Last Sunday, a sunny September afternoon, Britain marched with the world to address climate change. The weather was indeed a stark contrast to what many had experienced earlier in the year, when storms caused widespread flooding across the UK.
During these floods a beautiful 7 year old child - Zane Gbangbola - died, and his father was left paraplegic when floodwater brought Hydrogen Cyanide gas, a gas that kills people, into their home. The floodwater had passed through unregulated landfill likely to have been contaminated and found its way into the family’s blood system.
The march generated many powerful messages communicated by celebrities, campaigners, the public and organisations that the risks to humanity and the environment associated with climate change are unacceptable.
I am Zane’s father, and I was pleased that those attending the London march were concerned by the story of Zane and wanted to join the campaign for the truth, recognizing our desire to protect the public at risk of the landfill gases that can be carried by flood water. As flooding increases in the UK, such risks to the public increase.
At the march, it was clear to the brilliant people there that I now sit in a wheelchair, in evidence of what toxic gases in floodwater can do to families and worse, what happened to my beautiful 7-year old son. Zane’s mother and I endure a living nightmare at having lost our child, whilst the public agencies there to protect us and our children place a blanket of silence over what happened when Zane died, how they evacuated the area, opened a special contamination wing at the local hospital and rushed people in ambulances for tests in response to a government health warning.
Our story is one of floodwater carrying toxic landfill gas that kills. Our quest is for answers, and to protect communities at risk. Suffice it to say that 4 in 5 of the UK population live within a kilometre of landfill and that this fact, coupled with wetter weather and more floods, has revealed yet another impact of climate change. We believe nobody should suffer the death of a loved one or maiming of family members that we have.
The story of this social injustice is a stain on the UK agencies with a duty to defend and protect our children. Hydrogen Cyanide gas was called Cyclon B in the second world war. It was used in the death camps to gas and kill people. We are still unable to live in our home because toxic gas pathways remain there and the house is unsafe. It may or may not surprise you to find that the Environment Agency, responsible for assessing contaminated land in the UK, had installed gas-proof membranes in their two properties within 40 yards of where little Zane died, whilst all our other neighbours remain unprotected from any toxins in the adjacent landfill.
Those attending the London march were appalled by what had happened and want to help reveal the truth and protect communities at risk. We now have over 12,500 people signed up to the 38 Degree campaign. We need 100,000 sign ups. This campaign is a place where all are welcome, go to www.truthaboutzane.com and click, petition.
One of many contributers to the campaign website said: “From the news reports and press at the time of the incident I had the opinion that this poor boy’s death was caused by carbon monoxide. However, from joining the obvious dots it is clear this cannot be true. I now know the truth and am disturbed that anybody believed it could be CO rather than the toxic ground gases neighbours were told about and evacuated for. I will be ensuring people know the facts of this incident and encouraging them to sign this petition. This innocent boy’s life was taken prematurely – his death must not be in vain, the truth must be told.”
The march, for us, has been a masterclass in the liberation of the wider public from the myth that individuals cannot make a difference. Certainly signing our campaign is a call for immediate impact and public protection from floodwater carrying landfill toxins.
As a family we work together towards making the world a better place for future generations. Zane helped found his school’s sustainability team, and we run a sustainability consultancy. We work hard to try and continue Zane’s legacy of caring for the planet and humanity. The march was inspiring for us.
This issue of flooding, landfill and toxic gases is emerging as an area that requires greater public protection as the climate changes and the weather gets wetter. The government needs to recognise the risks and take the engineering actions that protect communities from harm. Where we fail, the consequences are harm and death to innocent, defenceless people.
The march got under way and we felt privileged to be present and have an opportunity to make a contribution. Nicole and I were very fortunate to be alongside Dame Vivienne Westwood and Emma Thompson who were appalled by the combination of factors surrounding Zane’s case. They realise that the time bombs that landfill sites represent to the public, need to be addressed. The generosity of their time and kindness was uplifting, as was the support of the Avaaz team in London, both for us and the 40,000 marchers.
It was certainly an emotional day, but also very rewarding. Nicole and I commented that it was great to see the many children present and how, if Zane were here, he would have been in his element: chatting, learning, and making friends as he helped to do the right thing for a common good.
During the march, Nicole and I were asked several times what message we want to convey to our politicians. This is our message: "Listen to the people’s voices, and serve the public, and always remember, you are what you do, not what you say. It’s time for action on Climate Change, and its time to build sustainable global economies."
And as my beautiful son would know and say: "The future depends on what we do in the present" (Gandhi).
Love and Peace
Kye and Nicole
To find out more about Zane and the campaign to protect communities from floodwater carrying landfill gas go to www.truthaboutzane.com