It’s Getting Harder to Breathe

Lucy Bailey, Editor in Chief

The modern world is wonderful. With our technological advancements- most notably the Internet – the world has metaphorically shrunk. News, business, travel, and education have improved in many ways. Yet there seems to be a void in man’s understanding of “crucial problems”.

I’m talking about the fundamental basic needs of humans. Yes, the science lesson we all learned in third grade- air, water, food, shelter. Paradoxically, in our modern world of cellphones and airplanes, many global citizens are being denied these fundamental needs on a daily basis. Clean air is scarce. Pollution is one of the biggest global killers, affecting over 100 million people.

How bad is it? School officials in Bakersfield, California use colored flags to indicate air quality: green for good, yellow for moderate, orange for unhealthy for sensitive groups and red for unhealthy for all groups. Last winter, the air was so bad that officials had to use a new color on the worst days: purple, worse than red. Respiratory and cardiovascular disease are frequent in the area. Time Magazine states, “for Bakersfield residents, there’s simply no room to breathe.”

Similarly, clouds loom over Beijing, China and they aren’t benign rain clouds. Air pollution from China’s coal industry is to blame for the 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010 (Global Burden of Disease Study). Rates of cancer, developmental issues, and lung damage are soaring in the country as well.

According to CNN, the world’s most polluted city is New Delhi, India. The city’s air pollution last winter was 60 times higher than the level considered safe, researchers from India’s Center for Science and Environment reports. “The number of cars on New Delhi streets grows by 1,400 a day” (CSE). The New York Times notes, “smoke from the burning of rubbish, industrial emissions and pollutants from the country’s predominantly coal-fired power stations add to the dangerous and noisome atmosphere.” And these situations of extreme pollution exist only as a result of human decisions.

Of course, there have been reparations and efforts to help the environment. For example, the EPA passed laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, and there have been events like The Kyoto Treaty and the Climate March in NYC. Many countries, most recently China, are beginning to reduce carbon emissions.

However, there must be a collective commitment to change our way of life, for the sake of our planet and its inhabitants. Many Americans are ignorant about the extremity of the environmental crisis. With our progressiveness, there is a growing disconnect between us humans and the only Earth we have.

Treaties and laws are beneficial, but it’s time for a behavioral change. Our generation needs to face the real problems and use our knowledge to foster a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way of living.