Shazia Ali-Webber is a founder of I Like Clean Air is one of the case studies being explored as part of the Science Museum’s new exhibition, Beyond the Lab: The DIY Science Revolution.
I Like Clean Air is a group of London families campaigning for cleaner air in the city. I joined with other families to set up this group because I was concerned about the dangerous levels of air pollution where my children go to school and play.
In order to have the concerns of I Like Clean Air addressed by local government, we decided to try our hand at collecting scientific data. In October 2014, we hit the streets of Hackney in East London and put up diffusion tubes, which collect air and are used to test for pollution levels, some of which are on display at the Science Museum. Back then, we found that pollution levels in our local area broke annual legal limits within just four weeks. Being able to carry out scientific research ourselves means that a grassroots organisation like I Like Clean Air can gather the right knowledge to speak to the local authorities about fixing the problem.
In June, we took a trip to the Houses of Parliament where 25 school children sang The Clean Air Song to MPs. Written by Vanessa Sylvester, a parent of a child at Gayhurst School and one half of music act Navan, the song is all about the public health impact of air pollution.
Our kids are a huge part of I Like Clean Air’s campaign, especially as children’s lungs are more affected by air pollution than adults. The kids wear campaign t-shirts and get involved handing out flyers and making posters at school. We were also able to donate some of these items to this exhibition at the Science Museum, in order to show how citizen science empowers us all, including children, to fight for change.
Equipped with scientific data, our aim is to make people pay attention to our concerns and help us to drive real change in our community. And DIY science allows ordinary people to do just that.
Beyond the Lab: The DIY Science Revolution is a free exhibition, open at the Science Museum until 4 September 2016. The exhibition is funded by the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme of the European Union and will go on a European tour following its run at the Science Museum.