I’ve decided to start recording some of my thoughts on things I see in the news (e.g. SoCal earthquake at then end of March 2014, the WA landslide, Chilean earthquake/tsunami of 4/2014 etc.)
Starting off, I thought it best to consider the NYTimes article “Pollution and Dust in Britain Bring Health Warnings”. On 3 April 2014, a smog alert was issued in London because of domestic air pollution, pollutant particles from the European Continent, and dust from the Sahara, all brought in on easterly winds. This comes after Paris recently implemented partial driving bans and offered expanded, free mass transit to residents after the city’s air quality reached unhealthy levels.
In light of this, I propose that our lessons here should be at least two-fold: (1) I think this is an important time to bring particulate matter into the forefront of the emissions conversation. Too often I think we talk about “emissions” and our attention falls on greenhouse gases that, granted, are hugely important constituents to consider when talking about global pollution. However, I think the global emissions/pollution dialogue forgets about particulate matter that contributes to visible smog and public health issues, particularly for those with asthma, heart, and lung conditions, among others. We need to remember that the same habits – e.g. internal combustion – that contribute to greenhouse gas emission and thus climate change also impact our atmospheres in other ways, such as generating the PM 2.5 material (particulate matter 2.5 microns in size) that are responsible for things like the choking smog for which Beijing is famous.
(2) I think an article such as this one – though not directly – also demonstrates the extreme degree to which our planet is “interconnected” (for lack of a better term; I’m trying to say everything – be it natural or anthropogenic – has an impact elsewhere, even if it’s too far away in time or space to be immediately obvious). After all, if dust from the Sahara Desert in northern Africa can impacting air quality in London, what does that say about the scales (physical and temporal) over which humans might influence the planet? Indeed, another article (link to come once I find it) indicated air pollution from China may be carried on winds so far that it contributes to the smog for which Los Angeles is famous. A realization such as this tells me, as it should everyone else, that reducing local pollution (e.g. in Southern California, to which I’m partial because I went to uni there) is not merely up to area residents: it’s a global problem whose solution requires global collaboration and global cooperation…not to mention global AMBITION to clean up our one and only Earth. Think of helping others as helping yourself: cleaning up pollution elsewhere on the planet may very well help mitigate environmental damage nearer to home, which can only be beneficial for current and future generations.