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Air pollution

I've been thinking about air pollution a lot lately. Tower Bridge is shut for Not Falling Down Works, and the resultant tailbacks across South London seem to be making the air significantly worse than usual. Anecdotally, as I walk down to the Jamaica Road*, the air starts tasting weird and my throat starts feeling weird.** The onset of this (I've lived in this area nearly 15 years and I don't usually have problems) precisely matched up to when the bridge shut. It would be hard to argue that there's not going to be more pollution: same number of journeys, give or take, all taking longer so generating more airborne crap. Other S Londoners of my acquaintance have noticed the same; an asthmatic friend is particularly struggling.

But are there figures? Not really: annoyingly, there's no roadside monitoring station anywhere near here, although in 2015 most of the nearby stations to me exceeded the Air Quality Strategy objectives, and it's looking the same already for 2016 even before Exciting Tailback Autumn really got going. This street-by-street map looks more useful but is a "now-cast" only (right now, at nearly 7pm on a Saturday, which shouldn't be super busy, it's at the high end of 'low' on Jamaica Rd; the notes state that 'low' levels of pollution may in fact be higher than is good for your health). I will come back to it on Monday morning. Without a very close monitoring station I do wonder how accurate this is, but looking at the nearish ones would still be informative.

Hopefully this particular batch of badness will improve in December when the bridge reopens. But London's air quality is pretty horrible at the best of times. Checking my postcode on the 'annual levels of exposure' map (data from 2013) they give rates for four pollutants:
  • NO2: my house high end of 'passes' range (37 microgrammes/m3); Jamaica Road well into 'fails' (~67 mcg/m3).

  • Ozone: my house 40 mcg/m3; Jamaica Road a bit lower as apparently ozone reacts with other pollutants so is lower close to busy roads.

  • PM10: my house passes at 25 mcg/m3; Jamaica Road not quite up to the 'fails' range at 31 mcg/m3.

  • PM2.5: my house passes at 15 mcg/m3; Jamaica Road higher but also passes at 19 mcg/m3.


This does not fill me with confidence for my respiratory health (and all the other consequences of breathing in lots of pollution).

Short of moving***, I'm now wondering if there's much I can do about this on my own behalf. (I have already commented on the current London Clean Air study, and have contributed to various similar campaigns over the years to try to fix the actual problem.) Some years ago I tried a facemask for cycling but as the Guardian discovered more recently, these are basically very uncomfortable. It's also worth knowing that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the pollution risks. So whilst a mask might make the air less icky to breathe, it makes walking or cycling around the place more unpleasant in other ways.

In terms of long-term health consequences, the main suggestion from the London Air people is "avoid busy roads" as levels drop rapidly away from them (as seen with my house vs the Jamaica Rd). That's mostly doable. There's some evidence that consuming more antioxidants (e.g. lots of vitamin C) can help protect against the long-term health consequences; I've also seen "more omega-3 fatty acids" suggested (flax oil, hemp oil****). Won't actually stop me coughing, but as "more vitamin C, more omega-3" is a pretty risk-free dietary change, probably worth doing.

The best solution though is probably for Sadiq Khan to get on with making the air actually less vile. I believe the current plan has various aims for 2020. Here's hoping.

* One of the major east-west arteries south of the river; in particular it leads to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, which is dealing with a lot of the redirected Tower Bridge traffic. Three minutes walk from my house.
** I'm also getting headaches again and sleeping badly but these might be related to one another and not to the unpleasant air.
*** Though basically to get all that much better than here I would have to move right out of London, not just a bit further out.
**** Or fish oil for non-vegans.


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Mancunicon 2016 — book recs

Mirrored from Juliet Kemp.

Note: these are not books that I am recommending personally, because I haven’t read any of them yet. They are instead books that other people at the con talked about sufficiently enthusiastically that I now want to read them. Some of them are on my (now much larger) to-read pile, either in dead tree form or electronically; some aren’t yet.

First up: two people I know had book launch parties at the con! David L. Clements released his collection of short stories, ‘Disturbed Universes’ (from NewCon Press); and Siobhan McVeigh has a story in the collection ‘Existence is Elsewhere’ from Elsewhen Press (scroll right down for buying options). I heard various of the authors reading extracts from their stories in this book at the launch and they all sounded great.

The rest of my recs are from the Feminist Fantasy panel:

  • Jo Walton ‘Lifelode’ (annoyingly, it seems to be out of print, and expensive second-hand)
  • The Chinese myth series Dream of Red Mansions
  • Elizabeth Gouge (note that not all of her books are fantasy)
  • Octavia Butler ‘The Wild Sea’
  • Someone mentioned the Green Knowe series of children’s books, which are sort-of historical fantasy. I read them as a child (a long time ago now) but am now minded to have a look for them the next time I’m in the library and see how they’ve held up.
  • Tanith Lee
  • Lois McMaster Bujold ‘Paladin of Souls’ — I have read this one and it is GREAT. Very strongly recommended.
  • Kate Elliott — both fiction and non-fiction. (Just looked at her post about her own books/series and am now wondering how I missed all of this for this long. Looks great!)
  • Mary Stewart — Merlin trilogy
  • Andre Norton ‘Year of the Unicorn’. (I should probably have read this already…) (but I haven’t, so.)

To enlarge your (my) reading list further, E. G. Cosh (who was on a panel with me and is v cool) has a recs post too.

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New story — Luna Station Quarterly

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

I have a story in the current issue of Luna Station Quarterly! You can read online for free, or buy an issue in e- or paper form, and there’s lots of great stuff there.

(Direct link to my story.)

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Furthest Tales of the City

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

Look what arrived in the post for me!

Furthest Tales of the City

Stories by some splendid writers including me:

Furthest Tales of the City contents

I haven’t read it yet as it only arrived yesterday, but am greatly looking forward to it. Some of the titles look especially interesting, but I may have to start with Helen Angove’s story.

(Buy it here from the publishers, Obverse Books, in paperback or ebook form.)

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Dear Yuletide Author

Read more...Collapse )

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Permaculture Diploma presentation

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

I’ve finished my Permaculture Diploma (all the designs and so on are up here)! I’ll be doing my final presentation at the London Permaculture Festival this Sunday, from 11:30-1:30. There are three of us doing a bunch of mini-talks and chatting to people about urban permaculture and the diploma, so it’s not just 2 straight hours of being talked at.

Come along if you’re free; there’s loads of stuff going on at the festival as a whole, and if you’re at all interested in permaculture it’s well worth going.

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The Perennial Miss Wildthyme

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

Now available for pre-order from Obverse Books: The Perennial Miss Wildthyme, featuring Iris Wildthyme, and a story from me. It’ll be out this autumn, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to reading the rest of the stories.

The cover, by Paul Hanley

The cover, by Paul Hanley

(Should you feel unable to wait for your Iris fix, Iris Wildthyme of Mars, in which I also have a story, is available right now.)

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Rainbows and emptiness

We still do not have permission for our solar panels, although we have an official form planning letter which mostly doesn't apply to us. On Thursday it will have been 3 weeks and thus I can chase the planning officer to find out what the problem is with issuing a certificate stating that our lawful development is, in fact, lawful development. (Gah.) On the upside, Patio Dude has just sent an email saying he'll be round next week (which I sincerely hope means a week tomorrow and not tomorrow, for which I would not be prepared) to take up old patio and install new patio, new fence, and new pergola. In some glorious future year the pergola will, I hope, support GRAPES. (The grape vine already exists, but is quite small.)

Leon is now teaching himself to count in other languages (French, Russian, and Mandarin, so far). The internet has a lot to answer for. He is also keen on rainbows (from a colour perspective, rather than as a meteorological phenomenon), and the bin lorry. ("Taking the things to the recycling, to make them into new things!") In a slightly scary step we have taken away the stereo-pen (ie the baby pen that corralled stereo instead of child) without any incident resulting. I believe we are beginning to enter the "why" phase...

I have been GETTING RID OF THINGS in a middling dramatic fashion, and feeling very good for it. My room looks -- not empty, but the stuff that is there looks uncluttered. And I have now kept my desk actually clear for about 3 weeks now which is an all-time record.

And I have not one but two short story deadlines upcoming, which on the one hand is a good state to be in, and on the other hand, deadlines, writing, editing, etc. Yesterday I read through one of them and thought that it was pretty much OK which always makes me nervously wonder what I've missed or if I have lost my critical edge. (Did I ever have a critical edge? who knows.)

Now to finish sewing rainbow patchwork for Leon's upcoming birthday.

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Back garden photos

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

I am pretty pleased with this.

Before (June 2011, a month before we moved in):

Eight months later (late Feb 2012, the week before I had Leon!):

One year on (July 2012):

Nearly three years on (May 2014):

Not bad going, really. More photos in the Flickr album.

(Currently it looks quite wintery but I might add a photo in a bit anyway.)

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Liberating Earth

Mirrored from Twisting Vines.

Look what came through the letterbox yesterday!

Book cover: Faction Paradox, "Liberating Earth"

A brand new Faction Paradox collection, featuring a story by me, among eight others. I haven’t yet read the others, as it only arrived yesterday, but I am greatly looking forward to them; especially the frame story by Kate Orman.

Available now from Obverse Books (hardback) or on Kindle.

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