The hazards of air pollution have been the subject of several studies, which have found it responsible for millions of deaths every year and linked it to strokes, heart attacks and various diseases.
Now, London-based American journalist Beth Gardiner puts together the story of air pollution’s effects on people in cities around the world. Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution is a chronicle of Gardiner’s travels around the world, from Washington to London to Poland’s coal heartland to New Delhi.
Along the way, Gardiner not only meets some of those suffering because of air pollution, besides researchers and campaigners, but also looks at political decisions and economic forces that have kept so many of us breathing dirty air. In the United States, for example, she examines how the Trump administration’s policies have begun to undo the regulations that had helped reduce pollution, putting decades of gains at risk. Making a case for the rules that protect the air, Choked argues that we hold the power to build a cleaner, healthier future.
In its review, The Guardian describes Gardiner’s coverage of Delhi: “In a lively report from Delhi, a megacity with perhaps the dirtiest air of all, she shows how, after initial success in the early 2000s with the introduction of compressed natural gas for motor vehicles, Indian authorities have repeatedly struggled and failed to tackle air pollution that is now at crisis levels. Some measures have penalised the poor and vulnerable without substantially reducing emissions. Meanwhile, emissions from coal-fired power plants persist almost unchecked.”
About the book, the reviewer writes: “Gardiner is nuanced but sharp in her judgments. She is concerned with the particularities of real lives as well as the particulates that often blight them. You couldn’t ask for a better guide for non-specialists and concerned citizens.”