Pollution of the Earth's land, air and water poses as great a threat to the survival of human society as a nuclear war, according to a growing group of scientists.
Pollution of the Earth's land, air and water poses as great a threat to the survival of human society as a nuclear war, according to a growing group of scientists. Only a few years ago, the alarm was raised by a small group of ecologists, but their warning went unheeded.
In 1970, however, international agencies, governments and private organisations combined in an urgent campaign to conserve mankind's surroundings from slow but steady destruction. Water and air, especially became filthier.
Britain was one of the few nations to take action against air pollution long before it became a world problem. In 1956, the British Parliament passed a Clean Air Act, later strengthened by the Clean Air Act of 1968. The foremost provisions of both acts banned soft coal in key industrial areas and created "smoke-free zones".
Serious air pollution in Britain started with the use of coal, which began in the 13th century in London, when wood and charcoal was beginning to become scarce and dear. Almost from the beginning the unpleasant smoke from coal led to attempts to prohibit its use.
Fog is natural occurrence. When fog persists over a town, the emissions from chimneys and vehicles are trapped within the fog layer and produce a mixture of fog and smoke often called "smog". In December of 1952, such a mixture of smoke and fog in London resulted in a death roll of 4,000, and many times that number suffered from respiratory trouble. That tragedy was probably the catalyst, which caused the government to act and eventually pass the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968.
Much of the legislation was directed against the domestic burning of soft coal, which accounted for more than 70 per cent of the air pollution In 1971, that figure remains about the same, but in London there has been a 75 per cent drop in the amount of smoke emitted, since the Clean Air Acts were passed.
The results have been blatantly obvious. The air is cleaner. Wildlife flora and fauna had been affected by the smog. Many specie of birds ceased using the London's Royal Parks as a refuge. In 1971, in large measure due to the increased sunlight due to less smoke, more than 100 species of birds were seen in each of the bigger parks.
In this VISNEWS feature report, London's cleaner air is shown in comparison with the thick smogs of the early 1950's, and the potential of a far more dangerous form of air pollution is explored - that from the exhaust of motor vehicles.
SYNOPSIS: Pollution of the Earth's land, water and air poses as great a threat to the survival of human society as nuclear war, according to a growing group of scientists. For London, this warning nearly became a reality in 1952.
In December of that year, a thick fog combined with heavy pollution to produce four-thousand deaths. Heavy smogs, like this, dirtied and damaged buildings, were harmful to human health, and drove many species of birds from the sanctuary of London's Royal Parks, due to the decreased amount of sunlight.
But the birds are back. They are flocking to London's Royal Parks according to the England and Wales Committee on Bird Sanctuaries. More than one-hundred species have been seen in each of the bigger parks, such as St. James Park. Some ecologists say that they are seeking refuge in the parks, because too much of their natural woodland has been destroyed by man's progress. They point to the vast areas of land that are required for such projects as industrial parks, housing developments and new airports. Many conservationists, however, say that the return of the birds to London is due, in large measure, to cleaner air. This and the resultant increased amount of sunlight, they say, has been made possible by the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968.
There is no doubt that the air is cleaner. Nor is there doubt that the infamous London fogs are less frequent and severe.
The smoke is gone. The Clean Air Act declared that there should be "smoke-free zones", which particularly affected the domestic use of soft coal for heating. Studied showed that more than seventy-per cent of the smoke in London and other areas of Britain was coming from such heating. Its gradual abolition in the London area has so far reduced the smoke in the air by seventy-five per cent.
But there are exceptions to the law. Many industries could not eliminate their smoke pollution altogether, but they have increased the height of their chimneys and installed special filters in the smokestacks. In this way, the smoke that is emitted is as clean as possible.
There is one major air pollution that does not at all come under the auspices of the Clean Air Act -- that of motor vehicle exhaust fumes. There is, at present in Britain, no legislation for the control of emissions from petrol engined vehicles. Thus, London, which has managed to control one major pollution, now faces, along with other major cities in the world, a threat from a potentially more dangerous air pollutant -- the motor vehicle.