A revolutionary air-cleansing poem In Praise of Air has removed more than two tons of air pollution. This is part of a project, produced by scientists and writers at the University of Sheffield, which other cities can emulate to combat air pollution. Two tons of nitrogen oxide has been removed by the world’s first air-cleansing poem – shows that poetry really does have the power to heal!

The catalytic poem is printed on specially treated material which purifies its surroundings. Penned by award-winning writer Simon Armitage who is Professor of Poetry in the University’s School of English, In Praise of Air has been printed on specially treated material developed by scientists at the University which can purify its surroundings by the process of catalytic oxidation.

The poem has been displayed on the University of Sheffield’s Alfred Denny building since May 2014. Now the exhibition has ended and the team has estimated that it has removed over two tons of nitrogen oxide from the environment.

In Praise of Air Sheffield University tackles air pollution

The team hopes that the poem and technology can be used on billboards and artwork across the world to help tackle air pollution. Professor Joanna Gavins, who leads the project from the University of Sheffield’s School of English, said: “We know that pollution is a major problem for the world’s urban areas but so far we as a society haven’t fully adopted any long-term solutions to tackle the problem.

“Scientists, such as my colleagues in Sheffield, are developing technologies to help us clean the environment but it’s the arts and humanities that can help raise awareness of environmental issues and inspire people to adopt altruistic pro-environmental behaviours. Since the poem was installed in 2014 we’ve been inundated with positive and supportive comments from the community and passers-by. We’ve had lots of comments from people who feel it has not only made an impact on the environment but added another cultural landmark to the city.”

Professor Tony Ryan, who developed the pollution-busting technology at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Chemistry, added: “This poem has shown how science and the arts and humanities can work together to address the very serious issue of poor air quality in our towns and cities. The poem is printed on a material that can mitigate the pollution caused by our addiction to driving and could cut disease and help save lives. The project has been really well received both in Sheffield and all over the world. If we could replicate this in every urban area in the UK then we could have much better air quality.”

The team is now working on other public poems on environmental issues. The poem’s exhibition in Sheffield was a temporary project and has now ended because planning permission has expired. Culture and green tech could really be the answer to air pollution!

Source: Sheffield University. To read more about catalytic poetry, visit their website.

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