Trees were supposed to be the urban jungle's salvation. After all, trees provide sweet, beautiful shade which helps cool the metropolis, a place prone to overheating thanks to a proliferation of surfaces like asphalt and concrete. And by pumping oxygen into the air—the same oxygen humans need to breathe— while also filtering out harmful air pollution, trees were supposed to help the eighty percent of Americans who live in urban areas breathe easy. But a new study out today in the journal Environmental Science & Technology has found that planting trees while doing nothing about underlying air pollution is a bit like putting spinach on your double bacon donut burger: you're still going to die of a heart attack.
In 1970, Republican President Richard Nixon signed an executive order creating the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It was a time when pollution made many of our nation's rivers and streams unsafe for fishing or swimming. Back then, New York City's air pollution was so thick that you often couldn't see the city's iconic bridges. Forty-seven years later, there is serious talk of dismantling the agency, or at least slashing its size by two-thirds.
A poem called "In Praise of Air" by Simon Armitage, adorns a 33- by 66-foot billboard in Sheffield, England. But this is no ordinary billboard. It contains small nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, which scrub nitrogen dioxide from the air, causing the gas to react with oxygen to form harmless nitrates. The University of Sheffield, which organized the project, said the billboard can remove the nitrogen pollution that 20 cars produce everyday.
The colored balloons on this map of Asia represent current levels of air pollution, namely particulate pollution, which are at harmful levels for nearly 70% of developing Asian cities, according to Clean Air Asia. But the brightly colored dots on the map probably weren't what caught your eye - maybe it was the giant pigtails sprouting from the lone nose on the right?