GB No. 4(19)/95
for the Environment Friendly Transport
In Poland the number of cars constantly grows while we still lack good roads. Motomania is omnipresent: you can win a car even in an advertising quiz for margarine. All politicians argue that we need new motorways and the government places the issue among the top priority ones.
Tenders for motorway building contract were to be gathered as early as in September 1995 and the very construction may start in the second half of the year 1996. The media go bananas whenever somebody mentions "the zero hour", the date when all the beautiful, modern and, most of all, "European" motorways will be completed.
Numerous are examples of such mode of thinking.
We stand on the opposite side, accompanied by railwaymen and farmers, with our appeal for minding the future consequences of the project and with arguments misunderstood by politicians, media and society. Actually, we fight against them all, devoid of their money, scientific expertise and coteries.
We have to face reality, whether we like it or not.
Although the circumstances look rather depressing but, well, it cannot be worse so the only thing we can do is to set to work. One of the "Earth First" activists from Great Britain said "When we started our anti-motorway actions everybody thought we were nuts. Now, when four years have passed, many people have perceived it as a problem and joined us in our undertakings".
However, our situation is different.
Now, although car rules our country, we have some pro-environmental movement as well as arguments and experiences of the western countries at our disposal. The British were not that lucky.
In Poland first signs of pro-environmental attitude towards transportation have appeared. We have already noticed the problems of game passages, trees along motorways, unleaded petrol and exhaust pollution. The rail has been perceived as the most environment friendly means of transport. It can be observed e.g. in the Inter City trains commercials in which a train passes by long traffic jams. The Polish State Railway organises car transportation from Gdansk to Zakopane on special carriages, as well as carrying lorries by train from Hamburg to Poznan is suggested.
That's all right, but is that all?
Our campaign has been operating for nearly two years. Although it was rather sluggish, still we managed to issue:
Soon we are going to open an office that will serve our campaign by gathering information about motorisation hazards, publishing, auditing the government's policy toward the motorway issue, and co-operating with the Polish State Railway. We also want to deal with city transport through bike promotion, limiting the car traffic, happenings and other actions.
Initially our campaign was named KOLEJ - TAK, AUTOSTRADA - STOP ("Railway - Yes, Motorway - Stop"); the name was approved during our meetings in LódY and in Kolumna. It delineates our attitude and defines what we protest against as well as points to the fact that there is an immediate connection between building the motorways and neglecting the railway. Now I believe that we have to approach the anti-motorway campaign in a different, more strategic and down-to-earth way.
The "black or white" alternative is usually perceived negatively, which is true about the banner "Motorway - Stop". The society, politicians and media do not understand that the long-term pro-motorisation policy means danger. This is why I suggest that we change our banner to UWAGA AUTOSTRADA ("Attention! Motorway”) that is devoid of the negative element while focusing attention on the very problem. Our campaign will consist of two parts: the "Attention! Motorway" one will concentrate on collecting information about motorways and the other one, "Railway - Yes", will deal with promotion of rail as the best pro-environmental means of transport. I think that it is better to separate the two aspects (temporarily), as railwaymen, our key allies, are not against the motorways: they only want to promote their services. Also the media and the society are not aware of the relation between the two aspects of the problem. This may be a source of misunderstandings which should be avoided at the beginning of the action.
Summing up, I believe that it is advisable to speak of the positive aspects of railway in pro-environmental terms and, at the same time, discuss the hazards of motorisation development separately.
The anti-motorway campaign should be pointed at "tender places", i.e. firstly, we should make the motorway costs raise through demanding all the possible safety measures against impact of traffic as well as the Environmental Impact Assessment. Secondly, we should activate all local organisations, farmers' parties, archaeologists, all the groups whose interests are endangered, to have them press the authorities. Thirdly, we should control the motorway construction to prevent its negative impact upon the environment and, if the environment safety requirements are defied, go to court. The legal way can be used even before the construction have been started, i.e. if the building companies do not have sufficient documentation. To sum up - let us not attack under the banner "Motorway - Stop"; we would rather put forward any demands that may delay the start of the motorway construction and raise its costs.
Please, do not treat the above suggestions as giving up the radical standpoint, but rather as ones that take to account the circumstances. They can lead us to an action similar to the "Earth First!" or "The Night of the Earth". Our movement needs time to consolidate, not only to say STOP, but really to stop the motorway enterprise. And we still have time that we can use for preparing OURSELVES: establishing offices, collecting money and seeking anti-motorway oriented allies. I do not think of an action similar to the one in Czorsztyn which was an instance of pro-environmental martyrdom in Poland.
Unfortunately, motorways will be built, at least the part from Poznan to Warszawa, maybe other parts, too. But there is still time to delay the motorway scheme and rally forces so that in 5 or 10 years we will have considerable influence on the State transport policy and we will be able to stop other schemes dangerous for the environment.
Greeting from the ASPE valley and the "No Pasaran" action
P.S. It is not my intention to start any polemics on the subject in the Zielone Brygady. I only want to present my perception of the problem. Still, I wait for any critical voices as well as different views on the campaigns, the anti-motorway and the pro-railway one equally.
"Ziemia Przede Wszystkim" - FZ
the Poznań group of the Green Federation
P.O. Box 439
60-959 Poznań 2