Real Leaders

Will Inhaling the Pollution From 5 Major Cities Change Your Mind?

A series of domes containing pollution from cities around the world was placed in the Norwegian city of Trondheim and London earlier this year as part of an investigation by psychologists to ascertain whether art can change people’s perception of climate change.

The idea is the brainchild of British artist Michael Pinsky’s, who created the Pollution Pods installations — a series of five connecting domes that recreates the pollution from London, Beijing, São Paulo, New Delhi and Tautra in Norway. He decided that “smelling is believing,” and set out to give visitors an experience they would never forget.

A visitors walks through the Pollution Pods installation in the courtyard at Somerset House, London. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid

Pinsky filled five interconnected geodesic domes with carefully mixed recipes that emulated ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide — found in the air in some of the world’s major cities. Entering a first plastic-domed pod, visitors then passed through increasingly polluted cells, from dry and cold locations to hot and humid, giving them a firsthand experience of the air quality of that city.

Visitors stand inside one of the five domes to experience the air quality of a major global city. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid

The UK installation formed a circle in the center of Somerset House courtyard, one of London’s most renowned art centers. Visitors passed through the climatically controlled pods to compare the quality of different polluted global environments. The five Pollution Pods were linked, so that visitors were forced to pass through all of them to exit the installation. This visceral experience encapsulated the sense that the world – and our own impact on it – is interconnected.

The Pollution Pods installation in Norway. Photo: Thor Nielsen / NTNU

The release of toxic gases from domestic and industrial sources increase the rate of global warming and have a direct effect on our health. In the West, in cities such as London, one in five children suffer from asthma, while in developing countries such as Delhi, over half the children have stunted lung development and will never completely recover.

 British artist Michael Pinsky stands in front of his Pollution Pods. Photo: Peter Macdiarmid

Those living in the developed world have environments with relatively clean air, while people in countries such as China and India are being poisoned by airborne toxins created from industries that fulfill orders from the West. The experience of walking through the pollution pods demonstrates that these worlds are interconnected and interdependent. The desire for ever-cheaper goods is reflected in the ill-health of many people in the world and in the ill-health of our planet as a whole. “Within this installation people will be able to feel, taste and smell the toxic environments that are the norm for a huge swathe of the world’s population,” says Pinsky.

The Pollution Pods installation in Norway. Photo: Thor Nielsen / NTNU
Visitors experienced the air quality of 5 major global cities in a matter of minutes. Photo: Thor Nielsen / NTNU

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