Ancient

Air pollution was common in large towns long before the industrial revolution. Particulate pollution and strong odors came from dust,  tanneries, foundries, sewage wood smoke, and dried animal manure. The Romans had names for it — gravioris caeli  (heavy heaven) and  infamis aer (infamous air). 

Water pollution is a serious problem in some cities but not in others.   Israeli and Hindu cities, for example, had strict religious codes about cleanliness. On the other hand, ancient Greek and Roman cities were notorious for sewage-filled  streets.

Timbering strips the forests of Babylon, Greece, Phonecia (Lebanon) and Italy with the rise of civilization. The wood energy crisis leads Greeks to use passive solar energy by orienting their cities and houses toward the sun. Romans made some use of solar energy but imported wood for timber and fuel from as far away as the Black Sea. Both Greeks and Romans had to protect the sacred groves of trees from being timbered.

Soil conservation was not widely practiced in the Mediterranean, but cultures in China, India and Peru understood the long term impact of soil erosion and tried to prevent it.

Lead poisoning was all too common among upper class Romans who used lead-sweetened wine and grape pulp to sweeten food and drinks with “sugar of lead.”

 

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