netizens
netizens
Nov 14, 2017 · 7 min read

Breathe in and give us 7 minutes of your time to read about Poland’s grim smog problem & sign up to crowdfund better air in your neighborhood

Yes, I’m a non-smoker, yet I “smoke” almost 4000 cigarettes per year.
How come?

I simply live in Poland.

And now that we captured your attention with the catchy smoking (hot) analogy, here’s what you’re going to read about for the next 6 minutes or so:

Smoking hot issue

So how serious is air pollution problem in Poland? Let’s get back to cigarettes:
yes, breathing Polish air is equivalent to smoking. Poland’s toxic air pollution means every non-smoking Pole second-hand smokes from 1,000 to almost 4,000 cigarettes a year. Without actually smoking even once.

(BTW, you can check out how heavy a smoker you are here)

Last year, Poland’s smog problem became a smoking hot issue and really made the headlines:

Just a sample!

And for good reason.

The overwhelming 3,740.9 cigarettes is the estimation for Kraków, one of the cities in Poland where air pollution totally skyrockets and almost leaves behind China’s off the charts environmental achievements.

To give you a hint of how bad the situation is in Kraków, take a look at the levels of carcinogenic benzo[a]pyrene in Europe. See the startling number next to Kraków?

And to help you visualize the problem even better…

Main square in Kraków. Pretty, right? Very. Unless covered in thick, gloomy smog…

Of course Kraków, with its tourist appeal, makes an excellent example. But it’s not just Kraków. It’s the entire country that chokes on toxic air.

5 out of 10! See how good Poland is at air pollution?

Katowice (where Netizens is based), Poznań, Warsaw…
Or for example the city of Rybnik, in southern Poland, where the level of large particulate matters (PM10) breached the EU norm by 3,126% last winter! Classes were cancelled at schools!

Now, an important piece of the puzzle: what do you think causes air quality problems in Poland? Heavy industry? Mines? Factories? Cars?

They are not exactly innocent, sure, but there is one thing that beats them all: it’s regular citizens burning coal in home stoves. Really. Poland might be coal-dependent as a country, but it’s in fact its coal-addicted citizens that are the primary cause of air pollution. Many people use low-quality, cheap coal or even illegally burn household waste in stoves.

The real culprit

So, to sum all those scary numbers up: the situation is bad. There’s no point beating around the bush.

But you know what’s even worse?

We have no idea how dreadful air quality in Poland really is. Why?

Watch this.

Miles away from the problem

Gliwice, Poland. This is where Andrzej, one of Netizens’ employees lives with his family. Watch how many home furnaces (the main culprit!) are around:

And this is where the nearest air quality monitoring station is. Watch how many stoves are around:

Not a single one, that’s right.

Since it’s households that cause air pollution, why are monitoring stations located so far away from the problem, where there are no coal stoves?

8 kilometers away from what actually causes smog

See the distance between what causes smog and what measures its level? How can the air quality data we know today be accurate?

Now let’s compare London and Warsaw. London has over 100 monitoring stations. Warsaw? Just 7…

Conclusion?

There are far too few poorly located monitoring stations in Poland to provide honest, accurate information about air pollution levels.

Here are the results from the monitoring station in Gliwice (no stoves around, remember!):

How would it look like 8 kilometers away, where there are loads of home furnaces? Can you imagine?

What if air quality is in fact twice as bad? It might as well be.

And this is where our project steps in. Meet Smog or Fog, a complex plan for improving air quality in Poland!

Smog or Fog: first step on the road to smog-free Poland

Smog of Fog is a non-profit project. More of a mission, actually. There are many clean air advocates at Netizens. We couldn’t just stand there and watch smog take its toll.

So we created Smog or Fog, together with our hardware partner Fulco.

In a nutshell, Smog of Fog combines an air quality mobile app and a network of air quality sensors.

Let’s explore the mobile app first (download it from Google Play or AppStore for free!). Smog or Fog obviously provides real-time air quality data. But also much, much more.

For example the cool “smog selfie” feature. Smog of Fog allows to take a picture with air quality information displayed. We like to share it on social media to let people know it’s (not) safe to go outside :)

Andrzej (right) and Dave (left), two of the founders of Smog or Fog. And a lot more friends from Netizens using the app

Speaking of leaving the house, Smog or Fog app provides also actionable insights and valuable advice:

Should I stay or should I go? Smog or Fog is here to tell you :)

But there are many air quality apps out there already, right? So where’s the value proposition, besides being jam-packed with fun stuff like smog selfies?

Unlike most air quality mobile apps, Smog of Fog app is to use data from an entire network of our own certified air quality sensors (once it’s off and running), not just from the state infrastructure (located in wrong places and not providing accurate information, as we already know).

So now let’s explore the Smog or Fog sensors.

Our air quality sensor is basically a regular monitoring station. But smaller and cheaper. Way smaller and cheaper!

Here’s the first sensor we’ve set up, in Gliwice. Hanging on the wall of
the Faculty of Architecture, Silesian University of Technology.

Tiny, isn’t it? :)

We would like to see a lot more of those in Poland. Which brings us to…

Take your air in your hands

We realize Poland’s economy almost entirely relies on coal, and Polish households are coal-fueled. This is not something that’s going to change any time soon. And since we can’t eliminate the problem just now, here’s what we can do immediately:

We can provide reliable data using our Smog or Fog air quality sensors.

We want to know exactly how bad the situation is.

Once we are fully informed, we can take action, whistleblow, and educate better.

So, simply put, we believe with better air quality information comes better air. Reliable, accurate information is the first step on the road to clean air.

And we don’t need the government or even local authorities to build more monitoring stations (we realize it’s expensive) to provide accurate air quality information.

We need you, people who care about what they’re breathing. We need clean air advocates.

So today we are asking: would you like to become one? Do you consider crowdfunding better air in your neighborhood a good idea?

Would you be willing to donate, say, 10 PLN?

Let’s say 200 neighbors chip in 10 PLN. That gives us 2000 PLN for a dedicated sensor and the most reliable air quality information ever.
It’s like buying your own air quality information.
And, ultimately, better air :)

How does this sound to you? Would you do this in your neighborhood? We are trying to find out how many potential clean air advocates are reading this :)

Let us know here, could you? Looking forward to your feedback, a lot :)

Ok, now to wrap this all up, something fun. Smog is no laughing matter, sure, but the good thing is Poles never lose their sense of humor. And neither do the citizens of Kraków. So, to finish this all with something less gloomy, enjoy these two…

Silent Hill-like “Welcome to Kraków” and a typical family from Kraków wearing traditional folk costumes

And before we launch our crowdfunding campaign, ride a bicycle to work, try public transport or carpooling, don’t burn cheap, low-quality coal at home, maybe buy an air-purifying plant… We’ll get through this.

And remember, let us know here if you want to crowdfund better air in your city to make this all go away even quicker.

Take care, future clean air advocates! :)

netizens digital innovation house

we like (and do) software, hardware, IoT, interactive installations & literally everything tech-related

netizens

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netizens

digital innovation house: bridging online & offline

netizens digital innovation house

we like (and do) software, hardware, IoT, interactive installations & literally everything tech-related

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