chapter  6
A Disaster in Slow Motion: The Smoke Menace in Urban-Industrial Britain
ByUrban-Industrial Britain STEPHEN MOSLEY
Pages 18

But environmental disasters also occur in slow motion, and cause damage over decades rather than days or hours. The concept of a “disaster in slow motion” first emerged in the context of transnational conflicts over the issue of acid rain in Europe and Scandinavia between the 1960s and 1980s. Scholars such as the French sociologist Philippe Roqueplo placed publicly held debates and disputes between experts over “causes and culprits” at the heart of the concept, as well as poor public understanding of the acid rain problem (cf. Roqueplo 1986; Keller 2011; Hajer 1995; Lundgren 1998). Disagreements over the validity and status of expert knowledge meant a failure to act quickly to reduce pollution emissions from industry, power stations, and automobiles that caused “acid rain”, and as a result lakes slowly acidified and forests declined. The concept of a “disaster in slow motion” has since been utilized in a variety of “sustainability” debates, including those surrounding the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of the earth’s soils. Perhaps most notably, it has been widely used in connection with humaninduced climate change-a threat that has risen to the top of the global

political agenda but produced no decisive action to control greenhouse gases (cf. Mosley 2010; Giddens 2009).