The Parrot and the Igloo Notes

The Fine Noses

86   M. I. Budyko: Budyko never lost belief in carbon-dioxide warming, even in the clouded post-1960 years. “Professor Mikhal Budyko of the Soviet Hydrometeorological Service, for one, discounts the significance of the recent cooling trend,” the Times reported in 1970, “and warns that over a longer term the climate has actually been getting warmer because of human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels.”

Alan Anderson Jr., “Forecast For Forecasting,” The New York Times, December 29, 1974.


86   sulfur dioxide directly into the stratosphere: Ken Caldeira, Govindasamy Bala, “Reflections on 50 Years of Geoengineering Research,” Earth’s Future 5, American Geophysical Union, January 2017.


Budyko’s proposal to place aerosols in the stratosphere was first described in his 1977 book Climatic Changes [Budyko, 1977]. The book originally appeared in the Russian language in 1974. Budyko estimated that about 200,000 tons of sulfur would need to be placed in the stratosphere to offset the warming that occurred between 1920 and 1940.


Jonathan Weiner, The Next One Hundred Years, Bantam 1990. Chapter 11, “The New Question,” 230.


86   Coal spins the turbines: As of 1972, one decade after the Weather Bureau announcement of worldwide cooling. “Most of the pollution results from the burning of coal, which is used to generate half of all U.S. electric power.”

The above from Harper’s—where environmental journalist Anthony Wolff then gives the full fossil fuel tally:


The burning of coal, oil, and natural gas to produce electric power accounts for approximately 20 per cent (5.5 million tons per year) of the particulates, or soot; twenty per cent (4 million tons per year) of the nitrogen oxides; and 50 percent (17 million tons) of the sulfur oxides polluting the air we breathe. These are three of the five most serious air pollutants certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection agency, and all three have been convincingly indicted as threats to human health and longevity. In addition, sulfur oxides attack vegetation, and combine with water vapor into sulfuric acid to corrode a wide range of materials from nylon to limestone. Nitrogen dioxide is best known as the key ingredient of photochemical smog.


Anthony Wolff, “The Price of Power,” Harper’s, May 1972.


86   still lighting our cities with smoke: For example, as of mid-century—around the time the hot-house began appearing in American newspapers—the number one smoke producer in New York City was Consolidated Edison: for electric power generation.

Robert L. Heilbroner, “What Goes Up the Chimney,” Harper’s Magazine, January 1951. The point, he writes, “is not that Consolidated Edison is blameless for the smoke nuisance in New York City; on the contrary it is the single largest producer of smoke in the city.”

And this nugget from Heilbroner’s work appeared in the chapter about Donora and the tire prints.

“In New York City, for example, the four huge stacks of the Waterside plant of the Consolidated Edison Company tower over the East River like tubes torn from the Queens Midtown Tunnel . . . The stacks carry into the air the waste from four huge boilers each as large as a four-story building. And they smoke: ten thousand pounds of dirt pour out of the stacks every day,” he writes. “Each day something like ten million pounds of coal or oil is poured into its boilers. From this enormous quantity of fuel comes a half million pounds of smoke.” And of course, this next wasn’t being measured by Con Edison or Harper’s in 1951. One gallon of gasoline produces about 18.7 pounds of carbon dioxide; 22.4 pounds from each gallon of heating oil; and a pound of coal releases 2.07 pounds of CO2.


86   acid rain is responsible: Wallace Broecker, Robert Kunzig, Fixing Climate: What Past Climate Changes Reveal About the Current Threat—and How To Counter It, Hill and Wang | Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2008. Chapter Sixteen, “Fixing Climate,” 227.

As of 2008, when Broecker was offering his sulfur recommendation. Per the WHO and 2018, ambient air pollution in general (of which sulfur dioxide is a major component; the other three being particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide) is responsible for about 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide.

Accessed 9-17-22.


86   “the sort of experiment”: Broecker, Kunzig, Fixing Climate, 227.


87   “Scientists Dream Up Bold Remedies”: William J. Broad, “Scientists Dream Up Bold Remedies For Ailing Atmosphere,” The New York Times, August 16, 1988.


87   Travel agency costs: Broecker, Kunzig, Fixing Climate, 227.


87   “A rational society needs”: William J. Broad, “Scientists Dream Up Bold Remedies For Ailing Atmosphere,” The New York Times, August 16, 1988.


87   “How to Cool a Planet (Maybe)”: William J. Broad, “How to Cool a Planet (Maybe),” The New York Times, June 27, 2006.


87   got behind the basic concept: Robert Kunzig, Carl Zimmer, “Carbon Cuts And Techno-Fixes: 10 Things To Do About The Greenhouse Effect; Some Of Which Aren’t Crazy,” Discover, June 1, 1998.

National Academy of Sciences, Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming: Mitigation, Adaption, and the Science Base, National Academies Press 1992, pps 447–453.


87   shoot sulfur dioxide shells: Robert Kunzig, Carl Zimmer, “Carbon Cuts And Techno-Fixes: 10 Things To Do About The Greenhouse Effect; Some Of Which Aren’t Crazy,” Discover, June 1, 1998.


87      In 1997, Edward Teller: Edward Teller, “The Planet Needs A Sunscreen,” The Wall Street Journal, October 17, 1997.

For a sense of how geoengineering looked a quarter-century ago, the piece is posted at Stanford’s (conversative) Hoover Institution.

Accessed 9-18-22.


88      “appears to be a promising approach”: William J. Broad, “How to Call A Planet (Maybe),” The New York Times, June 27, 2006.


By 1997, such futuristic visions found a prominent advocate in Edward Teller, a main inventor of the hydrogen bomb. “Injecting sunlight-scattering particles into the stratosphere appears to be a promising approach,” Dr. Teller wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “Why not do that?”


88      Nobel scientist Paul Crutzen: William J. Broad, “How to Call A Planet (Maybe),” The New York Times, June 27, 2006.

The Cicerone being quoted below is scientist Ralph Cicerone, then president of the National Academy of Sciences.


Practicing what he preaches, Dr. Cicerone is also encouraging leading scientists to join the geoengineering fray. In April, at his invitation, Roger P. Angel, a noted astronomer at the University of Arizona, spoke at the academy’s annual meeting. Dr. Angel outlined a plan to put into orbit small lenses that would bend sunlight away from earth — trillions of lenses, he now calculates, each about two feet wide, extraordinarily thin and weighing little more than a butterfly.

In addition, Dr. Cicerone recently joined a bitter dispute over whether a Nobel laureate’s geoengineering ideas should be aired, and he helped get them accepted for publication. The laureate, Paul J. Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, is a star of atmospheric science who won his Nobel in 1995 for showing how industrial gases damage the earth’s ozone shield. His paper newly examines the risks and benefits of trying to cool the planet by injecting sulfur into the stratosphere.

The paper “should not be taken as a license to go out and pollute,” Dr. Cicerone said in an interview, emphasizing that most scientists thought curbing greenhouse gases should be the top priority. But he added, “In my opinion, he’s written a brilliant paper.”

Geoengineering is no magic bullet, Dr. Cicerone said. But done correctly, he added, it will act like an insurance policy if the world one day faces a crisis of overheating, with repercussions like melting icecaps, droughts, famines, rising sea levels and coastal flooding.

“A lot of us have been saying we don’t like the idea” of geoengineering, he said. But he added, “We need to think about it” and learn, among other things, how to distinguish sound proposals from ones that are ineffectual or dangerous.


88      “The very best would be”: Paul Crutzen, “Albedo Enhancement By Stratospheric Sulfur Injections: A Contribution To Resolve A Policy Dilemma?”, Climatic Change (2006) 77.


88      “People used to say”: William J. Broad, “How to Call A Planet (Maybe),” The New York Times, June 27, 2006.


88      fume wrestling: Pulitzer-winning science writer Jonathan Weiner, in The Next One Hundred Years, sees a drug analogy. The airborne release “would form droplets of sulfuric acid,” he writes. “This would wrap the planet in a white shroud. . . We would counterbalance a hothouse August like 1988 with an icehouse August like 1816 [see below]—popping downers as a cure for uppers.”

Weiner, The Next One Hundred Years, Chapter 11, “The New Question,” 230.


88      the air had become so thick: For example, Drew Shindell, Greg Faluvegi, “Climate Response To Regional Radiative Forcing During the Twentieth Century,” Nature Geoscience, 2, April 2009.

A good easy summary is in the 2009 Presidential Address by the head of the American Academy for Advancement of Society James McCarthy (his day job was Harvard prof). McCarthy is speaking about G. S. Callendar.


He may well have been puzzled by the apparent leveling off or downward trend in the Earth’s average surface temperature during the 1940s and 1950s. It would be decades later before it could be shown that the anthropogenic release of reflective aerosols, in addition to natural processes, contributed to a slight cooling during this period even though the CO2 content of the atmosphere was continuing to increase.


James McCarthy, “Reflections On Our Planet and Its Life, Origins, and Futures,” Presidential Address, 175th Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science, December 18, 2009.


88      canceling the greenhouse: Spencer Weart, “Aerosols: Volcanoes, Dust, Clouds and Climate,” The Discovery of Global Warming, American Institute of Physics.

Accessed 9-20-22.


But the new results incorporating aerosols did give, for the first time ever, a plausible and consistent accounting of the main features of 20th-century climate. In particular, it seemed likely that industrial pollution had temporarily depressed Northern Hemisphere temperatures in mid century. As Bryson had speculated back in the 1970s, the effects of aerosol emissions from human industry were comparable to the effects of a large volcanic eruption. These results led directly to a 1995 announcement by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that human influence on climate had probably become discernible. Global warming might have become evident decades earlier, but for the overlooked cooling effect of aerosols.


For more real-time, battlefront reporting, here’s the 1974 book The Weather Machine. The text has already discussed the cooling effect—dust, air, reflected sunlight—of volcanoes. Nigel Calder, The Weather Machine, BBC 1974. Chapter Two, “Causes and Effects: The Human Volcano,” 76-7.


The strong warming during the early part of this century is explained by [Dr. Reid] Bryson as due both to a waning of volcanic activity and an increase in the carbon dioxide in the air by man’s burning of coal and oil. As scientists have recognized for a long time, carbon dioxide probably warms the earth, by the ‘greenhouse effect’. Like glass, it lets the sunlight pass to the Earth’s surface, but absorbs some of the heat rays, at infra-red wavelengths, emitted by the warm Earth. Water vapour acts in a similar way.

After 1930, the ‘human volcano’ supervened, according to Bryson. Growing numbers of busy people all over the world were producing smoke and dust, not just from industry but from careless agriculture too as the wind caught up the dust from overgrazed or overworked land. This addition to the air’s natural burden of dust has, according to Bryson, overcome the warming due to carbon dioxide.


Weiner, in The Next One Hundred Years, quotes Bryson too. On non-human volcanoes. This is from Chapter Seven, “The Seven Spheres,” 131.


Volcanoes may already have fought off the greenhouse effect for us once, according to Reid Bryson, director of the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. During the years 1945 to 1975, as we have seen, the planet cooled in spite of the build-up of greenhouse gases. In those same years, Bryson says, the annual number of volcanic eruptions was double the average: it shot up from less than twenty per year to almost forty per year. Bryson has reexamined measurements of the Solar Constant made from Mauna Loa and other mountaintops during those years. He thinks the opacity of the atmosphere doubled, too. The volcanoes were fighting the heat.


88      Mount Tambora: For Tambora’s far-flung impact, see Gillen D’arcy Wood, “The Volcano That Changed the Course of History: After the tsunami and famine came cholera, opium, and failed Arctic expeditions,” Slate, April 9, 2014. The piece was commemorating Tambora’s 199-year anniversary: the explosion’s start is here dated April 9, 1815.

Accessed 9-25-22.


88      That winter: William K. Klingaman, Nicholas P. Klingaman, The Year Without A Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History, St. Martin’s Press 2013.

Chapter Two, “Portents,” 17-8. The Italian fall was “the heaviest snow every known in that country.” The Klingamans are quoting contemporary reports; it has that non-media sound. “A greater quantity of snow [fell] than has ever been known in the memory of man.”

“More astonishing,” the Klingamans stress, “was the nature of the precipitation. The snow ‘was of a red and yellow color.’” The Hungarian snow “reportedly covered houses to the rooftops, and killed more than ten thousand sheep.” Here again, the big thing was hue. “The snow was not white, but brown or flesh colored.”


88      Summer snows in New England: Bangor Daily News, in Collaboration with the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, “Our Changing World: Understanding the Science of Climate Change,” “Impact 1816: Volcanic eruption in Indonesia made for ‘Year Without a Summer’ in Maine,” Bangor Daily News, January 12, 2006.”

Accessed 9-25-22.


88      Summer snows in New England: Vermonters, Professor D’Arcy Wood tells us, got by on “hedgehogs and boiled nettles.” In China’s Yunnan province, farmers “sucked on white clay.”

Gillian D’Arcy Wood, Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World, Princeton University Press 2014. Introduction, “Frankenstein’s Weather,” 9.

Weiner gives a sort of I-95 East Coast roundup.


In Vermont, Hiram Harwood wrote in his diary that corn was “badly killed and was difficult to see.” In Connecticut, Calvin Mansfield wrote, “Great frost—we must learn to be humble. In Manhattan, songbirds dropped dead of exposure on Wall Street. As far south as Virginia, the distinguished farmer Thomas Jefferson lost so much corn at Monticello that he had to apply to his agent for a $1000 loan. The year passed into Yankee folklore as “Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death.”


Weiner, 129-30.


88      Swiss ate moss: Bernice de Jong Boers, “Mount Tambora in 1815: A Volcanic Eruption in Indonesia and Its Aftermath,” Indonesia (Cornell University Press), October 1995. Other “famine foods” included sorrel and “cat flesh.”

In Tambora, D’Arcy Wood dwells on some grim Swiss details.


Inevitably some Swiss authorities overreacted. Thieves were beheaded and minor pilfery punished with whipping. Most shocking of all was the fate of some desperate mothers. In horrific circumstances repeated around the world in the Tambora period, some Swiss families abandoned their offspring in the crisis, while others chose killing their children as the more humane course. For this crime, some starving women were apprehended and decapitated.


Wood, Tambora, Chapter Three, “This End of the World Weather,” 64.


88      in France and England there were grain riots: France: Weiner, 130; in England, the riots were known as “Bread or Blood,” and were, according to Klingamans “remarkably well-mannered.” Klingaman, The Year Without A Summer, Chapter Five, “Day After Day,” 108.

Per D’Arcy Wood, the English protests weren’t quote as decorous. “Armed laborers bearing flags with the slogan ‘Bread or Blood’ marched on the cathedral town of Ely, held its magistrates hostage, and fought a pitched battle against the militia. In Somersetshire [which sounds like a computer-generated British township], three thousand coal miners took over the local mine in their desperation over sky-high bread prices. When asked what they wanted, they replied, ‘full wages, and that they were starving.’”

There’s a kind of wonderful dignity in the declaration’s flatness. D’Arcy Wood goes on, “The local magistrate responded by reading the Riot Act, threatening all malingerers with death, and sending in the militia to attack the crowd with ‘immense bludgeons.’” Wood, Tambora, 61.


89      the sunset pictures of J.M.W. Turner: Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Broadway Books 2003. Chapter 27, “Ice Time,” 419. Bryson adds this was the same year Lord Byron composed his poem “Darkness”—inspired, Bryson writes, by the “deathly dimness.”


I had a dream, which was not all a dream.

The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars

Did wander darkling in the eternal space,

Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth

Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;

Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,

And men forgot their passions in the dread

Of this their desolation; and all hearts

Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light


89      Foul weather: Bill Bryson also provides a round-up. A sense of what drastic change in the weather can produce, or undo.


Spring never came and summer never warmed: 1816 became known as the year without summer. Crops everywhere failed to grow. In Ireland a famine and associated typhoid epidemic killed sixty-five thousand people. In New England, the year became popularly known as Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death. Morning frosts continued until June and almost no planted seed would grow. Short of fodder, livestock died or had to be prematurely slaughtered. In every way it was a dreadful year—almost certainly the worst for farmers in modern times. Yet globally the temperature fell by only about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Earth’s natural thermostat, as scientists would learn, is an exceedingly delicate instrument.


Bryson, ibid.


89      launched the horror genre: The Vampyre written, weirdly, by Lord Byron’s physician, Dr. John Polidori.

Everyone had camped out that non-summer at a chateau on Lake Geneva. The Vampyre short story, writes Brian Bethune in Maclean’s, “was a hit at the time, spawning a vampire craze that worked itself into unlikely literary nooks—in Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff’s housekeeper suspects her master of being a vampire. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), and Bela Lugosi later, revived the genre by tying the vampire story to themes of sex, blood, death and aristocratic glamour.”

Frankenstein, Bethune goes on, paraphrasing Gillen D’Arcy Wood (see above), was “the signature literary production of the year without a summer.” As Bethune explains, all the atmospherics we associate with the story—the electrical flashes, the shambling walk, the angry astonished eyes—have their generative moment in that gray summer.


Everything Shelley saw at the château and on her way there made its way into her novel about the electrical creation of life. One storm follows on another, she wrote her half-sister in England, including one in which Lake Geneva “was lit up, the pines on Jura made visible, and all the scene illuminated for an instant, when a pitchy blackness succeeded, and the thunder came in frightful bursts over our heads amid the blackness.” More subtly but unmistakably, she incorporated Switzerland’s starving peasantry in her tale. She imagines Frankenstein [waking] from a nightmare to find his hideous creation at his bedside, “looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes.” That echoes a refrain among English tourists of the era. One, on the road from Rome to Naples in 1817, after a second failed harvest tipped the rural poor into outright famine, recorded in his diary “the livid aspect of the miserable inhabitants.” (When the traveller asked how they lived, these “animated spectres” replied simply: “We die.”)


Brian Bethune, “How A Volcanic Eruption Made 1816 the Year Without A Summer: Out of utter devastation, came great enduring art including Frankenstein and Dracula,” Maclean’s, March 12, 2013.

Accessed 9-25-22.


89      A non-fantastic way: This is the popular-economists Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, from their popular-economics sequel Superfreakonomics. Levitt and Dubner are grappling with the geoengineering notions of Nathan Myhrvold, former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft. And manage to make readers feel weird about sulfur dioxide.


Volcanoes erupt all the time, all over the world, but truly “big-ass” ones are rare. If they weren’t—well, we probably wouldn’t be around to worry about global warming. . . What distinguishes a big-ass volcano isn’t just how much stuff it ejaculates, but where the ejaculate goes. The typical volcano sends sulfur dioxide into the troposphere, the atmospheric layer closest to the earth’s surface. This is similar to what a coal-burning power plant does with its sulfur emissions.


The difference—to extend the writers’ slightly repugnant metaphor—is duration and size. With power plants and a standard volcano, gas lingers about a week, then makes its sizzling return as acid rain.


But a big volcano shoots sulfur dioxide far higher, into the stratosphere. That’s the layer that begins at about seven miles above the earth’s surface, or six miles at the poles. Above that threshold altitude, there is a drastic change in a variety of atmospheric phenomena. The sulfur dioxide, rather than quickly returning to the earth’s surface, absorbs stratospheric water vapor and forms an aerosol cloud that circulates rapidly, blanketing most of the globe. In the stratosphere, sulfur dioxide can linger for a year or more, and will thereby affect the global climate.


Steven Levitt, Stephen Dubner, Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance,” William Morrow 2009. Chapter Five, “What Do Al Gore And Mount Pinatubo Have In Common?”, 189-190.


89      English use: John Hatcher, The History of the British Coal Industry: Volume I: Before 1700: Towards the Age of Coal, Oxford University Press 1993. Chapter Two, “The Era of Cheap Fuel From Early Times to the Mid-Sixteenth Century,” 22. “Commercial mining and a trade in coal did exist, however, and from at least as early as the first half of the thirteenth century many of the uses to which coal was to be put in later centuries were already in evidence.”


89      began in the thirteenth century: Christine L. Corton, London Fog: The Biography, Belknap | Harvard University Press 2015. Chapter 1, “The Birth of London Fog.”

“‘Sea-coal’ was originally a term for coal that could be found washed up on the beach from seams open beneath the sea,” writes Corton. “This could be collected easily from the seashore, but later the term seems to have been used for any coal brought to London by sea. Peter Brimblecombe notes that there was a street in London called Sacoles Lane as early as 1228, writing that ‘it does signify a very early beginning to the importation of coal into London.’”


89      coal was going to be: This reader has never forgotten one particular detail about the British coal industry. It comes from Gale Christianson’s Greenhouse.

Around the turn of the last century, freight was hauled through the mines by pit ponies. “When they were old enough, the terrified beasts were trussed and lowered into the shaft, where they labored for years in the enveloping darkness, going blind for lack of exposure to natural light.”

A young man named Thomas Jordan wrote a memoir about his own experience in the mines. This is from Christianson’s book.


Once, during a prolonged labor strike, the ponies were hoisted to the surface and allowed to roam free across the green fields of Durham, where they nibbled fresh shoots and rolled on the warm pasture for the first time in years. Jordan was so moved he wept.


Then the strike was settled, Christianson writes, “The miner’s heart broke as he watched the ponies being rounded up and lowered back into the abyss.”

Gale E. Christianson, Greenhouse: The 200 Year Story of Global Warming, Penguin 2000. Chapter Four, “Quest For the Black Diamond,” 39-40.


89      In 1257, Queen Eleanor: John Hatcher, The History of the British Coal Industry: Volume I: Before 1700: Towards the Age of Coal, Oxford University Press 1993. Chapter Two, “The Era of Cheap Fuel From Early Times to the Mid-Sixteenth Century,” 26.

Barbara Freese, Coal: A Human History, Basic Books 2003. Chapter Two, “The Best Stone in Britain,” 24. This section is indebted to Freese’s history. Chapter One, for example, has one of those titles that sticks in the head, helping a reader grasp an essential concept: “A Portable Climate.” Freese is highlighting a quote from Emerson; coal turning climate portable the way Edison and the bulb turned daylight portable, the way the telegraph and phonograph and movies made moments and data portable. The Emerson:


Every basket is power and civilization. For coal is a portable climate. It carries the heat of the tropics to Labrador and the polar circle; and it is the means of transporting itself whithersoever it is wanted. Watt and Stephenson whispered in the ear of mankind their secret, that a half-ounce of coal will draw two tons a mile, and coal carries coal, by rail and by boat, to make Canada as warm as Calcutta; and with its comfort brings its industrial power.


Freese, Coal, Chapter One, “A Portable Climate,” 10.


89      “unendurable”: Tom Huddleston, “The Facts Behind the Smoke; The City, Beset With Obnoxious Fumes And Soot, Is Learning It Must Pay Through The Nose For A Breath Of Free, Fresh Air,” The New York Times, November 25, 1951.


89      Third offense, death: Robert Earle Galbraith, These Our Moderns, T. Nelson & Sons, 1933. 58.

The New Yorker included the law in a 1931 Talk of the Town piece, noting that one coppersmith was indeed hung. “They got somewhere in those days,” concludes the writer. The New Yorker, Talk of the Town, “Old King Coal,” January 3, 1931.


89      coal was cheap: In History of the British Coal Industry, Hatcher calls the move “from wood to coal” an “unremitting, irreversible shift.” Imports (to London) of 50,000 annual tons in the 1580s became 150,000 tons around the 1600 of Shakespeare’s time; by the end of that century, Londoners were burning about 425,000 tons per year.

John Hatcher, The History of the British Coal Industry: Volume I: Before 1700: Towards the Age of Coal, Oxford University Press 1993. Chapter Two, “The Era of Cheap Fuel From Early Times to the Mid-Sixteenth Century.” 41.


89      gave the coal ban another go: Duane Lockard, Coal: A Memoir and Critique, University of Virginal Press 1998. Chapter One, “Notes on the History of an Industry,” 12.

Peter Brimblecombe, Robert L. Maynard, The Urban Atmosphere and its Effects, World Scientific 2001, 131.


89      “Some fine-nosed city dames”: The original pamphleteer’s flap copy is too good not to give verbatim:

Artificiall Fire: Or Coale for Rich and Poore. This Being the Offer of an Excellent New Invention, by Mr. Richard Gesling Ingineer, (late Deceased) But Now Thought Fit to be Put in Practice. Read, Practice, Judge. Anonymous, 1644.

This reader loves the circumstantiality. “(Late Deceased) But Now Thought Fit to be Put in Practice.”


89      the sweet coal fires: Quoted in David Mason, The Life of John Milton, Vol. III 1643-1649, Macmillan, 1873. 36. Mason adds, “It was a usually severe winter, cold and snowy. And Londoners, in especial, deprived of their coal from Newcastle, felt it severely.”

Also in John Hatcher, The History of the British Coal Industry: Volume I: Before 1700: Towards the Age of Coal, Oxford University Press 1993. Chapter 3, “From Abundance to Scarcity | Fuel Shortage and the Rise of coal, 1550-1700.” I’ve modernized punctuation and spelling: coal was then known as “Seacoal”—shipped from axiomatic Newcastle, but originally found in wash-ups along the ocean shore.

And in Richard Rhodes, Energy: A Human History, Simon and Schuster 2018. Chapter One, “No Wood No Kingdom,” 11.


90      among London’s teenaged chimney sweeps: By the pioneer English physician Percivall Pott: it’s “been cited as the first description of an occupational cancer.”

John R. Brown, John L. Thornton, “Percivall Pott (1714-1788) and Chimney Sweepers’ Cancer of the Scrotum,” British Journal of Industrial Medicine, January 1957.
Accessed 9-17-22.

Brimblecombe, Maynard, The Urban Atmosphere and its Effects, 131.


90      cancer of the scrotum: Percivall Pott, Chirurgical Observations Relative to the Cataract, the Polypus of the Nose, the Cancer of the Scrotum, the Different Kinds of Ruptures, and the Mortification of the Toes and Feet, 1775.

In the trade, the cancer was known as a soot-wart.

You can feel Dr. Pott’s demoralized empathy. “The fate of these people seems singularly hard,” he writes. “In their early infancy, they are most frequently treated with great brutality, and almost starved with cold and hunger; they are thrust up narrow and sometimes hot chimnies [sic], where they are bruised, burned, and almost suffocated; and when they get to puberty, become peculiarly liable to a most noisome, painful, and fatal disease.”

Quoted in Brown, John L. Thornton, “Percival Pott,” British Journal of Industrial Medicine, January 1957.


90      In 1873, the first deaths: December 1873, a yellow fog. In London Fog: The Biography (Belknap | Harvard University Press 2015) Christine L. Corton puts the death toll at 780, along with 50 prize cows. (There was an agricultural show at the time.) Mark Twain, on lecture tour, told his audience, “Ladies & gentlemen, I hear you, & so know that you are here — & I am here, too, notwithstanding I am not visible.

Quoted in Sabrina Tavernise, “A Lesson for India in a Fog So Thick It Could Kill a Cow,” The New York Times, November 10, 2016.

David Urbinato, “London’s Historic ‘Pea-Soupers,’” EPA Journal, Summer 1994.

Accessed 9-26-22.


90      In 1905, first use of the word smog: Coined by the scientist H. A. Des Vouex of the London Coal Smoke Abatement Society. That is, the word “smog” wasn’t solely descriptive; it was also propaganda.


90      in the defense-contracting business: Arthur C. Verge, “The Impact of the Second World War on Los Angeles,” Pacific Historical Review, Vol 63 No 4, August 1994.


No other American urban center was so transformed by the war . . . Los Angeles, bolstered by massive federal defense spending, emerged in the war as an industrial giant whose production of vital defense goods, such as warships and planes, helped turn the war in the Allies’ favor.


90      1,500 factories to around 8,500: Ed Ainsworth, “Victory Over Smog to Take Time, McCabe Tells Council,” The Los Angeles Times, November 27, 1948.

Chip Jacobs, William J. Kelly, Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, Henry R. Abrams 2008. Chapter Two, “Paradise Obscured,” 56.

Historian Arthur Verge gives the breakdown in Pacific Historical Review. “4,000 separate ‘war plants’” were located in Los Angeles as of 1944; the aircraft industry, “at its lowest postwar employment level was still nearly 400% above its 1939 prewar level. The shipbuilding industry, which suffered an 81% decline in employment between its wartime peak and October 1945, nevertheless exceeded its 1939 level by over 500%. . .

“So powerful was the war’s impact that the once ‘small town’ of Los Angeles had by 1943 become home to one in 40 Americans.” Arthur Verge, “The Impact of the Second World War on Los Angeles,” Pacific Historical Review, Vol 63 No 4, August 1994.


90      seven days a week: Ed Ainsworth, “Fight to Banish Smog, Bring Sun Back to City Pressed,” The Los Angeles Times, October 13, 1946.


90      In 1943, for the first time: Lawrence E. Davies, “Pacific States,” The New York Times, November 3, 1946.


90      plus a new phenomenon, smog tears: The Los Angeles Times, “Smog Cleanup Called Slow and Unglamorous Process,” January 28, 1947. And for poetry, The Los Angeles Times, “L.A. Bogged in Smog—Tears Fall Like Rain,” September 25, 1954.

Among the wrong guesses: The Los Angeles Times, “Chlorine In Air Held Cause Of ‘Smog Tears,’” April 18, 1946.

Time, “Airborne Dump,” April 25, 1949, “McCabe believes that eye irritation is a direct result of smog, and that when he solves the smog problem, Angelenos will be able to stop dabbing their eyes.”

Jacobs, Kelly, Smogtown, Chapter Four, “L.A. Against the World,” 103.

Angelinos might’ve become cheerful about air quality, they contend,


had they not been dabbling smog tears so continually. These tears had gestalt for the era. While New York City’s iconic images featured forlorn diners and partying at Times Square, Southern California’s vintage shots had veered away from normal celebrity portraits. The classic L.A. pose now was the commoners’ wince: old ladies wiping tears, cops tamping little girls’ faces.


90      This was Los Angeles’ war weather: One of those details that sticks in the head: Homemakers said laundry hung on the line “turned gray with dirt.”

Dr. Lauren B. Hitchcock, “Will Smog Strangle Your City?”, The Los Angeles Times, Jan 22, 1956.


90      gave Southern Californians an unaccustomed view: Ed Ainsworth, “Fight To Banish Smog, Bring Sun Back To City Pressed,” The Los Angeles Times, October 13, 1946.      

Ainsworth goes on, “For years now the sun has been something of a mystery here. Presumably, it was rising and setting as the almanacs indicated it should. But through the pall of ‘smog’ which settled over Los Angeles in 1943 and has persisted with exasperating firmness ever since, it hardly ever was visible to the naked eye.”


90      No one could remember smog before 1943: Ed Ainsworth, “Fight To Banish Smog, Bring Sun Back To City Pressed,” The Los Angeles Times, October 13, 1946.

“Until 1943, the thing we now know so intimately as ‘smog’ was virtually unknown.”

Chip Jacobs and William Kelly, for their history Smogtown, give the check-in date: July 8, 1943.

Chip Jacobs, William J. Kelly, Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, Henry N. Abrams 2008. Chapter 1, “State of Siege,” 13.


90      pinned the blame on rug-beating and dust-mops: This attempt at diagnosis made the Times especially ticked off.

The Los Angeles Times, “Stopping Dust Mops Will Not Cure Our Smog,” September 13, 1945. “Instead, he [the expert] suspects the householder and the housewife. Rug-beating is a minor factor and we can’t cure smog by eliminating dust mops. Maybe we can’t cure it at all, but we can make a better try than this.”

A few months later. “The puzzled resident . . . remembers another expert’s recommendation—that rug beating and shaking out of dust mops be halted. He remains puzzled.” The Los Angeles Times, “Are the Dumps the Real Smog Villains?”, January 15, 1946.

They just couldn’t leave it alone. The Los Angeles Times, “Another Round in the Cities vs. the Smog,” May 19, 1946. “Another expert struggled for two years with the smog problem and came up with the explanation that two of the chief causes are rug beating and dust-mop shaking.”


90      bad air and no sun: The Los Angeles Times, “Mayors Back Smog Fight: Representatives of 26 Cities Discuss Uniform County Law,” May 9, 1946. As the paper reported,


If “Sunny California” is to remain “Sunny California,” so far as Los Angeles County is concerned, then something has to be done and done soon about the pall of smoke and fumes that has constantly hung over the area since industry here was thrown into high gear for war production.


The Los Angeles Times, “The Smog Battle: Man Who Organized the First Campaign Gives His Answers,” November 19, 1953. The interviewee was chairman of the L.A. County Citizens Committee on Air Pollution and a hotelier: President of Pasadena’s Huntington Hotel. (The HBO series Westworld shot there. So did Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3: Viva La Fiesta.)


Q. Weren’t you the first man in Southern California to begin organizing the fight against smog?

A. I think so. I sensed the harm it would do to the tourist trade in 1945. People came here for the sun and the climate. Air pollution was affecting our sunshine. We have a greater natural asset than any tourist community and it is being ruined by smog.


90      enough Minnesota and pack up their cars: See the (terrifying for just about any Chamber of Commerce) headline: “Beautiful, Sunny California, Eh? Los Angeles Now No. 1 Smog Town,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 9, 1946.

Quoted in Newsweek, “Los Angeles: Forgotten Sun,” December 23, 1946. Which is of course way worse; to have it go national.

“Some days last week the smog was so bad that visibility was less than two blocks. Pilots complained that they had trouble finding the airfield . . . Plainly, Los Angeles’s condition had become far too conspicuous to hush up. All the country’s tourists might eventually be infected by propaganda headlines.”

Which did begin to happen. “Smog Blamed for Slump In Tourist Trade Here,” Los Angeles Times, January 20, 1950. Occupancy at some hotels was down fifty percent. It had begun to worry Conrad Hilton. “It seems to me that we have had some bad advertising on account of this smog,” said the Hilton Hotels man. “I saw one photograph in an eastern magazine in which it seemed that you could even see particles in the air. This would have the tendency to keep people away from California. There’s no question but that Los Angeles has a black eye, nationwide, about its smog.”


90      declared a city emergency: They came to call it their campaign. “The first year of a community-wide campaign, led by The Times,” the editorial board explained, on the last day of 1947. The Los Angeles Times, “One Year in the Smog Fight,” December 31, 1947.

The date given for campaigning’s start was autumn 1946. “The Times has reported periodically on the progress of the offensive against smog, which it launched October 12, 1946.” The Los Angeles Times, “How Goes the Smog Fight,” November 22, 1947.


A lot of productive things evolved from the smog fight—it predated Donora, and lent the idea of a city actively fighting air pollution broad currency. Los Angeles, after all, was a spot where the country’s moods got made. In a sense, the postwar smog campaign is the city government version of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring: a firm statement of the problem, which thus includes the obligation to solve it.

In fact, the impetus came from the publisher’s marriage. “The Los Angeles Times made banishing smog a pet issue during late 1946 and 1947 after Dorothy Chandler, wife of Times publisher Norman Chandler, was appalled by the vile atmosphere one day driving back into the region from cleaner areas to the east,” writes Scott Hamilton Dewey in Don’t Breathe the Air.

Chandler “marched into her husband’s office to tell him, ‘Something has to be done.’” A big thing to come from one day’s turn at the wheel.

Scott Hamilton Dewey, “Don’t Breathe the Air” Air Pollution and the Evolution of Environmental Policy and Politics in the United States, 1945–1970, Dissertation, Rice University 1997. 255-6.

Quoted in E. Melanie DuPuis, Smoke and Mirrors: The Politics and Culture of Air Pollution, New York University Press 2004. Chapter Eight, “Localizing Smog,” 197.


90      “It’s said we don’t take”: Grace Verne Silver, “Whipping The Smog,” The Los Angeles Times, September 23, 1946.


91      And in October 1947: The Los Angeles Times, “Smog Director McCabe Formally Takes Office,” October 3, 1947.


91      they imported a man: Gladwin Hill, “Los Angeles Opening Drive To End ‘Smog’ Nuisance,” The New York Times, October 26, 1947.

The Times wrote one of those sentences that serve as accidental Nostradamus. “Initial opposition to ‘smog control’ arose within the city from business interests.” Seven future decades are contained in that sentence.

And in this next one. “It is expected that there still may be considerable legal opposition from some big industries.”

Ed Ainsworth, “Supervisors Pick Chief For Smog Fight: Dr. Louis C. McCabe, Ex-Colonel of Army, to Be Administrator,” The Los Angeles Times, August 27, 1947.

Donora—the Pennsylvania town where 20 residents lost their lives to a smoke emergency—was still on the national mind. “When Dr. Louis McCabe came to Los Angeles” the smog “assuming Donora-level proportions.”

Heilbroner, “What Goes Up the Chimney,” Harper’s, May 1951.


91      He’d trained as an engineer: Ed Ainsworth, “Supervisors Pick Chief For Smog Fight: Dr. Louis C. McCabe, Ex-Colonel of Army, to Be Administrator,” The Los Angeles Times, August 27, 1947.


91      highest-ranking anti-pollution man: His title was head of the coal division, at the U.S. Bureau of Mines—“then the lead federal agency dealing with air pollution.”

Scott Hamilton Dewey, “Don’t Breathe the Air” Air Pollution and the Evolution of Environmental Policy and Politics in the United States, 1945–1970, Dissertation, Rice University 1997. 140.

Published in 2000 as Don’t Breathe the Air: Air Pollution and U.S. Environmental Politics, 1945-1970. Texas A & M University Press.


91      His first visit: Ed Ainsworth, “Supervisors Pick Chief For Smog Fight: Dr. Louis C. McCabe, Ex-Colonel of Army, to Be Administrator,” The Los Angeles Times, August 27, 1947.

The Los Angeles Times, “Supervisors Show Anti-Smog Head His Job,” August 27, 1947.


91      just another beat-up commuter: The Los Angeles Times, “Canopy of Stinging Smog Chokes Downtown Area,” October 4, 1947.


91      His smog cleanup was a test run: “Industry’s response to smog and its fight against clean air standards unfolds like a rough draft of the muscular strategy,” Pulitzer-winning journalist David Hasemyer reported in 2016, “it deployed 40 years later to deny climate science and the need for an urgent policy response.”

Of course, it’s right there in the title, too. David Hasemyer, Neela Banerjee, “For Oil Industry, Clean Air Fight Was Dress Rehearsal for Climate Denial,” Inside Climate News, June 6, 2016.


“How the oil industry handled smog is a template for how it handled a bunch of issues, the most significant being climate change. There’s a DNA here that’s palpable,” said Carroll Muffett, an attorney who is the president of the watchdog group, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). “Through it all, you see the creation of an echo chamber of doubt that takes the small unknowns and uncertainties and magnifies it until all we have is unknowns, when in fact the actual science isn’t that way at all.”

Accessed 9-28-22.


91      It was junior prom: Jacobs, Kelly, Smogtown, Chapter Two, “Paradise Obscured,” 48.


91      “step on toes”: Sarah Elkind, How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy: Business, Power, and the Environment in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles, University of North Carolina Press 2011. Chapter Two, “Influence Through Cooperation, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Air Pollution Control in Los Angeles, 1943–1954,” 68-70. There were accusations that McCabe and his pollution control apparatus would protect “big shot oil refineries,” while imposing “more rigid standards on some industries than others.”

The Times had warned from the beginning the job would require “courage”: the “crackdown” was coming, McCabe would need to “don his armor and get poised for battle.” (Los Angeles Times, “New Smog Administrator Needs Ally,” August 28, 1947; “Supervisors Act to Create Legal Anti-Smog District: Hearing Ordered; McCabe Due Soon; Crackdown Nears,” September 24, 1947; “How Goes the Smog Fight?”, November 22, 1947.)

McCabe’s first months, the Times editorial board reported “Doubts have arisen in the minds of many as to whether the job can really be done.” The work so far had been “tedious and not very inspiring.” (“One Year in the Smog Fight,” December 31, 1947.) The board later reported the “sometimes malicious” rumor that McCabe was a director too “timid to tackle big industry.” (“Let’s Face Facts On Smog,” September 16, 1948.)

The question of toe-stepping later became central and explicit. “I believe Director McCabe is determined to do a job whether he steps on the toes of industry or not,” said an influential city councilman. (“City Council Calls on McCabe to Tell His Side of Smog Fuss,” Los Angeles Times, November 19, 1948.)

This was just a few weeks after Donora, when the fear was of that tragedy blown up to Hollywood-size. A few days later the mayor offered his own approval. “The one who does the job must be courageous because surely he will have to step on toes.” (“Support for McCabe Urged by Mayor in Smog Dispute,” Los Angeles Times, November 19, 1948.)


91      Large and small oil refineries: Ed Ainsworth, “Oil Refineries Found to Be Cause of Much Smog in Los Angeles Area,” The Los Angeles Times, December 5, 1946. “Oil refineries,” Ainsworth reports, “form one of the major industries in Southern California.”

There was the good old Los Angeles joke: “They ruined a perfectly good oilfield by putting a city on top of it.”

As of the 1920s—in the pre-Chinatown, pre-Roger Rabbit, post-There Will Be Blood world—a quarter of the planet’s entire oil output was being geysered and pumped out of California. There were so many pointy oil derricks in the Long Beach neighborhood of Signal Hill the area became known as Porcupine Hill.


91      800,000 pounds of daily sulfur dioxide: Ed Ainsworth, “Oil Leaders Enter Smog Fight Talks, The Los Angeles Times, Aug 12, 1948. 400 daily tons would be the fewer-zeroes way of putting it.

The Los Angeles Times, “Oil Refineries And Chemical Plants Called Smog Source,” September 15, 1948. All told, refineries and chemical plants were spilling about 822 tons, 1,600,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide, into the daily air.

Ed Ainsworth, “Refineries Held Smog Leaders,” The Los Angeles Times, September 15, 1948.


91      McCabe demanded they control their sulfur: Jacobs, Kelly, Smogtown, 39.

The department’s “most wanted emissions were sulfur compounds, and the oil-burning industries and other plants that generated them were its primary targets. McCabe, invoking his ‘fair but strict’ credo, yanked the permit of a noncompliant South Bay steel plant in January 1948 to underscore it. Pollution officials attentive to the coming backlash reminded people that their rules had not yet knocked a single company out of business. The argument wouldn’t hold.”

Elkind, How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy, 68: “Based on his experience with coal and coal-burning industries, McCabe understood smog, as Los Angeles’s air quality problem was now widely known, as a product of sulfur dioxide and particulates in dense smoke. Sulfur dioxide attracted attention in Los Angeles as the most likely of the invisible components of industrial smoke to cause the eye and lung irritation.”

As Time reported in 1949, McCabe had been granted “near-dictatorial powers to shut down plants which disobey his smoke-curbing orders.” Time, “Airborne Dump,” April 25, 1949.

The Los Angeles Times, “Smog-Control Plan for Industry Gains Supervisors Full Support,” February 11, 1948.

The Los Angeles Times, “Anti-Smog Officials Act to put Full Law in Force,” March 12, 1948.

Ed Ainsworth, “Oil Leaders Enter Smog Fight Talks: Industry’s Scientists Will Give Aid to Dr. McCabe’s Control Staff,” The Los Angeles Times, Aug 12, 1948.

“Dr. McCabe,” Ainsworth reports, “has voiced the opinion that sulphur dioxide is a major factor in the smog situation and it should be cleaned up without waiting for long researches.”


91      When a scientist is saying you’re at fault: David Hasemyer, Neela Banerjee, “For Oil Industry, Clean Air Fight Was Dress Rehearsal for Climate Denial,” Inside Climate News, June 6, 2016. “Industry’s response to smog and its fight against clean air standards unfolds like a rough draft of the muscular strategy it deployed 40 years later to deny climate science and the need for an urgent policy response.”


92      hire a batch of scientists: Oil worked with the Stanford Research Institute: it had the Stanford name, was located on the Stanford campus, but wasn’t exactly Stanford; this sort of ideal situation (reputation minus accountability) would become very popular during the Climate Change era.

The SRI, per Inside Climate News, was the oil industry’s “main smog consultant.” As the journalists point out, “The prime responsibility of Stanford Research Institute is to serve Industry,” was the first sentence of an SRI about-us booklet.

David Hasemyer, Neela Banerjee, “For Oil Industry, Clean Air Fight Was Dress Rehearsal for Climate Denial,” Inside Climate News, June 6, 2016.

Amanda Fortini in Slate called the Research Institute “a consortium of oil companies masquerading as a think tank.”

Amanda Fortini, “Cutting Through the Smog,” Slate, December 22, 2008.

Accessed 10-1-21.


92      The oil companies: Elkind, How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy, 69. Tom McCarthy, Auto Mania: Cars, Consumers, and the Environment, Yale University Press 2009, Chapter Six, “Cadillacs and Community,” 118.

Jacobs, Kelly, Smogtown, 48: “Now that McCabe was rousting the public to view Southern California’s multimillion-dollar petroleum production as the barrier to blue skies, Big Oil hit back vigorously in what would be a much-copied tactic by others.”


92      they were blameless: The Los Angeles Times, “City Council Calls on McCabe to Tell His Side of Smog Fuss,” November 19, 1948.


92      to go forward in harmony: Ed Ainsworth, “Oil Leaders Enter Smog Fight Talks: Industry’s Scientists Will Give Aid to Dr. McCabe’s Staff,” The Los Angeles Times, August 12, 1948.

Union Oil’s W.L. Stewart Jr. (these mid-century names: It’s like they’re half initials) was Chairman of the Petroleum Industry Committee on Smoke and Fumes. “Both Dr McCabe and Stewart last night said they believe a genuine approach has been made . . . Stewart, on behalf of the industry, explained his belief that all the elements in the smog situation are not known scientifically and it will take time to ferret them out. He expressed the belief that the oil companies and the air pollution authorities can work toward the common objective in harmony.”


92      The California Club: When a previous smoke expert was imported to Los Angeles at the behest of the Times, he too received the California Club treatment.

The Los Angeles Times, “Leaders to Map Smog War Plans: Civic Group to Meet Prof. Tucker at Luncheon in California Club,” December 18, 1946.

Quoted in Daniel J.B. Mitchell, “Clearing the Air: What the Times Called For in 1947,” in Daniel J.B. Mitchell, Ed., California Policy Options 2016, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs 2016.


92      tangle with us, and you’re fighting marble: Joan Didion, the great California structural engineer: “The old-line Los Angeles establishment—the downtown and San Marino money base, which is what people in Los Angeles meant when they referred to the California Club” and “The city itself was run by a handful of men who worked for the banks and the old-line law firms downtown and drove home at five o’clock to Hancock Park or Pasadena or San Marino. They had lunch at the California Club.”

Joan Didion, After Henry, Simon and Schuster 1991. 193-4 and 228.


92      Studying the Problem to Death: Paul Brodeur, “Annals of Chemistry: In the Face of Doubt,” The New Yorker, June 9, 1986.

“The tactic is known as studying the problem to death.” The speaker is chemist Sherwood Rowland, a Nobel Prize-winner whose research basically saved the ozone layer.

. . . and still in circulation, a quarter century later. Jim Perry, “Climate Change Adaptation in the World’s Best Places: A Wicked Problem in Need of Immediate Attention,” Landscape and Urban Planning, January 2015. This lovely axiomatic sentence: “Wicked problems are so complex that potential solutions appear unrealistic, often leading to decision freeze and studying the problem to death.”


92      More-Money-Should-Be-Spent-on-Research: Spencer Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming, Harvard University Press. 44, 146.


92      “belief that all the elements”: Ed Ainsworth, “Oil Leaders Enter Smog Fight Talks: Industry’s Scientists Will Give Aid to Dr. McCabe’s Control Staff,” The Los Angeles Times, Aug 12, 1948.


92      “There are too many complexities”: Claudia Cattaneo, “Exxon Mobil CEO Takes Aim at Environmentalists,” Financial Post, May 28, 2008. Rex Tillerson, the oil company chairman who would later serve as Donald Trump’s secretary of state, was speaking to reporters at the 2008 shareholders meeting.


93      “Research properly used”: The Los Angeles Times, “New Smog Proposal Hit,” April 27, 1948.


93      “obstructed and harassed”: Robert L. Heilbroner, “What Goes Up the Chimney,” Harper’s Magazine, January 1951.

Jacobs, Kelly, Smogtown, 57-8. “McCabe, sturdier than his milquetoast appearance implied, refused to knuckle under.”


93      He put it on a timetable: Ed Ainsworth, “Victory Over Smog To Take Time, McCabe Tells Council,” The Los Angeles Times, November 27, 1948.


93      accepted the top Washington pollution job: Ed Ainsworth, “Three Influences Can Wreck Smog Control, McCabe Says,” The Los Angeles Times, November 11, 1949. Louis McCabe was now “America’s No. 1 smog-control authority.” Leaving California, the ex-Colonel had “accepted the top national job in this field.”


93      Louis McCabe had been run out of town: Daniel J.B. Mitchell, “Clearing the Air: What the Times Called For in 1947,” in Daniel J.B. Mitchell, ed., California Policy Options 2016, UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs 2016.

Jacobs, Kelly, Smogtown, 58, 60. The smog director was being “hounded.” By the end, “McCabe felt the burden, if not the burnout.”

Elkind, How Local Politics Shape Federal Policy, 70.


McCabe, caught between public frustration and industry resistance, left Los Angeles under a cloud of public rancor in 1949. Some critics saw even McCabe’s departure as evidence of an industrial conspiracy, insisting that McCabe lost his job because he took on the petroleum industry.


93      oil industry scientists released their own findings: The Los Angeles Times, “Report Reveals 40 ‘Villains’ in Smog,” October 25, 1949. This was the “second interim report of the Stanford Research Institute . . . The research has been sponsored by the Western Oil & Gas Association.”


93      bore no “specific responsibility”: Gladwin Hill, “Lag on Smog Laid to Industrialists: McCabe of Mines Bureau Says They Fear Eradication Cost and Thwart Campaigns,” The New York Times, November 11, 1949. Leading to this nice mustache-era exchange. “Asked what he thought of this report, McCabe said, ‘No comment.’”


93      McCabe addressed: Louis C. McCabe, “National Trends in Air Pollution,” National Air Pollution Symposium, Pasadena, CA., November 10, 1949.


93      “There were ‘co-operative’ programs”: Ed Ainsworth, “Three Influences Can Wreck Smog Control, McCabe Says,” The Los Angeles Times, November 11, 1949. “There always is and there always will be opposition,” McCabe warned. “There always are people who say it will injure business.”

Gladwin Hill, “Lag on Smog Laid to Industrialists: McCabe of Mines Bureau Says They Fear Eradication Cost and Thwart Campaigns,” The New York Times, November 11, 1949.


93      “the oil industry is fed up”: The Los Angeles Times, “Oil Industry Hits At Smog Charges: Group Says It’s Tired of Being Whipping Boy and Cites Spending to Better Conditions,” December 1, 1949.


94      “Where is the smog?”: The Los Angeles Times, “Smog Retreat Definite in ‘Worst’ Time,” October 3, 1950. August and September were the Southland “smog season.”


94      “astounding”: Ed Ainsworth, “Are We Breathing A New Smog?”, The Los Angeles Times, November 9, 1955.

The paper gazed back at Louis McCabe—now safely restored to the nation’s capital—with affection and respect. “He enforced the law impartially and effectively . . . The anti-smog campaign had been so successful [McCabe] told the Board of Supervisors he felt he could go back to his work at the Bureau of Mines. (He now is in charge of all anti-pollution control work for the U.S. government.)”

This is the glow of success. There had been, throughout the 60-day smog season, only a single 1951 smog report.

Per the history Smogtown, McCabe’s final 1949 months had in fact been the “year of investigations.” Lawmakers declared McCabe’s team “flunking its mission.” And “whatever McCabe tried, subpoenas, anonymous tipsters, grumpy retirees, and the frustrated hounded him.” Jacobs, Kelly, Smogtown, 58.


94      What else happened at those hours?: Ed Ainsworth, “Smog Factor Traced To Auto Exhausts,” The Los Angeles Times, August 6, 1954.

Even in just the months scientists had been researched, gasoline consumption had nosed up from 3,500,000 to 4,250,000 gallons per day.

“Science yesterday pointed an accusing finger at automobile exhaust gases,” the story begins. Gordon Larson had assumed Louis McCabe’s old smog czar job.


“We now are able to make the same indictment against automobiles that we made against refineries two years ago,” Larson said yesterday. “We are on the same firm scientific ground in demanding that auto exhausts be cleaned up as we were in demanding that the refineries clean up.”


94      The first big L.A. freeways: “The city known today as the ‘freeway capital of the world’ did not have a single mile of freeway in 1939.”

Arthur C. Verge, “The Impact of the Second World War on Los Angeles,” Pacific Historical Review, Vol 63 No 4, August 1994.

Ed Ainsworth, “Are We Breathing A New Smog?”, The Los Angeles Times, November 9, 1955. “In 1952,” Ainsworth reports, the city had felt the big traffic shift. “The putting into use of the freeway system. These gigantic avenues converged an unprecedented number of motor vehicles in the downtown area.” The automobile census jumped: From 1,152,146 in 1943—“the year smog started”—to 1955’s 2,489,465. “More than doubling,” the paper helpfully calculated.

For blacktop enthusiasts, the first L.A. freeway is actually the Pasadena, which opened two days before New Year’s, 1941—helping “supercharge Southern California’s love of the auto.” And for people who like to drive on monuments, it’s the U.S.’s third oldest—actually designated a Civil Engineering Landmark in 1999. There’s a plaque. Cecilia Rasmussen, “Harrowing Drive on State’s Oldest Freeway,” The Los Angeles Times, November 6, 2001.

Bob Pool, “Pasadena Freeway Is Headed For Immortality,” The Los Angeles Times, July 22, 1999.


94      were forced to admit the problem: The Los Angeles Times, “Auto Exhausts, Ozone Get Major Smog Blame: Stanford Research Institute Summarizes More Than Six Years’ Scientific Study,” July 29, 1954. “ ‘Automobile exhaust is the largest single source of pollutants,’ the Stanford report said.”


94      The largest single generator: Ray Parker, “Auto Fumes Major Problem In Smog: 1000 Tons of Pollutants a Day Come From 2,000,000 Cars Here, Control Chief Says,” The Los Angeles Times, August 30, 1954.


94      the catalytic converter: The first converter was about the size of a small box. If you’d like to see a picture of the device, and its inventor—French émigré Eugene Houdry, inducted posthumously into the National Inventors Hall of Fame—it can be found on page 126 of Tom McCarthy’s Auto Mania. McCarthy, Auto Mania: Cars, Consumers and the Environment, Yale University Press 2007.

The New York Times, “G.M. to Raise Prices 9.5% On 1975 Cars and Trucks,” August 10, 1974.

“The price increase will include about $130, or 2.5 per cent for government-required pollution control equipment,” the paper reported. “Catalytic converters.”

Oddly, two recent movies have depended for plot—the sinister, we-killed-for-this storyline—on the automakers' suppression of the catalytic converter. Shane Black’s pretty good 2016 The Nice Guys (Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe team up to stop Detroit automakers from slaying people who are putting an end to smog). And Stephen Soderbergh’s brilliant 2021 No Sudden Move (Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro team up to stop Detroit automakers from slaying people who are putting an end to smog; Matt Damon is the bottom-line oriented killer at the top of the pyramid). The great honor we pay social advances of the past; enlisting them years later as plot elements in a narrative conspiracy.

Josh Rottenberg, “Unpacking the Many Twists of HBO Max’s Noir Thriller ‘No Sudden Move,’” The Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2021.

The Parrot and the Igloo by David Lipsky