Air pollution is the new global warming. Starting from a few discordant rumblings, it too has progressed from an annoyance to an incredibly serious issue. It’s not an overly new problem, ever since the industrial revolution the fumes of cities have been a constant issue and it’s not the severity of the issue that has grown but rather the recognition of it. Noxious gases have not become markedly more dangerous in recent years; the density of the fumes has certainly increased but the lethality of them is greatly reduced. What has happened is serious research has been done into the smog that affects many cities and the damage that it is doing to people’s health. Their results are shocking, mainly because the lay the blame largely on the massive rise in automotives on the roads in recent years. It’s hardly surprising: in almost every location cars are omnipresent, an essential part of life that few can do without. What hasn’t really been considered before is that the common objects of everyday life might be the great killers.
The situation is in many ways similar to cigarettes. The slender tubes have gone from being ubiquitous to revile in a few short decades as the damage that they cause is revealed. Whereas once it was common to smoke everywhere, now even social smokers cannot enjoy one unless they are outside of any enclosed public space. Society has formed a tight knit wall against them, determined to force them out by sheer pressure. Such a tactic is beginning to be used against cars. There is a sense of shame now, not affluence, about owning two cars. Surely one knows the damage that they do to the environment and to one’s family? If anything, no cars is now considered a sign of moral superiority as more and more people are urged to take public transport.
One has to wonder though, how on earth would the capital cope if everyone stopped driving their own car or booking minicabs online, and instead started using public transport? Our systems are not built for bus after bus stopping one in front of the other repeatedly. Things would slow to a crawl above ground, whereas underground there would be chaos. The tube is not built to handle such extreme numbers: it struggles to cope with the demands placed upon it now, especially in rush hour. The waits would be horrendous, the tightly packed carriages awful. It is a nightmare already seen in several eastern countries, where commuters are literally packed into trains by guards who use soft, spatula like devices to keep passengers compact.
Like many things in life, it is a case of idealism vs practicality. It would be great if the air could be kept green and safe via mass public transport, but it is simply not feasible with the current levels of infrastructure in place. Work should made not to limit travel and independence, but to make cars cleaner and more eco friendly. The last thing anyone needs is to get to a state where booking minicabs online brings up a warning about air pollution, a nanny state where social pressure is used to discourage any deviation from the norm.
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Public transport is not the answer to air pollution