Clean Air in a Green City

Clinton Rodriguez

The air is black.

Smoke billows from chimneys in every building, pumping out smog in such volume that buildings that were once pink changed color from the soot. The air is so dark and thick that at times it is hard to see further than a city block.

This was the picture of Stockholm in the 1960’s painted by Gunnar Soderholm, the director of Stockholm’s Environment and Health Administration.

Since the 1960’s, Stockholm has eliminated 99 percent of the pollutants in its air, Soderholm said.  While  clean air  initiatives are just one of the many environmental projects occurring in Stockholm today, they remain one of the most significant reasons that Stockholm now proudly holds the title of the greenest capital city in Europe.

The changes in air quality can be attributed to many factors. Since the city government implemented a tax on highway traffic, one of every four cars that used Stockholm’s roads has disappeared, resulting in a nearly14 percent decrease in pollutant emissions, Soderholm said.

Further innovations include the use of biofuels to reduce the city’s dependency on gasoline and diesel fuels for energy, energy restrictions on buildings, and a system of providing electricity in which residents can sell back unused power to the corporations that provide it. Such initiatives have reduced pollution,

According to Soderholm, it is the “rational thinking and efficiency” of Swedish engineering that has led to these innovations. Where once there was smoke, there is now clean air as far as the eye can see. This has contributed to the health of the people of Stockholm and has made a beauty of the city even more attractive.

The soaring three gold spires for which Stockholm is known, once obscured with soot, are now visible from anywhere in the city, a testament to the fervor that the Swedish people have shown for the environment. #



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