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#pollutiondrift 2021


Pollution Pods drift north to COP26 with urgent message on planetary and human health

  • Press launch 20 October 2pm, Granary Square, Kings Cross, London N1C 4BH

  • Pods arrive in Glasgow, 31 October, 1.30pm, Gartnavel General Hospital, Glasgow G12 0XW

#pollutiondrift #ridefortheirlives

This October, Pollution Pods by the artist Michael Pinsky will travel to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) to bring home the health impact of air pollution and the climate crisis. Air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people globally each year. The pods will allow visitors to experience some of the worst quality air on the planet, and understand why action on air pollution is urgently needed.

The five pods will start in London, then disperse and drift north. Lone pods will touch down in Birmingham, Sheffield, Lancaster and Newcastle. They will reunite as a family in Glasgow on the eve of COP26, with a call for world leaders to make air pollution an explicit priority in climate action and sustainable development activities.

The Pollution Pods are a series of geodesic domes whose air quality, smell and temperature accurately recreate the pollution of five different locations on three continents: London, Beijing, São Paulo, New Delhi and Tautra, a remote peninsula in Norway. Pinsky created the pods in 2017 to test whether art can change people’s perceptions of, and actions around, climate change. Now they face their greatest challenge yet - to shift the debate on air pollution and climate change to help secure real change at COP26.

The pods will be accompanied by Ride for their Lives - staff from six UK children’s hospitals who are cycling 800km from London to Glasgow to deliver messages from the international health community including the Healthy Climate Prescription Letter, signed by 300 medical organisations across the globe. The riders include Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children chief executive Mat Shaw, British Medical Journal editor in chief Fiona Godlee, Royal College of Physicians president Dr Andrew Goddard, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child’s Health president Dr Camilla Kingdon and UK Health Alliance on Climate Change chair Richard Smith. At each stop the riders will gather by the pod or pods to speak on air pollution and climate change. They will also be joined virtually through the Strava app by healthcare providers from Chile to France to Austalia and more.

Pinsky says: “The pods are on a journey across the UK that ends in Glasgow, where the decision-makers are and the future will be decided. On the way they’re reaching out to all these different cities to start a dialogue. The hospital staff on bikes are a bridge, they can find out what air pollution and climate change means to people. The pods and riders can convey to COP26 the visceral experience of air pollution, the clinical expertise on the harm to our bodies, and the impact on people in the UK and around the world, making it much harder for politicians to ignore.”

In London, all five climatically controlled pods will appear. Visitors will be able to compare New Delhi’s suffocating haze of airborne particles to London’s invisible but deadly output of nitrate oxides and the truly clean air of Tautra. Pinsky worked with International Fragrances and Flavors (IFF) to reproduce the scents in the pollution mix, while the Tautra pod will use AirHavn Pro portable air filtration technology from AirLabs to remove all gas and particle pollutants.

Pinsky says: “I have tried to distil the whole bodily sense of being in each place. For instance, being in São Paulo seems like a sanctuary compared to New Delhi, until your eyes start to water from the sensation of ethanol.”

After London, the pods will drift singly across the UK. They will touch down in the Science Garden at Birmingham’s Think Tank Science Museum, Weston Park in Sheffield, Lancaster Arts at Lancaster University, and the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. Each time a drifting pod appears it will act as a magnet, drawing local health care providers, children and family groups, and press to experience it. Finally, the pods will reunite in Glasgow.

Jane Burston, Clean Air Fund’s Executive Director, said: “Right now, nine out of 10 of us are breathing harmful, dirty air. Michael Pinsky’s Pollution Pods will focus attention on the global challenge that air pollution poses for our health and climate, and the need for world leaders to agree bold actions when they meet at COP26 in November.”

The artist has worked closely with students from UEL as part of an innovative intern scheme where students from across architecture, visual arts and engineering collaborate to support live cultural projects which engage with climate change. UEL students are travelling from London to Glasgow with the pods to construct, adapt and maintain them.


For more information contact Varya Clark varya@climateacceptancestudios.com

07747 896 613

Members of the press can book an interview with speakers for the launch event on the 20th October by emailing max@climateacceptancestudios.com


  • Matthew Shaw, chief executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children

  • Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the BMJ

  • Robin Stott, former executive member of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change

  • Sean Maguire, director of strategic partnerships, Clean Air Fund.

Notes for Editors

#pollutiondrift #michaelpinsky #ridefortheirlives #pollutionpods


https://www.dropbox.com/sh/d5nwrwddm5nkvfg/AACE7bRt6KS68ORrHQ52jliMa?dl=0 Photos of the pods in situ at Granary Square will be available on the morning of Friday 15 October.

Pollution Drift Schedule

Saturday 16 October Granary Square, Kings Cross, London, N1C 4BH. Pods open to the public. FULL INSTALLATION

PRESS LAUNCH Weds 20 October, 2pm Granary Square. Pollution Drift/Ride for their Lives joint press launch at Granary Square. Riders and all five pods. FULL INSTALLATION

Sunday 24 October, 9am, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, WC1N 3JH. Riders set off. NO PODS.

Monday 25 October 3pm, Science Garden, Think Tank Science Museum, Birmingham, B4 7XG. A group of HCPs and child patients will ride less than a mile from Birmingham Children’s hospital to join a pod for an event at the science museum. LONE POD

Wednesday 27 October, 10am, Weston Park, Sheffield S10 2TP (next to Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust). Riders and pod, including a speech by the President of the Royal College of Physicians. LONE POD

Weds 27 October, 6pm, Lancaster Arts at Lancaster University, LA1 4YW. The pod will be joined by cellist, Maja Bugge and a discussion event at the Health Innovation Centre with Michael Pinksy and climate and health specialists entitled How do we breathe? Arts, Air Pollution and Health Equity. Lone Pod

Thurs 28 October, 2pm Peacock Hall lawn, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4LP. Riders and pod. LONE POD

MAIN EVENT Sunday 31 October, 1.30pm, Gartnavel General Hospital, Glasgow, G12 0XW - riders and all five pods. FULL INSTALLATION

Saturday 6 November, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Rd, Glasgow, G4 0BA, WHO Global Conference on Health and Climate Change. Video/speaker during, plus pod. LONE POD

Full installation:

  • 15-24 October at Granary Square, London

  • 31 October - 12 November at Gartnavel Hospital, Glasgow

Clean Air Fund

Pollution Drift is funded by the Clean Air Fund. The Clean Air Fund is a philanthropic initiative with a mission to tackle air pollution around the world. We bring together funders, researchers, policy makers and campaigners to find and scale solutions that will provide clean air for all.

Health Climate Prescription Letter

The Healthy Climate letter to national leaders and delegations at COP26 is supported by the Global Climate and Health Alliance and the World Health Organization in service of the medical and health community around the world.

Air pollution and climate change

Air pollution has largely the same causes as climate change - burning fossil fuels for power, transport and industry, as well as burning crops and plastics. The solutions are also largely the same - renewable energy, electric mobility, public transport, walking and cycling.

Poor air quality is one of the most tangible health impacts of the climate emergency. It is a killer on a par with smoking and unhealthy diet. It takes an estimated 7 million lives globally each year, and the annual estimate for the UK is 28,000-36,000 deaths. It contributes to respiratory illness, cancer and heart disease. Increasingly, it is being linked to mental illness as well as physical illness. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects because they are closer to exhaust fumes, their lungs are still developing, and they breathe faster than adults.

Even though London regularly breaches the air quality standards recommended by the WHO, it is still far cleaner than New Delhi, the most polluted of the five places represented by the Pollution Pods. It is estimated that the average Londoner, exposed to the current levels of pollution recreated in the installation, would lose up to 16 months of their life, with a resident of New Delhi cutting their life short by 4 years.

Michael Pinsky

Michael Pinsky is a British artist whose international projects have created innovative and challenging works in galleries and public spaces. He has undertaken many residencies that explore issues which shape and influence the use of our public realm. Taking the combined roles of artist, urban planner, activist, researcher, and resident, he starts residencies and commissions without a specified agenda, working with local people and resources, allowing the physical, social and political environment to define his working methodology.

His work has been shown at: TATE Britain; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chengdu; Saatchi Gallery; Victoria and Albert Museum; Institute for Contemporary Art, London; La Villette, Paris; BALTIC, Gateshead; Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow; Modern Art Oxford, Milton Keynes Gallery, Cornerhouse, Manchester; Liverpool Biennial, Centre de Création Contemporaine, Tours; Armory Center of the Arts, Los Angeles and the Rotterdam International Architectural Biennial.

Dr Michael Pinsky graduated from the Royal College of Art. He has received awards from the RSA, Arts Council England, British Council, Arts and Business, the Wellcome Trust and his exhibition Pontis was shortlisted for the prestigious Gulbenkian Museums Award.

Pollution Pods

Two of the hardest aspects of communicating the facts of climate change are affecting both decision-making and behavioural change. Although researchers have explored visualizing climate change (Nicholson- Cole, 2005; Sheppard, 2005, 2012), research about the contribution of contemporary art to the topic has been scarce. Climart is a four-year, multi-disciplinary research project run by a team of international researchers in psychology, natural science and the arts. Launched in 2014, the research looked at the impact that emotive visual art may have on bridging the divide between scientific information and personal responsibility. This type of artwork may well be more effective not only on those who are already concerned about the issue, but on those who are not.

Pollution Pods has been generously supported by the following organisations:

  • Airlabs

  • Arts Council England

  • Build With Hubs

  • Cape Farewell

  • Clean Air Fund

  • International Flavors & Fragrances Ltd

  • Norwegian Research Council

  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

  • The Norwegian Institute of Air Research (NILU)

  • University of East London

  • World Health Organisation.

University of East London

The University of East London (UEL) School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering has a strong focus on sustainability and community, building on effective connections with the capital's businesses to provide students with practical experience and the impetus to make a positive impact locally and globally. Michael Pinsky holds a research and teaching position with the university.

International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF)

At IFF (NYSE: IFF), an industry leader in food, beverage, scent, health and biosciences, science and creativity meet to create essential solutions for a better world – from global icons to unexpected innovations and experiences. With the beauty of art and the precision of science, we are an international collective of thinkers who partners with customers to bring scents, tastes, experiences, ingredients and solutions for products the world craves. Together, we will do more good for people and planet. Learn more at iff.com, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

IFF perfumers Stephen Nicoll, Nelly Hachem-Ruiz, Laura French, Avinash Mali, Dino Kong and Gabriela Maldonado, worked with Pinsky on the Pollution Pods, leveraging the art of perfumery and IFF proprietary technologies and ingredients. They used the powerful sense of smell to give visitors a visceral, sometimes unpleasant experience, to increase people's awareness of world pollution issues. Norway, London, Delhi, Beijing, Sao Paulo: each city with its own pollution issues, and pollution scents.

Build with Hubs

Build with Hubs is a start-up based in the UK. They have created 'hubs' – simple to snap together joints that make durable geodesic domes fun, easy and quick to build.


AirLabs is a leading pioneer in clean air technology. With more than 90% of the world’s population exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution, AirLabs’ mission is to deliver measuring, monitoring and cleaning solutions that provide valuable insight, enable action and clean polluted air to make it safe for people to breathe. Its international team of atmospheric chemistry scientists, airflow engineers and sensor specialists has developed cutting edge and scientifically proven solutions for use by government, business and individuals to tackle the growing problem of urban air pollution. AirLabs is headquartered in London and has its R&D labs in Copenhagen.

AirHavn Pro portable air filtration technology will be used to create the atmosphere of Tautra. This also removes airborne coronavirus, and will be deployed across the other pods to protect visitors. The drivers transporting the pods to each city will be protected on route via the installation of AirLabs’ AirBubbl devices in their vehicles, which remove more than 95% of airborne pollutants and pathogens, including coronavirus, and provides 30,000 litres of clean air per hour to keep drivers safe from airborne threats.

Climate Acceptance Studios

The pods have been brought together with Ride for their Lives by Climate Acceptance Studios (CAS). CAS brings together experts and creatives in unique projects to communicate the climate crisis. CAS also produces CPD-accredited training for professionals on the link between planetary and human health. They bring in creative voices alongside experts to explore the challenge of accepting this growing threat and taking action. Their first webinar series, Every Breath Matters, is aimed at health professionals and is on air pollution.