What's going on?
“Where did all the blue skies go? Poison is the wind that blows” Marvin Gaye, Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), 1971. In his ground-breaking album, What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye explores a huge range of social and environmental issues. Listening to it can feel like there has been little progress in 50 years.
A series of reports explores inequality and air pollution in London. The capital has seen some improvements, both in overall air quality and in reducing the inequality between areas. But, as the reports conclude, communities which have higher levels of deprivation, or a higher proportion of people from a non-white ethnic background, are still more likely to be exposed to higher levels of air pollution.
Make me wanna holler
For example, the most recent report includes this shocking statistic: between 31 and 35 per cent of areas with the highest proportion of black and mixed or multiple ethnicities are in areas with higher levels of air pollution; 15-18 per cent for Asian ethnic groups; and just 4-5 per cent for white ethnic groups. We started this blog to write about air quality data: we feel sad that these are the sorts of statistics that persist in today’s world. True inner city blues, as Gaye describes.
We are reminded of the global phenomenon that cities’ most deprived areas are often in the east. Scholars have determined that an important reason for this is air pollution, with westerly winds carrying the pollution of the city towards those areas. These inequalities can feel ingrained in the very design of our urban environments.
Louise was excited to meet recently the CEO of Global Black Maternal Health who have done an amazing report, funded by Impact on Urban Health. This points out that pregnant women exposed to air pollution are: more likely to have children who are premature, underweight or stillborn; to have reduced live birth rate; and maternal depressive symptoms. And we know that exposure to air pollution is so much higher for black women. We really hope to tempt the CEO to write more about her work here!
The programme of which we are part - Breathe London - uses as one of its factors for judging applications for community monitors the levels of deprivation in the area that the monitor would serve. Brixton is one of those and we hope to get the node installed very soon (update: we are now in discussion with one of the few buildings in central Brixton that does not have listed building status).
Finally: “I just want to ask a question: Who really cares, to save a world in despair?” Marvin Gaye, Save the Children.
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