From the Publisher
"... the book is not lacking in historical heft. Instead, style delivers substance in true Hollywood fashion, with character-driven plots draped in glamour and sensation ... the history of smog has never been so sexy ..." Los Angeles Times
"[S]tory of smog in all its hazy-and sometimes humorous-permutations ... a zany and provocative cultural history." Kirkus
"Finished with a particularly powerful, forward-looking epilogue, this friendly, accessible history should appeal to any American environmentalist." Publishers Weekly
"... a meticulous chronicle of the city's signature airborne grime and of the civic and social forces that emerged to stop it ... ... The story of Smogtown is that of a city vying against time to reconcile incommensurables ... " Bookforum
"The narrative that emerges is more than a tale of a region and a populace besieged by smog; it is also a parable for a nation beset by environmental and social problems ... (a) well-researched cultural history" Slate
"Writing in a hip, lively style, ...[An] intriguing social history of an environmental problem that won't go away. Recommended." - Library Journal
"... a well-documented, highly engaging, and widely relevant account of southern California's battle with "the beast," as the authors lovingly refer to smog. ... Smogtown is not your typical "green's" diatribe against big business and weak government. No, Jacobs and Kelly are much smarter-and fairer-than that" Sustainablog
Encapsulating deftly the worldview, historical context, and public psychology of Southern Californians over a number of decades, Los Angeles journalists Jacobs and Kelly examine the approaches they've made to the region's chronic pollution issues, many of which presage current, nation-wide trends in both pollution and its "Greening." With casual language and a cinematic sense of the dramatic, Jacobs and Kelly detail the buildup to the famous orange-brown L.A. smog of the 1950s and '60s: "Just at that moment, the beast started to evolve... Sometime in the late 1950s, legend had it that a hen laid an egg that L.A. pollution unaccountably turned green." Highlighting the pioneering people and groups that blazed the trail for the environmental movement, Jacobs and Kelly also explore the progress and setbacks established by policymakers, including a famously conflicted Ronald Reagan. Finished with a particularly powerful, forward-looking epilogue, this friendly, accessible history should appeal to any American environmentalist. 15 b & w photos.
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Starting with the notorious cloud bank that first engulfed the city on July 26, 1943, Los Angeles writers Jacobs and Kelly chronicle six decades of smog and human attempts to destroy it, control it, and live with it in the City of Angels. Writing in a hip, lively style, they recount the efforts of city and state officials, governing boards, scientists, and citizen groups to rid L.A. of the smog with a can-do spirit and an unlimited faith in science, technology, and human ingenuity. This has included mass transportation, electric cars, and huge smoke stacks to carry the smog high above the city. However, the authors note that few people wanted to accept the fact that they, as part of a consumer-driven society based on the automobile, were the reason for "the enemy of their own making," which today contributes to global warming. This intriguing social history of an environmental problem that won't go away is recommended for libraries with regional and environmental collections.
Patricia Ann Owens
This colorful history of smog in Los Angeles begins in the 1940s and ends with a warning call for action.
Self-proclaimed "survivors" of "L.A.'s greatest crisis," journalist Jacobs (Wheeling the Deal: The Outrageous Legend of Gordon Zahler, Hollywood's Flashiest Quadriplegic, 2008) and California Energy Circuit senior correspondent Kelly (Home Safe Home: How to Make Your Home Environmentally Safe, 1990) draw on newspaper articles, scientific case studies, policy books and oral-history archives to dredge up the story of smog in all its hazy—and sometimes humorous—permutations. It all began on July 8, 1943, when a blinding, "confounding haze" spread around unsuspecting Angelenos, birthing a decades-long battle against a toxic, shape-shifting monster. The side effects were sinister and wide-reaching: increased car accidents and cancer rates, ruined crops, suicides and even smog-induced mental conditions, like "globus hystericus," the formation of an imaginary lump that aroused the need to swallow constantly. Most remarkable, note the authors, was the push to develop sprawling, car-dependent communities even while L.A. officials and scientists were trying to combat the deleterious effects of automobile emissions. Jacobs and Kelly cover many familiar events and figures, such as the Rodney King riots, the early work of Ralph Nader and the legacies of Gov. Jerry Brown and then-Gov. Ronald Reagan. Awareness increased in the early '70s when doctors compared inhaling air on the most smog-ridden days as "tantamount to puffing a pack or two of cigarettes a day." By 1982 legislation was passed that required car smog checks every two years. In this tale of underhanded deals, gritty politics,community organizing and burgeoning environmentalism, the corruption is plentiful and the subplots replete with intrigue.
Though the timelines are often confusing, the authors offer a zany and provocative cultural history.