Occasionally at Londonist we like to grow our hair long and not shave the various body appendages that any sane person should do in urban environment. 'Jesus sandals' become a mainstay in the footwear department, Janis Joplin an iPOD favourite and lentils start to be all flavoursome. We do this because Londonist cares. That is right - Londonist cares.
Londonist cares how polluted our urban environment is. And Londonist wants to do something about it - least know something about how to live with it. And this Londonista gets all excited when we can study, or better still, combat pollution through the use of technology. To paraphrase Robert M. Pursig:
'The Buddha rests quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer...as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower.'
Anyway a few websites have been helping Londoners monitor air-pollution levels for some time. Kings College provides a useful service, to the anal, that monitors pollution levels hourly and through an air quality index. A more detailed forecast for Central London is available at YourAir, which monitors Nitrogen Oxide, Ozone and particle concentration specifically in Zone 1. They display the results through a street by street map that easily highlights air-pollution hotspots such as Hyde Park Corner and Trafalgar Square showing the air-pollution density.
Well that is just dandy we hear you say - but what about when I am on the move? Fear not YourAir will soon be offering be SMS alerts enabling asthmatics, hippies and others with breathing problems to find out when it’s unsafe to go outdoors. Phew - we can breathe easy.
Old diesel powered vans, trucks and taxis are the principle culpables with regard to air-pollution. The Major has spoken a lot about the need to improve air quality
yet in practice how many of these old vans have been fitted with retrofitted technologies such as oxidation catalysts or particulate traps? A new inexpensive oxidisation catalyst has been developed by PNNL that might be the answer.
Cyclists and motorcyclists have been combating this air-pollution with Darth Vaderesqe face-masks (gang members, anthropophobics and thieves take note - these have got to be the new hoodie ). This Londonista has been road-testing a face mask for a few weeks and thinks they are excellent. Yet realistically, Star Wars aesthetics aside, the masks are expensive for what they are and with winter drawing near a finely knitted scarf would probably have the same effectiveness. It is only for whom the force flows strongly that have taken anti-pollution garb to the next level...
London will soon be able to take a step forward from Transport for London’s costly but superb hydrogen fuel cell buses. Hydrogen fuel cell technology is a good thing for it produces zero polluting emissions. The only by-product of a hydrogen fuel cell is water vapour. So Ken, can we have a few more please? But for free - please don’t charge us - get the EU to pay.
Showcased in Trafalgar Square a few weeks back were a number of cutting-edge vehicles that use hydrogen fuel cell technology. On display was the ENV (Emissions Neutral Vehicle) motorcycle , which can reach a speed of 50mph. Not quite Street-Hawk but it still looks as good. The developers plan to begin mass production in 18 months. This bike might the solution for eco-friendly non-Hobbit sized urban commuters.
Another form of pollution Londoners increasingly might want to avoid but have to live with are EMF signals. Not the one-hit wonders from the nineties performing semaphore but Electro Magnetic Fields. EMFs are emitted from common sources such as power lines, electrical wiring, pylons, mobiles phones and mobile phone masks. Just to freak you out EMF waves have been linked to the onset of cancer, childhood Leukemia, miscarriage and a whole host of other health problems. Obviously there is some debate over the validity of such claims - to sum it up, the governments say 'ITS SAFE' and the Hippies say 'IT WILL KILL US ALL' - either way it scares the crap out of this Londonista.
That is why we like the look of this Electrosmog Detector which senses the invisible EMF signals in your vicinity, so you can decide whether to stick around and let the microwaves tan your hide, or get the hell out of the area and avoid the little critters. You'll be fine until you press play on your MP3 player, turn on your computer and your mobile starts ringing....