The tales of London’s epic historical battles with air pollution are among the most classic of environmentalism sagas. Many of the case studies one reads when examining the development of the environmental movement and rise of environmental legislation stem from the United States, but the narrative of the London smogs and poor air quality equal any American environmental anecdote.
Regrettably, they’re not yet history.
…millions of people are suffering serious health effects from exposure to particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and myriad other pollutants in the air … Despite these warnings the public seem largely unperturbed.
The smog in London itself was originally dealt with through increasing the height of factory stacks. Then it turned out that directing the emissions away from the factories in cities doesn’t make it disappear: acid rain became the dominant topic of environmental discourses. It took the UK a while to recognise the issue; longer than other European countries. Finally there was change, a response, and the emissions from coal-fired power stations began to be regulated.
But the problem is not yet gone – it’s just entered another phase. And as this personal anecdote from an ex-PhD student highlights: it’s costing health, lives and dreams.
The air quality in London is shocking. I’ve never before felt the desire to get inside a building so I could breathe.
Acid rain might be gone but, as the Telegraph agrees: something still needs to be done about all the other emitters and polluters – the nitrogen emissions from cars, power stations and farms also needs to be curbed. Until it is, it’s costing the nation not just its wildflowers, but its people too.