Smogtown

Smogtown

5.0 2
by Chip Jacobs, William J. Kelly
     
 

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Named one of 2009's best environmental books by Booklist magazine; awarded co-silver medal for best non-fiction work at The Green Book Festival, co-silver medal for best environmental/ecology work at the Independent Book Publishers (IPPY) Awards and winner of the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature from Santa Monica.
The smog beast wafted into downtown Los

Overview

Named one of 2009's best environmental books by Booklist magazine; awarded co-silver medal for best non-fiction work at The Green Book Festival, co-silver medal for best environmental/ecology work at the Independent Book Publishers (IPPY) Awards and winner of the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature from Santa Monica.
The smog beast wafted into downtown Los Angeles on July 26, 1943. Nobody knew what it was. Secretaries rubbed their eyes. Traffic cops seemed to disappear in the mysterious haze. Were Japanese saboteurs responsible? A reckless factory? The truth was much worse—it came from within, from Southern California's burgeoning car-addicted, suburban lifestyle.
Smogtown is the story of pollution, progress, and how an optimistic people confronted the epic struggle against airborne poisons barraging their hometowns. With wit, verve, and a fresh look at history, California based journalists Chip Jacobs and William J. Kelly highlight the bold personalities involved, the corporate- tainted science, the terrifying health costs, the attempts at cleanup, and how the smog battle helped mold the modern-day culture of Los Angeles. There are scofflaws aplenty and dirty deals, plus murders, suicides, spiritual despair, and an ever-present paranoia about mass disaster.
Brimming with historic photographs, forgotten anecdotes, and new revelations about our environmentally precarious present, Smogtown is a journalistic classic for the modern age.

Editorial Reviews

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

Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

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

Kirkus Reviews

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781585678600
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
10/02/2008
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 10.92(h) x 1.25(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Chip Jacobs is the co-author of The People's Republic of Chemicals and author of The Vicodin Thieves, The Ascension of Jerry, and Wheeler-Dealer. Jacobs’ reporting has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, CNN, Bloomberg View, the Daily News of Los Angeles, L.A. Weekly and newgeography.com, among other outlets. Jacobs, the recipient of numerous writing commendations, lives in Southern California. Visit chipjacobs.com to learn more.

William J. Kelly is the co-author The People's Republic of Chemicals and author of Home Safe Home. His reporting has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Consumers Digest, Inside Climate News, L.A. Weekly, and the California Journal, among other outlets. He was chief spokesman for South Coast Air Quality Management District, the smog control agency for greater Los Angeles, and is currently the senior correspondent for the California Current. Kelly, the recipient of numerous writing awards, lives in the Los Angeles area.

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Smogtown 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
* he followed. Before they make it out he grabs a hammer he found. *
Chip-Jacobs More than 1 year ago
"Remember those great 1950s horror movies, when some superpowerful creature menaced a city while the citizens panicked, law enforcement officials bumbled, politicians pontificated, and plucky scientists worked at a fever pitch to find something, anything, to kill the monster? That's pretty much the feel of this remarkably entertaining and informative chronicle of the birth and--so far--inexorable evolution of smog ... This book is just amazing, a gripping story well told, with the requisite plucky scientists (including Arie Haagen-Smit, a Dutch biochemist who was "the Elvis of his field"), hapless politicians, and a nebulous biochemical villain who just will not be stopped." - BOOKLIST (Starred) "A panorama of the Los Angeles skyline used to often resemble a poorly developed roll of film, cut through the middle with a view-obscuring brown smudge. Welcome to "Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles," in which Chip Jacobs and William J. Kelly demonstrate that our current air quality is a free-breathing dream compared to the nightmare that enveloped the city for a good portion of the last century ... "Smogtown" is a regional history for the layperson, focusing slightly more on civic drama and scandal than hard science and legislative details ... Jacobs and Kelly bring a combination of alt-weekly sensibility and public service gravitas to their account. Evidenced by chapter titles like "Bouffants & Stethoscopes" and "The Wizard of Ozone," the authors apply humor to a grave subject ... However, 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. Whether we learn about photochemical pollution via a renegade Caltech scientist or travel with a group of Beverly Hills socialites as they embrace environmental activism, the history of smog has never been so sexy..." - LOS ANGELES TIMES "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) and California Energy Circuit senior correspondent Kelly (Home Safe Home: How to Make Your Home Environmentally Safe) ... dredge up the story of smog in all its hazy--and sometimes humorous--permutations ... In this tale of underhanded deals, gritty politics, community organizing and burgeoning environmentalism, the corruption is plentiful and the subplots replete with intrigue ... the authors offer a zany and provocative cultural history." - KIRKUS "Encapsulating deftly the worldview, historical context, and public psychology of Southern Californians over a number of decades, ... 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 1960s: "Sometime in the late 1950s, legend had it hat a hen laid an egg that L.A. pollution unaccountably turned green." ... Finished with a particularly powerful, forward-looking epilogue, this friendly, accessible hi