British artist's Pollution Pods installed outside UN Building in New York

British artist's Pollution Pods installed outside UN Building in New York

The World Health Organisation has invited Dr Michael Pinsky to install his Pollution Pods in front of the UN Building for the Climate Action Summit on 23 September.

Pollution Pods pictured at Somerset House in London - they're now going to New York

The Pollution Pods are a series of geodesic domes visitors pass through to experience the pollution of five different locations on three continents: London, Beijing, Sao Paulo, New Delhi and Tautra - the latter is a remote peninsula near Trondheim in Norway. This immersive artwork was commissioned to change our perceptions of, and actions around, climate change and air pollution in cities. The pods are going up outside the UN in New York for the impending Climate Action Summit, where speakers include teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg. Pictured above: the Pollution Pods outside Somerset House in London last year

The World Health Organization says the health burden of toxic air pollution, which is largely driven by fossil fuel combustion, is staggering: nine in 10 people breath polluted air and seven million people die prematurely from air pollution-related diseases. Tackling climate change and ensuring everybody can breathe clean air, go hand in hand, says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO DG: 'We need to agree unequivocally on the need for a world free of air pollution. We need all countries and cities to commit to meeting WHO standards for air quality.'
 
Artist Michael Pinsky has created a series of geodesic domes whose air quality, smell and temperature accurately recreate the pollution of five different locations on three continents: London, Beijing, São Paulo, New Delhi and the Tautra peninsula in Norway. This immersive artwork was commissioned to get people to take air pollution seriously and to put pressure on governments to take action. The Pollution Pods have already been seen in London and they're about to go up on New York for the Climate Action Summit on 23 September. The summit intends to boost global climate commitments, accelerate the implementation of the Paris Agreement and protect our health from dangerous climate change. 
 
Summit visitors to the pods will pass through the climatically-controlled chambers to compare the air quality of global environments. All potentially harmful gases have been removed from the Tautra pod to allow them to experience what it's like to breathe truly clean air and compare it with that of the metropolises to follow, such as an emulation of London’s invisible but deadly output of nitrous oxide and New Delhi’s suffocating haze of airborne particles.
 
Pinsky says 'in the Pollution Pods, I have tried to distil the whole bodily sense of being in each place.  For instance, being in São Paulo seems like a sanctuary compared to New Delhi, until your eyes start to water from the sensation of ethanol, while Tautra is unlike any air you’ll have ever breathed before, it is so pure.
 
'By linking the pods we get the sense that the environments of the world – and particularly our impact on them – are interconnected.'
 
Environmental psychologist and Climart co-ordinator Prof. Dr. Christian A. Kloeckner of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) commissioned the artwork in 2018, explain: 'We wanted to assess the potential for art to impact behaviour around climate change. There are some horrific statistics that Michael’s research has brought to light, such as the fact that children are much more vulnerable to the effects of pollution as they tend to breathe more through their mouths and don't regulate their breathing to try to filter out pollution.' He says if people are immersed in an artwork that engenders a physical as well as an emotional response, our behavioural patterns will start to change. For example, more of us will dust off our bicyles and start cycling instead of driving. 
 
The Pollution Pods have been experienced by over 20,000 people since their launch at the Starmus Festival in Norway last June. After New York, the Pods will travel to Brussels to be installed outside the Parliament building in October.
 
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