An email arrived from Ello, a site I used to visit to see the creative work that people put up, but I haven’t visited for a while. So when I logged in I saw an image I uploaded three years ago.
I uploaded it with a comment along the lines that ‘Technology needs to catch up so that we all have phones fixed to our faces.’
Here is the photo with and without the additions.
The street is in London. It’s Exhibition Road that runs between the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Natural History and Science Museums, a lovely part of the city – especially if you like museums.
It used to be a regular street, but several years ago most of its width was pedestrianised as you can see here, and it has transformed the look of it. The pedestrians have freedom to move without feeling they are hemmed in by traffic.
In crowded England, this street is a breath of fresh air.
Well not quite, fresh air, because just behind me from where I was standing with my camera is Cromwell Road. It is usually very busy with two lanes in each direction crammed with buses, cabs, cars, lorries, and delivery vans in an endless stream.
In normal times there are high levels of nitrogen dioxide, PM10 particulates, and sulphur dioxide. These are not normal times and Cromwell Road may be quieter now because of COVID and the national lockdown.
When life returns to the business of pre-COVID levels, what will we do about pollution levels? Will we grin and bear it? Will we say, no more.
We can’t find refuge form pollution in our phones, no matter how clean and uncluttered the online world looks, can we. I sound so preachy, but it hurts to think of the damage done by inches to us all.
Just a few weeks ago, an inquest found that air pollution was a factor in the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old girl who died following an asthma attack. She is the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of death.
Professor Gavin Shaddick, a government adviser on air pollution, called it a landmark decision.
We can’t change everything overnight, but will there be a strong enough political will to make things happen? Britain has ambitious plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars. Exiting the European Union may make that easier or harder to accomplish – time will tell.
When we look up from our phones, will we smell diesel fumes or roses?