The London Pea Souper

The many scandals emitting from the White house may distract us from the enormous damage being done to the environment under the current American leadership.

The pride that has been taken with rolling back environmental regulations would seem to betray a poor understanding of environmental history. There is much here to guide our understanding.

The environment has been a focus of concern as industrialism took hold back in the early 19th Century. Modern environmentalism was different, as the chemical and industrial damage being done could lead to massive loss of life.

Silent Spring

I encourage everyone to read Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson. This groundbreaking work of environmentalism sparked the first Earth Day. Carson alerted the world to the harm being done my chemical insecticides that were thinning bird egg shells, causing the chicks to died prematurely. Therefore, as a result of human environmental degradation, a silent spring, without the chirping of new chicks would result.

Luckily we learned from Carson and Silent Spring. Today we are failing to learn, however.

As a reminder of what devastation could come from ignoring the history of environmental protection, we might consider the Pea Souper, London’s deadliest smog event.

From The Daily Mail:

article-2243732-1658FD75000005DC-295_472x601But the smog was also the result of a lethal climate cocktail produced by coal-fired factories, diesel fumes from lorries and buses, and clouds of pollution drifting across the Channel from continental industrial centres.

The scale of the pollution was incredible. Every day, 1,000 tonnes of smoke belched from London’s chimneys, emitting 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 140 tonnes of hydrochloric acid and 14 tonnes of fluorine compounds. 

Even more deadly, 800 tonnes of sulphuric acid was formed as sulphur dioxide coming from chimneys mixed with moisture in the air.

The acid burned the back of the throat, bringing on choking fits. It caused inflammation of the lungs, especially in children, the old and people with bronchial illness.

Thousands died, suffocating from within. As the death toll mounted, undertakers ran out of coffins.

More than 100,000 people suffered such health problems as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Some estimates suggest a further 8,000 may have died in the weeks and months after it. 


Now consider some of the silent reversals to environmental protection that have occurred recently.

Trump’s EPA rolls back Obama-era coal ash regulations

Environmental groups say drinking water could be affected by new Trump administration rules on coal waste. A court challenge was being weighed.
by Dennis Romero and Associated Press /  / Updated
History guides us to understand the present and to act for the future. Will we learn the lesson of history?
What will you do to protect the environment?

Author: historydojo

I’m a National Board Certified Teacher with nearly twenty years of experience teaching high school history. I blog about teaching, history, current events, the law and social justice.

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