Invisible Dust

London | Sunday 23 September
Pollution level: Moderate

Air Patrol: Pigeons and People


16/03/2016

One of Plume Labs' racing pigeons equipping with pollution sensor backpacks.

© Plume Labs. One of Plume Labs’ racing pigeons equipping with pollution sensor backpacks.

Methods of tackling and monitoring air pollution are forever evolving. This week technology company Plume Labs launched a new initiative to fight air pollution: pigeons wearing tiny backpacks carrying pollution sensors.

The flock of pigeons, released in London, are equipped with lightweight sensors able to monitor levels of nitrogen dioxide, ozone and volatile compounds. Londoners are able to track these pollution levels live via Twitter. By tweeting their location to @pigeonair users receive an instant reply from one of the pigeons informing them of the air quality in their area.

Racing pigeons are being used for the project, with a vet on hand to check the pigeons do not suffer any distress.

Meanwhile, ‘Change Maker’ volunteers have gone for a (human) face-to-face approach. On March 9th and 16th hundreds of volunteers took to the streets of six London boroughs. Volunteers wearing high-visibility jackets have been speaking to motorist to suggest parked drivers turn their engines off. They are also offering leaflets explaining the health impacts of vehicle emissions.

Both these projects offer the pubic an immediate way of engaging with the issue of air pollution in London. Air pollution issues seem more pressing than ever. This year London breached annual pollution limits after only one week, and it is thought that dozens of other UK cities (including Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Cardiff and Edinburgh) will continue to breach EU limits for air pollution for a minimum of five more years.

While the pigeons are enabling Londoners to engage with the impact air pollution has on them personally, the Change Makers are educating drivers on how small, individual, behavioural changes can help improve air quality.

Invisible Dust has several projects about air pollution, the current Kasia Molga’s ‘Human Sensor’ is our most ambitious yet. Performers will wear the first capes that monitor air pollution in Manchester in July 2016.

 

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