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Alas, you are not a clam. The story of smog.

Alas, you are not a clam. The story of smog.

Air pollution is when someone farts on a crowded bus and you pretend it didn’t happen. A typical fart contains about 58% nitrogen, 21% hydrogen, 9% carbon dioxide, 7% methane, and 4% oxygen — typical air pollution. Not a very pleasant example, but it accurately characterizes how humanity is polluting the planet’s atmosphere on an industrial scale and we pretend nothing is happening.
In fact, we humans are, figuratively speaking, still children in this world. Today’s climate change activists may not like it, but planet Earth was still a bitch some 251 million years ago.

Apocalypse? The Permian period.

At that time, huge amounts of lava erupted through a large rift to the Earth’s surface near Siberia and erupted for about 2 million years. The carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere was 10 times higher than it is today. What this leads to, you and I know well — global warming has begun.Your mom will no longer ask you to wear a hat when you go outside.

But there was a downside, it’s called the Great Extinction and it led to the extinction of about 81% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species.
Who survived at all? The best survivors of this air pollution were the ammonites, which are cephalopod mollusks. Their current relatives are squid, cuttlefish and octopus. Alas, you are not a mollusk, your daddy is not a squid and in the Permian period you most likely perished like the rest of us.

Don’t get smart! Let’s talk about humanity.

Well, air pollution starts with the use of fire for cooking and heating indoors, or rather back then it was caves. And smoke indoors was not an actual problem, an ancestor could be eaten by a saber-toothed tiger, and nobody knew about asthma and heart disease.
In the process of evolution people learned to protect their lives and moved to joint labor. And when they moved from manual labor to machine labor, the Industrial Revolution happened in the late 1700s. Most of the puffing iron machines were powered by coal energy and this eventually led to many cases of serious air pollution already outside. This problem is already closer to modern day.

The Great Smog

Wall of fog: At the beginning of December 1952, vehicles in London can only move at walking pace — if at all — because the haze is so thick © picture alliance/United Archives | 91050/United_Archives/TopFoto
The most striking example: the case of the London fog in 1952, which killed thousands of people and caused chaos in London. The smoke pollution was so toxic that even cows reportedly suffocated in the fields.

For London, this was not the first such “fog”: December 1813, December 1873, January 1880, February 1882, December 1891, December 1892 and November 1948. But when the “Great Smog” of 1952 dissipated, it was realized that some 4,000 people had died as a result of the fog.

The answer to smog

To avoid a repeat of the situation in London, a number of laws were passed. These include the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968. Other fatal air pollution incidents, such as in Donora, USA (1948) and the Maas Valley, Belgium (1930), have forced similar anti-pollution measures in other countries.
The Donora Smog of 1948 began on October 27 and lasted until October 31, when rain cleared the combined smoke, fog and pollution that had become trapped over the town. Bettmann / Contributor

And it is hard without coal

Most recently, in June 2023, New York City faced extreme air pollution caused by severe wildfires in North America. At that time, New York City’s air quality index arrow gradually rose: from the “Unhealthy” category to “Very Unhealthy” and finally to “Dangerous.” We have all seen apocalyptic photos of New York City in the style of Mars landscapes. This has happened before in Siberia, the plume of smoke from fires was visible from satellites.
New York’s George Washington Bridge was wreathed in smoke on Wednesday © Seth Wenig/AP
And here it was not without us, the main cause of forest fires — man. Of course, sometimes fire starts from lightning, volcanic eruptions and meteorite falls, barbecues of dwarfs and the failure of the Hadron Collider.

Why this story

The point is that continued dependence on fossil fuels and massive forest fires have increased air pollution levels across the planet. But like the fart cases, we pretend that nothing has happened, such a denial of the obvious. This behavior could lead to an environmental or public health disaster. Nowadays you can read a lot of theories and studies about the climate crisis, global warming, sometimes very exotic (hello flat earth and chemtrails fan). But if even the most dire predictions come true, even then it will be far from the Permian period, but the truth is that we are not ammonites either and there will be no comfortable life.
So, we have 2 recipes for the coming years:

1. Breathe less and stock up on oxygen. Because if you survive and the rest of us don’t, the whole planet will be at your disposal!

2. Take the first step — learn about the state of the air in your neighborhood and openly share that information. What you can’t measure, you can’t improve

Does your city have smog? Tell us what health effects you have experienced because of it.