Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Air Quality in London

Clean air is among the earliest pleasures of Morris’s transfigured socialist London in News from Nowhere.  ‘My first feeling was a delicious relief caused by the fresh air,’ remarks William Guest soon after waking at the Hammersmith Guest House; and he quickly grasps the social cause of the vastly improved air quality around him: ‘The soap-works with their smoke-vomiting chimneys were gone’.

You might have thought that, in the hundred and thirty-years since the publication of Morris’s utopia, British capitalism would have got its environmental act together as regards London air quality.  In some ways, yes; we don’t have Victorian ‘pea-soupers’ in the capital any longer.  But in others, very definitely not.  

So we must be grateful to Philip Barlow, the coroner at the inquest into the death by air pollution of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah.  For he has pointed out that UK pollution limits for particulate matter are currently twice as high as the levels recommended by the World Health Organisation, and has demanded that they be reduced down to those WHO levels (which themselves may well not be safe).  Fortunately for London’s children, mayor Sadiq Khan, himself an asthma sufferer, does seem inclined to act to reduce car use and traffic pollution in the metropolis.

The wager of Morris’s utopia is that reformist impulses of this kind will never ultimately be enough, and that only major systemic social change can bring about an economically and environmentally just future.  However, until then, air quality is one of a host of London-specific issues (Thames water or the quality of new housing developments would be others), which the William Morris Society could very readily be campaigning about without jeopardising its legal status as a charity.




Tony Pinkney said...

See also my earlier post on 'Microplastics in the Thames':

Angel charls said...

as we know that, Air pollution affects everyone who lives and works in London. The most vulnerable groups like children, older people, and those with heart and respiratory conditions are most affected. People living in deprived areas are also more affected by poor air quality, partly because these areas are often near busy roads.
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