The problem of air pollution has been getting steadily worse over the past few decades, and it accounts for 4.2 million deaths every year, according to the World Health Organization.
With Earth Day taking place this week on Friday, April 22, air quality experts House Fresh set out to highlight the problem of air pollution. A team of designers from House Fresh applied visual effects to images of some of the world's most iconic cities, showing how bad things could get if more isn't done to change the course.
It's worth noting that the images aren't so far removed from reality. The designers were all tasked with emulating the conditions in Ghaziabad, India, which is frequently ranked as the "most polluted city worldwide."
The impressive images can be compared to the real thing with the help of a slider. Let's hope things never get this bad on such a global scale. Take a look below.
The Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan, New York is one of the city's most iconic regions. Though the skies in the regular image above look relatively harmless compared to the smoggy alternative, the Department of Environmental Protection states that six percent of deaths in NYC annually are connected to air pollution.
Once again, the image above makes London's clear skies look innocuous by comparison. Still, last year, London's mayor Sadiq Kahn outlined a 10-point plan aimed at reducing air pollution. He stated that "there is a significant peak in concentrations during the morning school run."
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer statue is one of its most iconic landmarks, and the image above imagines how the skyline would look if the Praia de Ipanema below were barely visible due to smog. After securing the 2016 Olympics, Rio failed to reduce air pollution to "within the limits recommended by the World Health Organization," one of the promises it made as part of its bid.
In 2019, a court ruled that the French state had failed to take the necessary action required to lower air pollution levels in Paris. The landmark court ruling came after a mother and daughter claimed their health had deteriorated while living next to a busy ring road in the French capital.
Today, Tokyo's air pollution levels remain two points above the WHO's recommended guideline figure. This, despite regulations aimed at reducing industrial and vehicular pollution since World War II.
Clearly, more has to be done. As one recent study points out, half of the world's population is exposed to increasing air pollution. The pandemic may have slightly lowered air pollution levels in 2020, but we are facing an upward trajectory that will have to be stopped if we are to progress as a civilization and avert crisis.