The great smog

1y ago


These days it is hardly possible to find a person who hasn't heard about Tesla and has no opinion on that matter. Everyone does, even my grandmother who is almost 80 years old is very interested in the evolution of private electric transport. She wants me to buy an electric car and give her a ride as for her this is the future she dreamed about when she was young, well, not exactly this but overall the progress of the technologies that exist today. I agree that in future there will be no place for petrol, gas or coal in our everyday life and it is a good thing but it is not enough as industrial pollution is no less dangerous.

You may never have heard about the great smog of 1952 that took lives of approximately 8000- 12000 people in London in about several months. This environmental disaster was not the first or the only one that ever happened in the UK but probably one of the most serious. Use of coal for households heating, vehicle exhaust, dirty industry activities in general, turned London into one of the most notorious cities best suitable for detective stories both fictional and real, Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper, novels by Dickens, Poe - none could have existed in any other city than foggy and mysterious London. When I studied English in school I learned the term 'pea-soup' that referred to the yellowish fog that sometimes covered the city and I still have this picture in mind when I think about London. I know that it is not so any longer due to many restrictions that have been implemented since to improve the air quality but it is hard to get rid of some prejudices.

Claude Monet - Waterloo Bridge, London 1903

Everything happened very fast, on the night of 5th December smog enveloped London, visibility dropped to several meters, not only driving became hardly possible in next days but simply walking without checking path in front was not safe. Public transport stopped working except for the tube, schools and other public services went to a halt. Most people in the streets were wearing protective medicine masks but the smoke was everywhere and it got inside buildings so there was no place with a fresh breath of air.

The fog itself was not something unusual but this time due to a collision of multiple factors it became more toxic then it could be. Weeks of cold weather that preceded the event forced people to burn more coal which was rich with sulphur and released too much sulphur dioxide in the air as it was of poor quality, also several months earlier clean and ecological electric tram was replaced by diesel-powered buses so air pollution literally roared ahead, weather was windless and the cold fog prevented the pollutants from dispersing turning it into dangerous smog and keeping low to the ground.

It lasted only 5 days but casualties were high, at that time estimated fatalities were around 4000 people, mostly among elderly, sick people and children. It was reported that most deaths were caused by respiratory infections, asthma, hypoxia. For months after the event people continued to die, many more started suffering from respiratory illnesses so the long-term effect hardly can be counted even now.

This is happening today in many industrial areas but in a slow motion affecting everyone at a different rate but definitely not in a good way. So whether you like the idea of electrically or hydrogen or steam or whatever 'green' technology powered vehicles or no, we need to do it, we need to change our habits, traditions, things we like even if we don't want anything to change at all, but I just tend to think that pus in lungs is worse than drving any environmentally green car so suck it up and enjoy the fumes and roaring of your vehicle while you can and as long as you can, future is not here yet but very close.