The London Wildlife Trust are in agreement, with their CEO Carlo Laurenzi OBE saying:
…the location and design of this bridge seems to reflect personal vanities rather than any meaningful attempt to connect Londoners to the capital’s rich natural and horticultural heritage. London is crying out for better green spaces that will provide real benefits to the people who live and work here. Rather than investing huge sums of public money in what is essentially a tourist attraction, we should be rescuing London’s under-funded parks and creating green spaces across London.
While the London Wildlife Trust Director of Policy & Plannings, Matthew Frith, adds:
Londoners didn’t call for it and nature doesn’t need it. The Garden Bridge promises much, but its ecological contribution comes at a cost that is wholly disproportionate to its impact. 60% of species are in decline across the UK and more and more people are disengaging from the natural world. Meanwhile many of London’s wildlife sites are under threat from declining management budgets and developments. The bridge represents disconnected thinking wholly contrary to the Mayor’s stated ambition.
And if this is truly a green project, an architectural statement putting nature at the heart of London, then one would expect the Green Party to be behind it. They’re not. Siân Berry, Green candidate for Mayor of London, writes:
This is a genius way to show the unnecessary damage that will be caused by the folly of the Garden Bridge – something I’d strip all transport funding for as soon as I was Mayor. We do need more walking and cycling bridges but in the east of the city to help the growing population there, not here where it will be utterly pointless. I hope everyone puts forward their most outrageous ideas for A Folly For London, but it’s hard to see how any of us have a chance against Boris Johnson, whose legacy for London will be a litany of follies, and who I’m sure could easily think up an even worse idea for this site if he entered.
But this isn’t just Siân electioneering, positioning herself ready for next year’s mayoral elections, the Green Party are against this from the top down. Natalie Bennett, the leader who saw the party receive 1.1million votes in the recent general election, has written to A Folly For London stating:
This competition is a great way to draw more attention to the terrible greenwash of the Garden Bridge. The £60m of public funding dedicated to this folly could be used to create green spaces all over the city. Instead they are planning to fell trees and ruin open spaces on both sides of the river to create a private park with no transport value at all. Whatever wins the Folly for London title is unlikely to be less useful than that.
This Garden Bridge is anything but green.
© Will Jennings, June 2015
Will Jennings is a visual artist.
The London Wildlife Trust are quoted from their press release “Lumley’s folly – London’s nature needs help, not a Garden Bridge”.
The RSPB are quoted from their press release “London’s Garden Bridge falls short for wildlife”.
Siân Berry is Camden Borough Councillor for Highgate ward, Principal Speaker of the Green Party and is standing for election as Mayor of London in 2015.
Natalie Bennett has been leader of the Green Party since 2012.