Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Going Backwards

I can just remember the London smogs, one very bad one being one of my very earliest memories as a pre-school child, so it was probably the famous one of December 1952. It made quite an impression on me at the time, thick smelly fog polluted by industrial fumes and coal fires. Fog and heavily polluted smog during calm weather were not uncommon during 50s and 60s London winters. 

Over the years air quality has improved significantly. This is something environmentalists and indeed politicians should be proud of, back when solving pollution problems was real rather than this modern CO2 fairy-tale nonsense, sensible things got done, action was taken and this country is a better place for it. Smokeless zones and low emission coals might have been a nuisance but even ordinary fog seems less common nowadays than it was, maybe cleaner air attracts fewer water droplets, or maybe it’s just my imagination and living near the windier west coast? 

Now living in the country we get the occasional agricultural pong, and sometimes the smell of cooking from the local pub drifts across the garden, but heavily polluted air, acid rain and roads stinking of traffic fumes are essentially things of the past, even in cities and despite the huge population and traffic increases.

So far this year there have only been a handful of cool windless nights where the atmospheric temperature inversion traps the air at ground level, but on every one there has been a noticeable smell of wood smoke filling the air. This isn’t localised wood smoke from a nearby bonfire or immediate neighbour’s fire but is general. It’s not yet thick enough to be visible but the unmistakable tang and taste is everywhere around. 

Increases in gas and electricity prices, partly the direct consequence of reducing emission of a clean harmless gas,  are driving a huge surge in wood burning stoves and emissions of particulates, soot and raw pollution. Wood burners are so fashionable that some newer housing estates built without fireplaces are sprouting increasing numbers of industrial looking stainless steel chimneys up the outside walls of the houses.

I wonder how long it will take before we return to the 50s smogs?

1 comment:

  1. And this will in many areas be illegal, as the "smokeless zone" legislation of the 50s and 60s is still in force, although people may not realise it.