Posts Tagged ‘air pollution’

South Circular Protest

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

London’s air quality is a disgrace with around 2 million people living in areas which have illegal levels of air pollution. Academic studies suggest that there are almost 10,000 premature deaths every year due to the high levels of pollution, and huge levels of pollution related illness.

I can just about remember hearing at the time about the 1952 Great Smog in London, when visibility went down to around a foot and traffic simply had to stop. It was thought to have killed around 12,000 people and the severity led to a Clean Air Act that outlawed coal fires in the city – and we had to switch to Coalite and coke. The smog wasn’t quite so dramatic on the outskirts of the city where we lived, but it was certainly unpleasant, and wrapping scarves around your face if you had to go out wasn’t very effective. And even inside the house, the air wasn’t quite clear.

The air looks much cleaner now, though I still get dirty shirt collars from trips into the city, but the dangers are there if invisible. High levels of nitrogen oxides and other gases, as well as particles too small to be visible. And there are local hot spots around major road junctions and busy roads, often creating up to five times the legal limit for air pollution in Central London and around major roads elsewhere. Road traffic is a major factor in these illegal levels which peak at certain times during the day, particularly during the rush hours. Another peak occurs not far from where I live, around Heathrow and any airport expansion would bring extra road traffic to add to this as well as the pollution from more aircraft.

Boris Johnson when London Mayor failed to take any effective action, but under Sadiq Khan there have been some reductions, with a change to hybrid diesel-electric buses, regulations for new taxis to be electric and the setting up of Ultra-Low Emission Zones, currently covering the inner-city congestion zone, but withe a Low Emission Zone for heavy goods vehicles extending to a wider area of Greater London later this year.

The effects of air pollution and particularly bad for the elderly and those with pre-existing lung conditions who largely make up those who die prematurely, but also for children whose lungs and other organs are still growing and are stunted by pollution, with up to 10% lower capacity than those who live in cleaner air. Many primary and secondary schools in London are in areas with high pollution.

Parents in Catford in South East London whose children live and go to schools close to the South Circular Road are concerned for the health of their children and organised a march and rally calling on Lewisham Council to take bolder and faster action to reduce air pollution, particularly around schools.  Although Lewisham isn’t responsible for the high traffic levels on the route there are remedial measures that can reduce local levels of pollutants such as planting screens of trees and hedges which can drastically reduce the levels of minute particles in particular. Putting barriers on some roads near schools to prevent through traffic would also help. Better cycling provision and bus services can also help to reduce traffic and thus pollution.

More at Clean Air for Catford Children.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


March for Clean Air

Sunday, December 1st, 2019

Extinction Rebellion East London had organised a whole weekend of event , a festival of play, protest and education, the East London Uprising calling for a rapid end to the use of fossil fuels.

Apart from their huge contribution to our increasing carbon dioxide levels which are leading to unprecedented man-made global heating the will put the future of humanity at risk, the pollution levels already present in London and other cities from coal, petrol and fuel oils which pollute the air with toxic chemicals and particulates is already causing many thousands to suffer from various often serious lung diseases and is estimated to lead to almost 10,000 early deaths in London alone.

The marchers met in a small open space called Paradise Gardens, between the busy Cambridge Heath Road and houses in Paradise Row. It may have seemed like paradise when these houses were built in the late 18th and early 19th century, and doubtless they are now horrifically expensive, but this paradise is now highly polluted.

The march set off from Bethnal Green to Hackney behind a banner ‘The Air That We Grieve’, and included a marching jazz band, and of course plenty of families with children. As well as the jazz band there were samba drummers, and the ‘king of the bottle tops’ and others.

The march attracted considerable interest as it went up the Cambridge Heath Road, with many expressing support. But there was no general uprising and perhaps there are releatively few who are actually changing the way they behave, changing to lower carbon lifestyles as we all need to do. It requires a much greater urgency from a government which is prepared to make statements but not to take on the vested short-term interests of many of its backers by significant green investments and policies that will really impact on personal choices.

More pictures from the event at XR East London marches for clean air


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Robert Frank’s London

Friday, November 29th, 2019

I’ve long been an admirer of Robert Frank’s pictures taken in London, and you can see a fine selection of these in the feature Extraordinary Black And White Photographs Of London In The Early 1950s.

There are at least two videos paging through the book London Wales on You Tube, and I recommend that by Алексей Гуменюк only because I think he is a better page-turner, though his commentary and the sound track perhaps add a certain charm – but you can turn the sound off if it annoys you. Of course if you have read my earlier thoughts on the book or otherwise bought it you can turn the pages yourself. It’s better.

Frank’s London is a city (and City) long lost, with men in bowler hats and men carrying sacks of coal, both enshrouded by the pea-soupers which the coal produced (and in the second part of the book, he goes to photograph the men who mined it.)

Thankfully those days of almost solid air in London are long gone, though I can just remember them. But appearances are deceptive and London’s air is still toxic, leading to huge amounts of miserable illness and an estimated almost 10,000 early deaths each year, with levels of pollutants typically well above the EU legal limits in many streets and schoolyards.

The City too has changed, though still equally toxic. We no longer have an Empire – it had already begun to disappear when Frank coughed his way through those streets, but neo-colonialism has replaced colonialism, and many of the world’s most toxic companies – for example in mining – are still London based, and the City is the money laundering capital of the world.