This is what the Valley of Mexico looked like at the turn of the 20th century. When I came across a couple of paintings of this view by José Maria Velasco, a near-contemporary of the Hudson River School artists of the US, in the Museo Nacional de Arte, I was close to tears, having walked into the building from contemporary Mexico City. Has there ever been a more complete devastation of a natural paradise, short of flooding a valley with a dam, or dumping a West Virginia mountaintop into the river below it to get some coal out?
In less than a hundred years an idyllic mountain valley surrounded by volcanoes had turned into the eighth largest city in the world stifling in a pool of toxic, opaque air pollution:
Mexico City hasn’t got its lake back, and is still sinking because of pumping groundwater, and it remains one of the most pedestrian-hostile cities in the world, but not having been there for almost a decade, I loved this story: you can see across it again, and breathing isn’t a constant insult to lungs.
The improvement in every quality indicator of air quality in an enormous city located in one of the worst places for air pollution persistence is an inspiration. No, the economy didn’t collapse under the crushing weight of brutal regulation: the cleanup wasn’t free but it’s such a bargain, not just in health benefits but quality of life…and what else matters, when you get right down to it?