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Setting the agenda for change

The 'waste' story line not only helped to frame the problem of the 'smoke nuisance' by giving a coherent (albeit complex) meaning to 'singular and unrelated events' such as dead trees, bronchitic children, and smoking chimneys.3 It was also used to present new ideas and concepts that set the agenda for change. In 1854, for example, in his lesser known role as journalist, Charles Dickens brought the 'smoke nuisance' to the attention of the many thousands of readers of his successful weekly journal Household Words. In his article Smoke or No Smoke, Dickens clustered together many of the disparate elements of the narrative of waste, arguing that,

... the great destruction oflife from pulmonary disease is due to the fact that the soot which smudges the collars and chitterlings of our citizens, that ruins our finest paintings, that blackens our public buildings, that suffocates our countryborn babies, that kills our plants, that fleeces our sheep of their whiteness, that blackens our faces, and buries our whole bodies in palls of fog, is also constantly passing into our lungs; and, as the cells of that organ were not intended to act as soot-sifters, any more than Sam Slick's watches were made to be bruised under sledge-hammers, they soon become the 'vile prisons of afflicted breath;' and, stopping it altogether, add mournful entries to the books of the Registrar General of Deaths.4