London had suffered since the 13th century from poor air quality which worsened in the 1600s, but the Great Smog is known to be the worst air-pollution event in the history of the United Kingdom, and the most significant in terms of its effect on environmental research, government regulation, and public awareness of the relationship between air quality and health. It led to several changes in practices and regulations, including the Clean Air Act 1956.
Living in the east end of London was a very bleak existence in the 1950’s. I remember a smog alert when weather conditions and the coal fumes erupting from chimneys caused a health crisis. I was sent to St John’s Open Air School, in the country, because I was anaemic and the doctor recommended I escape the city for a while. It was there I developed my love for mother nature and that love has never diminished. In my teens I would mount my five speed bike and cycle from the slums of London to the open air of Epping Forest. I would take off my shoes and ground my feet to the soil feeling at one with nature and Mother Earth. On other occasions I hiked the Pilgrims Way, camping overnight, earning my hikers badge with the boy scouts.
In the mid seventies I discovered the Gaia Principle. This principle, first espoused by a physicist James Lovelock, suggested that the earth was a living organism where humans along with all the other separate systems relied on each other. This theory found favour with philosophers, writers, poets and environmentalists but not scientists. It also found favour with me and I envisioned the earth and all its inhabitants as one. We were a symbiosis and dependant on each other for survival. What a grand utopian dream, us a single tribe of human beings, caring for and nurturing mother earth , who in turn would ensure our survival by nourishing us with its abundance. After all we would be stupid to bite the hand that feeds us. Right. It was nice to dream for a while.
“I am Mother Nature. All of creation bows before me. When people leave their cities and learn of me—walk in my woods, bathe in my rivers, eat of my harvest—they will find healing to their souls. But stray from me and return to the supposed wisdom of men, and they will find themselves in chains once more.”
― Seth Adam Smith, Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern
The latest feel good craze started by politicians/environmentalists is the banning of plastics straws. I would suggest a more comprehensive look at how we package all goods for consumption would further our issue with plastic and other disposables more than a token feel good talking point. But that’s the thing. Politics, economics, life style and other life issues get in the way of a comprehensive determined plan of action to do what is best for our planet.
And what is best for our planet?
Can we have our civilized cake and eat it to the detriment of sustaining our planet?
Where do we find the balance?
Is biodiversity necessary or is its disappearance part of evolution?
How much do human beings contribute to climate change versus natural events?
Can technology play a greater part in this process?
Am I personally doing all that I can to improve the well being of my planet?
We have made progress. There is no longer smog over London due to electricity replacing coal. We are cleaning up rivers. The future of automobiles is electric rather than gas/diesel. We are legislating green belts encompassing our cities and hopefully this will be preserved and continued. We are planting more trees. There is still a lot to be done but there is also a greater awareness of these issues and hopefully over time more and more people will respond. With part of our energies focussed on saving our planet perhaps we can also spend some time to focus on preserving ourselves to enjoy its abundance. Peace.