The London Fog of Another Age

Today, when most think about the term London Fog, they think of the classy clothes and coats

business that goes by the very same name. Few people realize there actually was something

once upon a time called the London Fog. Sure, it went by other, less wondrous names too such

as Pea Soup Fog, City Fog, or simply… smog.

 

From the 1600s and onwards, ending only relatively recently in our modern era, London

became a climate experiment of just what awful things pollution can do to humans and the

places that we live in on a microcosm. The Victorian era was not all wonderful frilly dresses and

men in strange wigs, it was also an era of serious labor issues and yet to be known dangers of

the new world of industrial processes.

 

The London Fog would swoop down throughout the entire city, blanketing the winding streets in

a smog so thick that you could barely see to the other side of the street. This became known as

the London Peculiar in addition to likely more colorful names the natives had for it.

 

Where was the London Fog created though? And where did it go? If you go to London today,

this Pea Soup Fog is almost nowhere to be seen. So what exactly happened to it?

 

The London Fog pollution crisis stems from the burning and usage of sea coal in both industrial

factories which were just hitting their stride during the industrial revolution (which overlaps with

the Victorian era), and residential homes burning the coal for warmth and pumping all that

deadly smoke out of their collective chimneys. (Solar panels and other “clean” forms of energy wouldn’t be around

for a very long time yet…) The pollution would get trapped in London, and as more was added, the thicker it would

become, until the mix became so thick and noticeable there was nothing to be done save give it a name.

 

King Edward I of England even had advisors on the Pea Soup Fog situation that he sought

advice on what to do. After all, the London Fog was a national threat to his kingdom at the time.

The fog became so powerful, full of arsenic and other pollutants, that it would actually cause

respiratory problems for the people of London. For those who were elderly, sick or otherwise

biologically vulnerable, the London Fog hastened the speed of their illnesses or just killed them

outright from the people breathing in the toxic smog. (Needless to say there was simply not the medical supplies

that we have today, that might have help mitigate some of the damage that this phenomenon caused.)

 

One of King Edward’s advisors, John Evelyn, recommended as much as moving all the factories

out of London and in the Thames River area. He also suggested planting odiferous flowers to

cover up the stench.

 

Eventually, through various policies and government regulations, the Black Smog of Victorian

London was slowly defeated. It was a long and arduous process, and one that is still being

fought in many ways in our modern age. This can be seen in various environmental agencies

fighting on the behalf of earth minded people who want to see more restrictions rather than

loose laws on regulating pollution, industrial and residential waste.

 

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