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Clean air fellows 2023

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Blog 5 October 2023

Visions for change from the next generation’s clean air leaders

Three young environmental scientists took part in a first-of-its-kind air pollution programme at the University of Birmingham. To put their learning into practice, the clean air fellows came up with ideas to drive clean air action.

Three young environmental scientists were appointed as clean air fellows in a world leading masters programme on air pollution. With support from Clean Air Fund and McCall MacBain Foundation, the Clean Air Fellowship supports students committed to tackling air pollution through their career choice after they graduate.

Putting learning into practice

The University of Birmingham’s MSc in Air Pollution Management and Control is the only programme of its kind in the UK, built upon successful air pollution control lessons and underpinned by world-leading research. The course is accredited by the Institute of Environmental Sciences and the Institute of Air Quality Management.

The clean air fellows benefit from a tailored programme of masterclasses and career development opportunities, including practical experience and networking provided by the university and Clean Air Fund. We asked each student to come up with an idea for a project to address a particular air pollution problem. The students then pitched their proposals to a panel of Clean Air Fund’s experts. Here, the three students – one from North Macedonia and two from the UK – share their visions for driving change.

A flag system to report on air pollution levels in Wales’ schools – Owain Rose

A 2016 study found air pollution was higher in Wales’s most deprived areas. Around 535,000 children under 18 live in areas where the pollution levels exceed WHO guidelines. These areas are home to 1,200 schools.

Owain Rose, from Port Talbot, Wales pitched the ‘AQI Flags for Schools Campaign’. He proposes deploying low-cost sensors across 50-100 schools in South Wales, as they provide an affordable solution to gathering air quality data. This data gathered would serve a dual purpose: firstly, each school can establish a student-led air quality team responsible for raising a daily flag reflecting the current air quality. Secondly, it could be integrated into the new curriculum in Wales, to educate students about the current pollution crisis and its associated health impacts. The campaign could create the next generation of clean air leaders, who would demand change and action be taken by the local authority, and for school-focussed legislation to be included in Wales’ new Clean Air Bill.

Engaging young farmers to advocate for clean air – Catrin Rathbone

The agriculture sector is a key contributor to air quality and climate change issues. However, little progress has been made in reducing emissions and there is often strong contention over proposed changes within the industry.

Catrin Rathbone, from Horsham, England, proposed a UK young farmer air quality engagement campaign. This would aim to improve understanding of the agricultural air quality problem and its solutions through an engagement and awareness education campaign. The goals are to foster an active and engaged young farmer community, empower them to feel equipped to work with regulation changes, and establish a voice to improve communication between key stakeholders for working towards more effective solutions. Catrin wanted to focus on young farmers, as these are the people who will be the future of farming, and so it is important to engage with them to feel inspired to work towards a future with cleaner air.

Raising public awareness of air pollution in Macedonia – Lejla Ademi

In the heart of North Macedonia lies the city of Tetovo, which has severe air pollution issues. Despite being ranked among the top 10 most polluted cities in Europe in 2017, the city’s residents still fail to grasp the significance of dirty air. Air pollution is responsible for Tetovo’s highest death toll, compared to other North Macedonian cities.

To tackle this issue, Lejla Ademi, who is from Tetova,want to put citizen pressure on officials for mitigation strategies. But to do that, citizens need to be aware of the severity of the issue. She proposed installing replicas of human lungs in the city centre to make the invisible threat visible. This innovative approach has been successful in other cities to raise awareness and spur demand for clean air. Through these efforts, Tetovo could not only transform its residents’ perception of air quality, but also set a precedent for combating air pollution across the whole region.

See more

What do young Polish voters care about most?

A survey of 1.5 million first-time voters in Poland reveals environmental concerns are crucial to young people’s idea of a good life. Campaigners can garner public support for clean air measures by framing solutions as part of a clean local environment.

Meet the next generation of clean air leaders

Young scientists will get holistic education in air pollution through a unique fellowship at the University of Birmingham, supported by Clean Air Fund and McCall MacBain Foundation.