Remember, remember, the 5th of November!
Today is Bonfire Night, an annual British festival stemming from when the pesky Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament in 1605. An excuse to party ever since, you can either burn a fake “Guy” on the fire and give thanks that King James I survived the civic attack, or use it as a celebration of Anarchy. I suppose it depends on your persuasion. Anyway, nowadays the political root is mostly ignored and we simply Oooh and Ahhh at the many firework displays around the country.
I love fireworks. There’s nothing quite like the literal explosion of colour against the silky black sky… Invented in China in the 7th century, they’re used around the globe for their aesthetic appeal and dramatic effect. But unfortunately their beauty does come at a price, as beauty all too often does.
You see they are of course explosives, and as such pollute the air with smoke, toxic gases and all sorts of heavy metals used for colour pigmentation. Some of the gases produced are greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, and tropospheric ozone. All of these contribute to global warming, so it’s ironic that they’re used for celebration. Also the heavy metals obviously have to come back down to earth at some point, and can end up in fresh and groundwater, where they are serious pollutants.
Happily, greener fireworks are in the process of being developed. Traditional fireworks have a charcoal and sulphur fuel, which produces a lot of smoke when combusted, but if a nitrogen based fuel is used it is much cleaner. Also compressed air can apparently be used to shoot them into the sky, doing away with the need for propellants. As I’ve said, I love fireworks so I can only hope this research is given the priority it deserves!