Eight geotag journalists exploring your city. This week: Contrasting London.

Polluted Garden

By Ramona Fischer

Whilst waiting at the bus stop next to a smoky bus or squeezed into an airless Underground train you might find it hard to believe that London is actually one of the greenest capitals in the world.

London is surrounded by over 35 thousands hectares of open land. In addition to its over 200 city parks, a circular ring of land embraces the city in Greater London.

First proposed in 1935, this so-called "green belt" is an area of wild and undeveloped land between adjacent urban areas.

It is supposed to "defend London's green lung", counteracting urbanisation and preserving an area of recreation.

Staring right into the exhaust pipe of the bus in front of you, you might be irritated. And you are right.

London is not only one of the greenest capitals. It is also one of the most polluted metropolises in Europe.

Smell of smoke

In 2010, Britain was confronted with possible European Court action and unlimited fines after a study found dangerous levels of particles in the city of London.

Under EU law no more than 35 so-called "bad air-days" are allowed in one year. London clocked up 36 in just six months.

According to Tony Nixon, who works at the Primary Meridian in Greenwich, the Royal Observatory has long moved out of South-East London because they could no longer observe the stars accurately due to the polluted air.

Journalist Murielle Gonzales, who produced a multimedia website about air pollution in London, stresses that every year 4,267 deaths can be linked to long-term exposure to toxic particles arising from traffic.

Sound of silence

When was the last time that you took in a deep breath, smelt the fresh wood and earth of a rural forest? When did you last listen to the sound of centuries old oaks rustling in the wind? Or hear the silence that surrounds you on quiet days in a forest?

When you are reading this chances are high that you are surrounded by the constant noise of cars, interrupted by alarms going off or the notorious humming of computers and electric devices. Take a break.

WhereisLondon? takes you to four forgotten forests.
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