Minds could be better focused at COP26 if negotiators were to run through these pollution pods
Would the climate emergency be further advanced if the covered walkways between the distinctive buildings in the COP26 Blue Zone on Glasgow’s Scottish Event Campus were filled with noxious air?
The experience could help focus the minds of the 25,000 negotiators, observers, world leaders and journalists attending the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (no doubt this would be reduce clutter).
Fortunately, the Scottish Exhibition Center, Hydro and Armadillo are connected by covered walkways filled with standard Clydeside air. Five miles by car or, according to Google Maps, 2.8 miles by bike, there is an installation by a Scottish artist Michael pinsky which uses odor generators, air conditioners and fog machines to mimic the smell, temperature and air quality of four heavily polluted towns as well as unspoiled Norwegian wilderness.
Pinsky Pollution Pods Are Five Interconnected geodesic domes erected not where negotiators, observers, world leaders and journalists might experience them, but on a diamond of green at Gartnavel General Hospital. It was the end point of Ride for their life, an ongoing demonstration by healthcare workers at six UK children’s hospitals who cycle the 500+ miles from London to Glasgow to deliver air quality messages to world leaders in the international community of health.
(The hospital green was also the location of the COP26 Cycling Forum organized by BYCS of the Netherlands.)
Pinsky first fitted the domes with atmospheric-mimicking technology for a climate-based art and science project organized by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim in 2017. He made the pods with commercially available building kits for your own dome and locally sourced reclaimed wood, and filled them with computer-controlled atmospheres to safely recreate the stale air of pollution hot spots in London, Beijing, São Paulo and New Delhi.
Its control pod features a representation of the clean air of Tautra, an isolated peninsula in Norway, chosen with the help of the Norwegian Air Research Institute.
As I roamed the pods with Pinsky, I knew the fake stale air – supposed to be made up of varying levels of ozone, particles, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide – was a breathable concoction. However, it was still a deeply unpleasant experience.
While we were in the gondola representing the thick and smoky air of New Delhi, I questioned the London artist about the accuracy of his atmospheres.
“This is actually what it is in New Delhi this time of year because they burn the crops around the city after the harvest,” he said.
“Not only do you get badly burnt diesel, particles from cars and trucks on the bad pavement, but also that smell of burnt grass, as well as poor visibility.”
And for the London capsule, Pinsky chose to imitate the air of a particularly polluted section of Euston Road.
“Certainly this comes from a pretty bad day in a bad place,” he said.
“Air pollution is very localized, especially traffic pollution: it is located about 10 meters from the road. So recreation is accurate, but it’s a bad road, right next to car traffic including black taxis.
Thanks to air pollution that is too real, people in New Delhi can expect their lives to be shortened by around four years, and for some Londoners that is a loss of 16 months.
Largely caused by the same burning of fossil fuels accelerating climate change, polluted air kills an estimated seven million people worldwide each year.
The Pollution Pods were closer to the leaders of the COP25 held in Madrid in 2019. Why weren’t they closer to the SEC for the COP26?
“I applied to enter George Square [in the center of Glasgow], but it didn’t work out, ”said Pinsky, who likens walking through the pods to“ tasting wine for air pollution, ”sniffing ethanol in the São Paulo pod where“ you get that kind of fruity vinegar output ”.
Air pollution will be easy to solve, won’t it? Just switch to batteries to power motor vehicles. Not so fast, Pinsky replied.
“The electric car still produces a lot of pollution, in particular because of the friction of the tires on the roads and the enormous amount of resources required to build these heavy vehicles. The promotion of electric cars allows people not to change their lifestyle in any way, which will not reduce air pollution as much as we think.