Delhi is the world’s most polluted city. I think. London however has been shaping up nicely this January in its bid to reach toxic gold. Here’s my attempt to unpick the ridiculous suggestions mooted in a bid to help us all ‘beat London smog”. In case there is ANY doubt this is a parody. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).
1 READ THE EVENING STANDARD
Now lots of the ES is super sensible and covers the London Air Pollution saga well. It’s where I heard about London having breached its annual toxic limit by the fifth day of January 2017. But it also runs daft stories like A breath of fresh air: here’s 6 ways to clean up your act and beat London’s toxic air from two of its regular feature writers – Susannah Butter and Phoebe Luckhurst. This piece is shameful because it wasn’t tongue in cheek. The ladies suggest “REN’s flash defence anti-pollution spray creates a viscous layer that noxious chemicals will struggle to penetrate. It smells great too.”
Why does the news so often seem like an April Food at the moment: shouldn’t Butter and Phoebe be warning us that buying this stuff would be £24 badly spent? I remember writing an exposé about the Solomon Islands trying to flog tropical rainforest oxygen back in the 1990s… Now I think the islanders had it right, Londoners are so daft they’d have sniffed up bottles of this and passed them round their Uber. PM10s are not going to be watered down by an imaginary body spray.
2 YOU NEED A FACEMASK & POLLUTION MONITORS
On the #airpollution stream on Insta there is plenty of smogporn (if that’s a thing yet), but also brands who view air pollution as an opportunity– such as koolmask, hypeingham and metro-mask. There’s even a bedside alarm LaMetricTime which displays CO2 levels allowing you to watch the levels rising…
Got to admire capitalism because everything is an opportunity. Those masks aren’t going to help London tackle air pollution are they?
3 EAT WELL
Yup – eating avocado (vitamin D) and almonds (vitamin E) gives your body all the nutrients you need to fight toxic air pollution.
I’ve read this. It must be right. It also gives zero thought whatsoever to how those pops of goodness arrived here (air freighted) or what damage avocado and super-thirsty almond plantations are doing where they are grown.
4 “GET IN THE CAR” & DRIVE TO SCHOOL
That was the advice from at least one school nurse to asthma sufferers.
One of my daughters has had a tricky time with asthma and we’ve met a large number of asthma nurses. Some are great, but very few understood the big picture or factored in what it meant to be a child who likes to use their legs and eyes in the big outdoors…
It makes sense, because there are still a huge number of families who drive their kids to school, refusing to accept that their journey is not necessary. It’s still an aspirational desire to drive.
I’ve had a car in the past and of course it’ll be used it if it’s temptingly parked outside and you’re running late… but get rid of the car and you’ll always walk, or scooter, or bike to school which teaches your kids good habits (and burns off breakfast). If rates can justifably skyrocket (and i wish they wouldn’t if it kills independent stores) then so too can road taxes or the cost of the right to drive in a city in a diesel powered car. (I should add that I’m not that impressed by private petrol or electric vehicles either)
5 SAY NO TO LETTING THE KIDS PLAY OUTSIDE
When environmental health officials are tricked (surely?) into saying it’s dangerous for kids to use the school playground be wary of following their advice.
Already most kids stay indoors far too much despite the indoor air pollutants from cooking, furniture, sprays and cleaning products create a toxic soup. They can’t be independent from a young age because of the dangers from cars knocking them over (not stranger danger). City kids need to know as much as possible about nature even if it is just jumping the weeds in the pavement cracks, pulling at last year’s hollyhocks languishing in the tree pits or hearing the blackbird singing on that house’s old TV aerial. Having a glimpse of even this diminished nature is what may help the kids figure out that life outdoors ought to be one of opportunity, not threat.
6 DEALING WITH SUBSIDENCE
My poor Victorian home is subsiding. The only way insurers deal with this is waging war on anything green around the foundations, and so the buddleia and jasmine have to go.
It’s impossible for me to denude the bricks while my head is swirling with toxic London fog scenes and the sweet inner-city robin cheerily sings when it sees me heading towards its corner of the buddleia brandishing a bow saw.
7 SETTLE DOWN WITH NETFLIX
Watching The Crown on Netflix ought to cancel out visions of toxic smog… but no, in episode 4, in December 1952 there are a dreadful three days which flood hospitals and ultimately kill as many as 12,000 people during the Great Smog of London.
Churchill is hopeless at coping with this, writing it off as British weather, an “act of God”. At least Sadiq Khan seems to be looking at our problem head on. Now he’s got to show the sort of leadership that no one has yet dared to do against the car lobby, and in particular diesel vehicles. Couldn’t we just do something radical like shake up the whole way Londoners move around for a trial phase and see if it made a difference?
8 SPOILING MY MARATHON TRAINING
Of course I’m not training to run the marathon, but I’ve heard the moans. Toxic air wrecks “Marathontraining plans” so the runners have to head to the indoor gym and cycle on stationary bikes and indoor running tracks, rather than plod pavements.
Wouldn’t it be great if the generation obsessed by bucket lists and meeting personal challenges could start working together to force politicians to make London’s air cleaner – and by default other cities cleaner as well? Because if they did within a year no one would ever have to cancel their training run.
So where does that get us? Nine ways to clean up your act, or nine opportunities to speak up? The only good seems to be that at last air pollution in London – and the impact cars, traffic (and airports) have on it – is at last being talked about by everybody, even if the messages aren’t always clear. Next step is action. Please.
- This piece was first published on Around Britain No Plane