THE BLOG
28/11/2011 09:12 GMT | Updated 26/01/2012 05:12 GMT

Fake Plants are an Environmental Curse of London; An Open Letter to the Evening Standard

The Editor, Evening Standard,

I was appalled to read the 'Standard' article, "It may be fake, but it works" of 17 August 2011. Is this how environmentally irresponsible the Evening Standard really is?

Fake plants are a blight across London, an insult to the eye and intelligence, offensive to environmental awareness. The Capital over, window boxes, and tubs, hanging baskets, and borders have been invaded by fakery, evicting verdant life-giving growth to attempt to assuage the need to be seen to be environmentally friendly, yet failing hopelessly. It is an attempt to con passers-by that herein resides a responsible caring person.

First, whether made of moulded plastic or woven, largely made from oil products, these are polluting in their manufacture. Second, as a result they also continue to emit low levels of toxins as people are all too familiar with from plastic food containers. Third, and more importantly, they occupy space that could be used to grow real plants, growing beautifully and having a benefit on the environment. Fourth, and equally important, it is not just the loss of plants but also the obstruction of habitat for nature.

About two years ago, I submitted an article, complete with photographs, to you, highlighting the spreading scourge of fake plants defacing our city and harming the environment. You did not publish it. Yet you publish today an article actively encouraging this destructive behaviour.

Fake plants are for fake people who are too lazy, or too mean, to tend the real thing; yet are there to give a false satisfaction to their ego; deception masquerading as good intention. That companies, in particular, resort to such practices, is particularly offensive.

That your journalist encourages your readers to resort to such damaging idleness is bad enough. That she praises the Berkeley Hotel for having kitted out its entire sun terrace in fakery, and expounds it as 'idyllic', is disgraceful. To add insult to injury, she then enthuses that there is a tape recording playing of the very bird song that fake plants prevent from existing in reality. Real birds, real plants usurped by a shameful con: gleefully promoted. The decline of our song bird , bee, and butterfly populations is of national concern. Yet your paper proposes creating more areas that are dead to them ecologically. Every little ecological space in a city such as London is precious to provide corners where song birds can claim territory. The hotel is a shameful sham pretending to create a natural environment. How much better that it had used the space to create a real environmentally friendly space, with real vegetation, a real habitat for real birds and butterflies, which is easily attainable in London.

Any location where a plant can grow, should have real plants only. The range of suitable locations, whether inside or out, has much increased, as even once-dark corners have become light enough, with the increasing trend to use more lighting, particularly halogen or fluorescent. Sure, an area that is necessarily concrete such as a path or a roof can look better with a carpet of fake grass, but this should not be used as an excuse not to grow a lawn where a little effort could achieve that - especially by those such as large hotels...!

Human existence, and particularly modern life, requires 'necessary' environmentally damaging behaviour, such as the use of motor vehicles, which we, quite rightly try to mitigate; we should be careful then, not to add utterly avoidable environmental damage that is just not justifiable. I would rather someone cause justifiable pollution by taking an aeroplane, than unjustifiable damage with fake plants.

You gleefully propose causing unnecessary environmental damage and eyesores in this context, yet would be the first to tut-tut in other contexts: it all rather flies in the face of your save the bee campaign.

Those who resort to fake plants display an uncaring attitude, and callousness towards the planet. Your next campaign should be to get all of the fake plants across London replaced with the genuine article: to give to our children the delight of song birds hopping around tubs and borders, pecking for food: How much more of a community would it reveal, as people share cuttings from favourite plants, or if the current trend in hermetically sealed windows (and lives), was occasionally prised open and the snip of scissors and secateurs heard as caring people trim and shape their window-box box-hedging, with an occasional nod to neighbour or passer-by?

Yours faithfully,