Named one of 2009’s best environmental books by Booklist magazine; awarded co-silver medal for best non-fiction work at The Green Book Festival, co-silver medal for best environmental/ecology work at the Independent Book Publishers (IPPY) Awards and winner of the Green Prize for Sustainable Literature from Santa Monica.
The smog beast wafted into downtown Los Angeles on July 26, 1943. Nobody knew what it was. Secretaries rubbed their eyes. Traffic cops seemed to disappear in the mysterious haze. Were Japanese saboteurs responsible, a reckless factory The truth was much worse-it came from within, from Southern California's burgeoning car-addicted, suburban lifestyle.
Smogtown is the story of pollution, progress, and how an optimistic people confronted the epic struggle against aerial poisons barraging their hometowns. With wit, verve, and a new look at history through never-before-compiled sources, it highlights the bold personalities involved, the corporate-tainted science, the terrifying health costs, the Buck Rogers-like attempts at cleanup, and how the smog battle helped mold the modern-day culture of Los Angeles. There are scofflaws too and plenty of dirty deals, plus murders, suicides, spiritual despair, and an ever-present paranoia about a mass disaster.
With Southern California still the air pollution center of the planet, Smogtown is at once a cautionary tale for those who think global warming can be easily tamed. It holds lessons to be learned, many about the intractability of human behavior and culture itself.
Brimming with historic photographs, forgotten anecdotes, and new revelations about L.A.'s murky past, Smogtown is a journalistic classic for the modern age.
"[A] remarkably entertaining and informative chronicle of the birth and (so far) inexorable evolution of smog- This book is just amazing, a gripping story well told, with the requisite plucky scientists (including Arie Haagen-Smit, a Dutch biochemist who was "the Elvis of his field"), hapless politicians, and a nebulous biochemical villain who just will not be stopped."-Booklist (starred)
“… the book is not lacking in historical heft. Instead, style delivers substance in true Hollywood fashion, with character-driven plots draped in glamour and sensation … the history of smog has never been so sexy …” -- Los Angeles Times
“[S]tory of smog in all its hazy—and sometimes humorous—permutations … a zany and provocative cultural history.” -- Kirkus
“Finished with a particularly powerful, forward-looking epilogue, this friendly, accessible history should appeal to any American environmentalist.”-- Publishers Weekly
“… a meticulous chronicle of the city’s signature airborne grime and of the civic and social forces that emerged to stop it … … The story of Smogtown is that of a city vying against time to reconcile incommensurables … ” -- Bookforum
“The narrative that emerges is more than a tale of a region and a populace besieged by smog; it is also a parable for a nation beset by environmental and social problems … (a) well-researched cultural history" -- Slate
“Writing in a hip, lively style, …[An] intriguing social history of an environmental problem that won’t go away. Recommended.” – Library Journal
“… a well-documented, highly engaging, and widely relevant account of southern California’s battle with “the beast,” as the authors lovingly refer to smog. ... Smogtown is not your typical “green’s” diatribe against big business and weak government. No, Jacobs and Kelly are much smarter–and fairer–than that” -- Sustainablog