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robertogreco : airpollution   4

Superblocks: How Barcelona is taking city streets back from cars - YouTube
"Modern cities are designed for cars. But the city of Barcelona is testing out an urban design trick that can give cities back to pedestrians."
cities  cars  transportation  pollution  2016  airpollution  noise  noisepollution  urban  urbanism  superblocks  urbanplanning  air  pedestrians  ildefonscerdà  classideas 
may 2018 by robertogreco
NBER Paper Finds Air Pollution Affects Violent Crime in Chicago - CityLab
"A growing body of scientific literature tells us that air pollution is bad for the brain. Fine particles and ozone are neurological irritants, reducing productivity, weakening cognitive skills, and encouraging anti-social behavior as they enter the body. And as with noise pollution, the physical discomfort induced by breathing air layered with carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide can lead to more aggressive actions, too.

One implication about this research is that air pollution could factor into the one of the worst expressions of a hobbled brain: Violent crime. Like the old chestnut that homicide rates rise with the heat, might poor air quality have a similar psycho-neurological effect?

A new working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research says yes: In Chicago, a city trellised by smoggy highways, car pollution has a measurable effect on criminal activity.

Downwind effects

Evan Herrnstadt, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University Center for the Environment, and the co-author Erich Muehlegger, assistant professor of economics at UC Davis, examined data from the Chicago Police Department that accounted for more than two million crimes committed between 2001 to 2012. They zeroed in on criminal activity in neighborhoods that border the interstates that cut through the city: I-90, I-94, I-290, I-55 and I-57, which are major sources of local air pollution. They coupled this crime data with daily NOAA wind direction measurements, taken from weather stations along the highways and in the neighborhoods themselves.

Why look at wind direction? Because pollution wafts with the breeze. For example, “I-290 runs due west from the Chicago city center to the suburbs of Oak Park and Berwyn,” the authors write. “On days when the wind blows from the south, the pollution from the interstate impacts on the north side of the interstate”—and vice versa.

Studying wind direction was also important to their methodology: Herrnstadt says that this allowed them to isolate the causal effect of automobile pollution without too many confounding factors. The researchers could have approached their question by looking at neighborhoods that have become more or less polluted over time, and seeing how crime levels matched up to that trend. But that would introduce lots of factors they would have had to control for, such as local economic conditions and weather effects.

Instead, the researchers looked at how crime related to wind direction in pairs of neighborhoods across the interstate from one another, on the same day. “We use the partner neighborhood as a control group for the other one, depending on which direction the wind is blowing,” says Herrnstadt. Overall crime rates (and their various fluctuations), ambient pollution, and neighborhood economic activity were all factors for which the “upwind” side could act as a control.

Offenders cross a line

The conclusion: On days when they were on the downwind side of the interstate, neighborhoods saw roughly 2.2 percent more violent crimes—homicide, rape, assault, and battery—than they did on upwind days. There was no effect on property crime. What’s more, the increase in violent crime was driven mostly by arrests for aggravated battery, while arrests for aggravated assault actually decrease. That is to say, offenders become more physical engaged with victims.

“We think that’s suggestive of the idea that people are more irritable, more likely to cross a line that they wouldn’t have otherwise crossed,” Herrnstadt says.

Herrnstadt cautions that these findings aren’t predictive; air pollution doesn’t necessarily lead to more crime. “It’s an average effect over time,” he says. There are also caveats about the study to consider: Police data, for example, only reflects crimes that were reported, and can contain inaccuracies about time and location. And the results can’t be directly extrapolated to the rest of the country, since they are specific to the shape and density of the city of Chicago.

A $200 million problem

Still, the study offers environmental policy-makers food for thought. In their conclusion, the researchers make a rough-sketch calculation as to how much pollution-induced crime is costing the U.S., assuming that the criminological effects of air pollution scales with population. Adding up all the tangibles—medical expenses, cash losses, property theft or damage, lost earnings, even the EPA’s statistical value of a life—they estimate (conservatively) that the country loses $100-200 million annually to pollution-induced crime.

For a relatively modest effect on crime (that 2.2 percent uptick), car pollution has significant aggregate costs. And that’s not even counting respiratory disease, cardiovascular inflammation, and all the other long-term outcomes of a brain that can’t quite cut through the smog.

The good news? U.S. cities are becoming way less polluted, on the whole. But for places like Los Angeles, Fresno, and Pittsburgh—which consistently rank as some of the nation’s worst places to breathe—the benefits of cleaner air just keep stacking up."
via:steelemaley  particulates  pollution  behavior  crime  chicago  environment  airpollution 
december 2015 by robertogreco
A mother's appeal: Pollution in Delhi is not just an elite concern
"Come winter, most children, irrespective of whether they live in plush Jorbagh or downmarket Jahangirpuri, will be prone to asthma attacks."

"Over the 20 years in which I have been working on environmental issues, one thing has remained constant – most policy makers in India feel that pollution is a concern of the elite. The country needs to deal with other urgent issues before it considers tackling pollution, they believe. Take the example of Delhi’s worsening air quality. Most policy makers feel that it is a concern for only the affluent folks of South Delhi. I do live in South Delhi, but doesn’t a child living in a slum colony breathe the same toxic fumes that my child does?

According to a 2010 study by the health department, 43% of children in Delhi have impaired lung capacity. This means that, come winter, most children, irrespective of whether they live in plush Jorbagh or downmarket Jahangirpuri, will be prone to asthma attacks. On Diwali night, when the pollution levels rose up to 40 times the permissible limits, all of us breathed the same toxic air. Many of us experienced ashtma attacks. The only difference being that the ones in Jorbagh managed to be able to rush their kids, in their own cars, to a nearby private hospital. The policy makers too breathe the same smoke-filled air. It makes wonder why they don’t take any concrete steps in their own selfish interest.

While we can keep discussing the numbers and the data but most specialists would agree that vehicles are responsible for around 40% of air pollution in Delhi. Large part of this is coming from an ever-increasing number of diesel vehicles in Delhi. We are perhaps the only country in the world that subsidises diesel so that rich can drive SUVs on this cheap fuel. My tax money is used to underwrite diesel that is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a class 1 carcinogen. Can it get more bizarre than this?

Who is influencing regressive policy making? Surely not the auto makers who are investing heavily in reducing pollution from their vehicles. But then these low-emission, BS VI standard, vehicles are meant for Europe, a continent with First World countries. Lungs in a Third World nation like ours can withstand more pollution and hence we allow the automakers to sell cars with a lesser standard, the BS IV, here.

However, this is not an anomaly for the policy makers who repeat their favourite story ad nauseam – the west too was very polluted once; pollution is a necessary evil for growth. This is old economics of the Kuznet curve era; ‘when a nation grows and becomes rich, it has resources to clean up its environment’. Now with better science, we know that climate change is irreversible so we can’t continue to pollute and then clean up later. With better technology, we can leap frog too. We don’t have to make the same mistakes.

Hunger, poverty and homelessness are urgent issues that we need to address here in India. But it is not a case of either/ or. Pollution impacts the poor and the rich and clean air is as fundamental and needs to be addressed now."
delhi  india  pollution  airquality  2015  reenagupta  policy  environment  health  airpollution 
december 2015 by robertogreco

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