At the risk of anthropomorphizing the serious problem of air pollution, I think it’s time we ask the question that is the title of this post. I ask it because of an opinion piece in the Washington Post I ran across that you can read here. The takeaways:
- A recently-released study has associated air pollution with 4.2 million deaths in the year 2015
- That represents an almost-unbelievable 7.6% of all deaths that year
- Exposure to fine-particulate air pollution is the fifth-deadliest risk to your health, trailing only high blood pressure, smoking, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol.
- 92% of the Earth’s population lives in a location where fine-particulate levels of pollution are higher than they should be, according to the World Health Organization.
- Half of the death toll from air pollution is from China and India alone.
This is bad, obviously. I want to remind you that all of the above numbers are for one year only. Every year, the population equivalent of Los Angeles dies because of pollution in their air. Every two years, you lose as many people as soldiers who died in World War I. How is it that in an age where technology has taken us so far, this continues to happen?
Part of the issue here is the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Unless you live in China, India, or another heavily-polluted country you may simply not consider the phenomenal toll that air pollution exacts from the human race. But you really shouldn’t assume that you’re safe if you live in a developed country with more stringent pollution standards. As Futurism points out, rising smog levels on the west coast of the USA are at least partially attributable to emissions from Asia. Oh, and by the way, some people are predicting that coal emissions from SE Asia are going to triple by the year 2030. If you live in the UK, you’ll be not-so-happy to know that 40,000 early deaths occur each year due to pollution in the air.
Another factor is, of course, that technology that we all hold so near and dear. As I’ve written before, technology is a double-edged sword when it comes to pollution. Technology requires factories and other facilities that have a bad tendency to put pollutants in the air. We use and produce a lot more technology than in the past. Whether we like it or not, this results in polluted air, despite our efforts to reduce or filter the amount of pollution emitted by factories into the environment.
What’s the answer, then? I don’t know. I do know that we can’t keep burying our heads in the sand. Change will happen one person at a time. They choices we all make will, in the end, be the only thing that changes the air we all share on this planet. That change must happen, and happen soon. People are dying.
Clean Air Clicks
From time to time, I’m going to start sharing a list of articles you’ll find worthwhile if you’re interested in clear air and why it matters.
- Turns out pollution can be captured an turned into ink. Who knew?
- Barcelona to ban old cars to reduce pollution.
- Public Health Wales is more concerned about air pollution than obesity or alcohol.
- Wish you had a device you could wear on your neck to keep the air you breathe clean? You might have an option soon.