Sunday, November 02, 2008

The streets of London are paved with ...

We have been to London.

Some of the streets of London are paved with chewing gum.

Slowly, some areas are affected by a spreading collage of spots, with strange colour shifting properties.

When it rains, they are white sometimes. When it is dry, they are black sometimes.

In due course, the affected area will become uniformly covered with a film of chewing gum.

I wonder if bacilli like Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (TB) can survive in chewing gum, or other microbes, or viruses, to be released slowly into the air? Or whether the ghewing gum in fact kills same?

Some councils spend much money steam cleaning chewing gum. This will release whatever is in the gum into the air. It could be a health risk. Also the operators, if they inhale a lot of water droplets with chewing gum residue particles, could be at risk of altered reactions. There is a job for AEA Technology or similar air quality monitoring organisation here.

Whatever the outcome of the investigations, it is mad that the taxpayer should have to pay for the chewing gum removal. The chewing gum manufacturing companies should pay, in line with the Polluter Pays principle.

Now I know that this challenge to the profits of major junk food corporations will set up a chorus of whining louder than the noise made by a Boeing 747 prior to take off, but it is entirely fair and just that the producers should pay, on the grounds that it is impractical to catch the chewing gum spitters-out. Not without posting a policeman or CCTV camera at every chewing gum hotspot.

Sure, it is a filthy habit, and gives an excuse for spitting in public - a practice that medical pressure rightly brought to an end, because of the TB risk, so it should be discouraged, but it is impractical to expect people to do a citizen's arrest every time they see it happen. And people are getting scared of challenging other peoples' behaviour because of the stories we get of challenged-offender rage.

So the only way is to put a levy on the producers to pay for celanup, if the gum needs to be removed for health reasons.

Removal for aesthetic reasons is a different matter. It is in the balance. Spottiness is in the eye of the beholder. Seen as art, if there is no health risk, why not just let the chewingumification of London's streets continue as an instance of multi-authored pavement art?

In the long run, it would save the tax-payers' money by slowing down the rate at which pavements (I'm talking about sidewalks here, by the way, for all my American readers) get worn away by peoples' feet.

Anyway, that was London.

PS we went to the Dali Exhibition at City Hall. Nice sculptures, and nice Dali re-interpretation on Goya which summed Dali's work up well.
PS and Jessie and Leon got married very beautifully and we all had a lovely time, thank you Jessie and Leon.

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